Remarks by President Biden in Press Conference
Cornwall Airport Newquay
Cornwall, United Kingdom
2:52 P.M. BST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon. And let me start by thanking Prime Minister Johnson for the incredible hospitality and welcome that he provided for all of us at the G7. I’d like to take — thank Yael Lempert, who is our chargé at the embassy, filling in for the ambassador — an ambassador; we’ll have one soon. But she did a great job supporting the entire team, and Yael is vital to keeping this UK-U.S. partnership going and moving smoothly as it is now.
We’ve just wrapped up what has been an extraordinary, collaborative, and productive meeting at the G7. Everyone at the table understood and understands both the seriousness and the challenges that we’re up against, and the responsibility of our proud democracies to step up and deliver for the rest of the world. That’s what the G7 is all about. And rallying the world’s democracies to meet the challenges that the world faces, and deliver for our people and for people, quite frankly, everywhere.
Ending the pandemic and maintaining robust support for an equitable, inclusive global economic recovery were the top priorities of our nations as we got together. We know we can’t achieve one without the other; that is, we have to deal with the pandemic and — in order to be able to deal with economic recovery, which — as we’re doing in the States, but we committed that we’re going to do more for the rest of the world as well.
The fact is that we — the U.S. contribution is the foundation — the foundation to work out how we’re going to deal with the 100 nations that are poor and having trouble finding vaccines and having trouble dealing with reviving their economies if they were, in the first place, in good shape.
And we — I committed that we would provide a half a billion — a half a billion beyond the 80 million we’ve already done — half a billion doses of Pfizer vaccine, which we contracted to pay for, in addition to money we put into the COVID [COVAX] project, which is that COVID [COVAX] is — and I know you all know, but a lot of people may not know what COVID [COVAX] is — that is a system whereby they’re going to provide funding for states to be able to get access to vaccines on their own, as well.
But the bottom line is: What that generated was a commitment by the rest of our colleagues at the G7 that they would provide another half billion. So we’re going to have a billion doses of vaccine.
And, in our case, this includes sharing more than — not just the one billion doses overall, but we’re going to provide for 200 million of those doses by the end of the year, another 300 million by the first half of next year. And so, it’s — it was greeted with some enthusiasm.
And we’ve agreed to work together so that the world is better prepared to detect and deal with future pandemics, because there will be future pandemics.
We have a — I’m sure you’ve seen it; if you haven’t, you’ll get it — a joint statement we put out of the G7. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. And we are committed to follow on to do some significant work, including not only how we deal with the distribution and help in getting shots in arms to the rest of the world, but how we’re going to deal with putting together a mechanism to anticipate and deal with and be aware of the next — the next pandemic when it comes along. And there will be others.
And we also agreed to take important steps that are going to support global economic recovery by laying the foundation for an equitable global economy. Critically, the G7 leaders endorsed a global minimum tax of 15 percent. So many corporations have been engaged in what are essentially tax havens, deciding that they would pay considerably less than other — in other environs around the world. And — but this is going to make sure there’s a minimum tax, and I’m going to have — I’m going to move on this at home as well — a minimum tax for corporations to pay for the profits they make anywhere in the world.
And this agreement is going to help arrest the race to the bottom that’s been going on among nations attracting corporate investment at the expense of priorities like protecting our workers and investing in infrastructure.
We also made a momentous commitment at the G7 to help meet more than a $40 trillion need that exists for infrastructure in the developing world. I put forward an idea that was called — we named the “Build Back Better World Partnership,” which is — we’re calling it the “B3W.”
The point is that what’s happening is that China has this Belt and Road Initiative, and we think that there’s a much more equitable way to provide for the needs of countries around the world.
And so it’s been — it’s a values-driven, high-standard, transparent financing mechanism we’re going to provide and support projects in four key are- — key areas: climate, health, digital technology, and gender equity. And we believe that will not only be good for the countries, but it’ll be good for the entire world and represent values that our democracies represent, and not autocratic lack of values. By harassing the full potential of those who are harassing, we’re going to have to try and change things. That’s the whole idea.
But here’s the deal: We’re going to make sure that we are able to pull together the ability to use the development financing institutions and other development tools to expect the bold, new infrastructure investment in low- and middle-income countries over the coming years, much of it coming from the private sector, which will generate the capital put in; will generate significantly more capital from the private sector.
We also made a historic commitment to permanently eliminate the use of our public finance to support unabated coal projects around the world, and to end — and to end them by this year. The G7 agreed to that. And those who are not members, but visiting members who are participating in the G7, who have coal-fired facilities have also agreed that they would work in that direction as well.
So, transitioning the world to cleaner energy sources is urgent, it’s essential if we’re going to beat the climate. And there is — one of the things I — some of my colleagues said to me when I was there was, “Well, the United States is — their leadership recognizes there is global warming.” And I know that sounds silly, but, you know, we had a President who last — who basically said it’s not a problem — global warming. It is the existential problem facing humanity, and it’s being treated that way. So we’re going to provide up to $2 billion to support developing company [sic] — countries as they transition away from unabated coal-fired power.
In addition, we also agreed to tackle corruption, which is a threat to societies everywhere. I pointed out in a conversation I had with — with one of the leaders of — well, actually with China. And that was — it was a request for me not to try to — when I was asked what I was going to be doing after being elected, I said we’re going to reestablish the strength of American relationships so we can be counted on again — alliances — and suggested that, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t get the Quad…” — meaning India, Japan, Australia, and the United States — “…working together, and maybe you shouldn’t be pushing on strengthening the European Union to deal with the West not just to have…” — and so on.
And I said, for an American president to — every president to be sustained, or prime minister, has to represent the values of their country. And I pointed out — and I mean this sincerely: We’re unique as a country. We’re built on — we’re unique in a sense that we’re not based on ethnicity or geography or religion; we’re one nation that said we organized on an idea: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.” It sounds corny, but it’s real.
And any President who doesn’t act consistent with what the — the raison d’état for the nation is cannot be sustained that — the support of that country.
And so what we were able to do is: We know that corruption undermines the trust in governments, siphons off public resources, makes economies much less competitive, and constitutes a threat to our security. So we’re going to work together to address issues like the abuse of shell companies and money laundering through real estate transactions. And we’ve agreed that we’re going to work together to address cyber threats from state and non-state actors like criminal ransomware networks, and hold count- — countries accountable that harbor criminal ransomware actors who don’t hold them accountable.
And over the past few weeks, the nations of the G7 have affirmed that democratic values that underpin everything we hope to achieve in our shared future, that we’re committed to put them to work: One, delivering vaccines and ending the pandemic. Two, driving substantial, inclusive economic recovery around the world. Three, in fueling infrastructure development in places that most badly need it. And, four, in fighting climate change.
The only way we’re going to meet the global threats that we’re — is by working together, and with our partners and our allies. And I conveyed to each of my G7 counterparts that the United States is going to do our part. America is back at the table. It’s — America is back at the table.
The lack of participation in the past and full engagement was noticed significantly, not only by the leaders of those countries, but by the people in the G7 countries. And America is back in the business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values.
And so the bottom line is: I was very pleased with the — with the outcome of the — of the entire conference. And, you know, I noticed there was a lot of coverage of my individual comments made by my colleagues about how we were all getting along together. But the truth of the matter is: We did. It wasn’t — I felt it wasn’t about me, but it was about America. I felt a genuine sense of enthusiasm that America was back at the table and fully, fully engaged.
And now I’m going to be heading off to — to Brussels, to NATO. And the same — many of the same people are going to be at that table, and — in NATO — and to make the case we are back, as well. We do not view NATO as a sort of a protection racket. We believe that NATO is vital to our ability to maintain American security for the next — next — the remainder of the century. And there’s a real enthusiasm.
I made it clear — and I pointed out, and I thanked them — you know, Article 5 is, “An attack on one is an attack on all.” Well, what Americans sometimes — don’t forget — remember what happened on 9/11. We were attacked. Immediately, NATO supported us. NATO supported us. NATO went until we got bin Laden. NATO was part of the process. And I want them to know, unlike — whether they doubt it — that we believe NATO and Section [Article] 5 is a sacred obligation.
Bottom line is: I think — I think we’ve made some progress in reestablishing American credibility among our closest friends and our — our values.
Now, why don’t I take some of your questions? And I’m told, Jonathan, I’m supposed to talk — recognize you first.
Q Well, I appreciate — I appreciate that, sir. Thank you very much. Mr. President, Vladimir Putin — (a microphone is brought to Mr. Lemire) — thank you.
Vladimir Putin, who you’ll be seeing in a few days in Geneva, said just a couple of days ago that he believed that U.S.-Russia relations were at a low point. In what concrete ways could your summit change that?
And then, secondly, on the same topic: You have said previously, and in the run-up to the summit, that you would be unafraid to call out Russia’s disruptive actions — like cyber hacks, Ukraine, election interference — but you’re not having a joint press conference with Putin. Why not take the chance to stand side by side with him and say those things to him with the world watching?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) Well, let me make it clear: I think he’s right that it’s a low point, and it depends on how he responds to acting consistent with international norms, which, in many cases, he has not.
As I told him when I was running and when I got elected, before it was — I was sworn in, that I was going to find out whether or not he, in fact, did engage in trying to interfere in our election; that I was going to take a look at whether he was involved in the — a cybersecurity breach that occurred, et cetera; and if I did, I was going to respond.
I did; I checked it out. So, I had access to all the intelligence. He was engaged in those activities. I did respond and made it clear that I’d respond again.
With regard to — I always found — and I don’t mean to suggest that the press should not know — but this is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference to try to embarrass each other. It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship are — with Russia.
We’re not looking for conflict. We are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms, number one. Number two, where we can work together, we may be able to do that in terms of some strategic doctrine that — that may be able to be worked together. We’re ready to do it. And there may be other areas. There’s even talk there may be the ability to work together on climate.
So the bottom line is that I think the best way to deal with this is for he and I to meet, he and I to have our discussion. I know you don’t doubt that I’ll be very straightforward — (laughs) — with him about our concerns. And I will make clear my view of how that meeting turned out, and he’ll make clear how — from his perspective, how it turned out.
But I don’t want to get into being diverted by, “Did they shake hands? How far did they ta- — who talked the most,” and the rest. Now, he can say what he said the meeting was about, and I will say what I think the meeting was about.
That’s — that’s how I’m going to handle it.
Q Okay, thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, I’m going to get in trouble with staff if I don’t do this the right way.
Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg.
Q Thank you, sir. On China, you — sorry — China seems to be to doing exactly what it wants to do with regard to Hong Kong, with regard to Xinjiang, with the South China Sea, and many other issues, despite pressure from you and from allies.
The final language in the G7 communiqué does have some mentions of China, which is different from past years, but I know it’s not as tough as you and your team wanted it to be. We’ve saw — we saw a draft of the communiqué, and it’s not quite as tough.
So why isn’t it as tough? There isn’t very much action in it. There’s some calls for China to be respectful. But why isn’t that communiqué a little bit tougher? Are you disappointed in that? And what can you do to change some of these actions by China?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it — as you know, last time the G7 met, there was no mention of China. But this time, there is mention of China. The G7 explicitly agreed to call out human rights abuses in Xinjiang and in Hong Kong explicitly.
Two, to coordinate a common strategy to deal with China non-market policies that undermine competition. They’ve agreed — and that’s underway now — how to do that.
Three, to take serious actions against forced labor in solar, agriculture, and the garment industries because that’s where it’s happening. And they’ve agreed we will do that.
To launch — what I said earlier; I really feel very strongly — I proposed that we have a democratic alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative: the Build Back Better. And they’ve agreed to that, and that’s underway as the details of that — we agreed that we’d put together a committee to do that and come up with that.
And thirdly, that we are going to insist on a high-standards to be — for a climate-friendly, transparent alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative. And — but, in the meantime, we’re going to move forward.
Look, I think it’s always — let me put it this way: I know this is going sound somewhat prosaic, but I think we’re in a contest — not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century.
And I think how we act and whether we pull together as democracies is going to determine whether our grandkids look back 15 years from now and say, “Did they step up? Are democracies as relevant and as powerful as they have been?”
And I walked away from the meeting with all my colleagues believing that they are convinced that that is correct now too. Not — I shouldn’t say “now”. Not just because of me, but they believe that to be the case.
And so, I think you’re going to see just straightforward dealing with China. And again, we’re not looking — as I’ve told Xi Jinping myself, I’m not looking for conflict. Where we can cooperate, we’ll cooperate. Where we disagree, I’m going to state it frankly, and we are going to respond to actions that are inconsistent.
For example, we talked about trade. It’s one thing to talk about whether or not our agricultural policy makes sense. It’s another thing to say, “By the way, you’re demanding that if I do business with your country, I’ve got to give you all my trade secrets and have the — the Chinese partner have 51 percent of that?” No. Not us.
Q So, are you saying, Mr. President — are you satisfied with what came out in the communiqué?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Or do you wish it were tougher? Do you wish there was more —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q — action on China?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there’s plenty of action on China, and there’s always something that you can — I’m sure my colleagues think there’s things they think they can improve that they wanted. But I’m satisfied.
Steve Holland, Reuters.
Q Thank you, sir. Just to follow up on Jennifer’s question: The communiqué cited a variety of fronts on China, everything from human rights, the origin of the COVID virus, Taiwan. What do you think China needs to do to ease tensions?
THE PRESIDENT: I think China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency.
Transparency matters across the board. And I think the idea that — for example, one of the things I raised and others raised — I wasn’t the only one who raised this at the G7 — is that we don’t know — we haven’t had access to the laboratories to determine whether or not — and I have not reached a conclusion because our intelligence community is not certain yet whether or not this was a consequence of a — from the marketplace of a bat, you know, interfacing with — with animals in the environment that caused this — this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory.
It’s important to know the answer to that because we have to have access — we have to build a system whereby we can know what — when we see another transparent — lack of transparency that might produce another vac- — another pandemic. We have to have access. The world has to have access.
So we’re trying to figure out, at the G7, whether we could put together an international basis upon which we could have a bottom line with what the transparency accounted for.
Q And you mentioned — you mentioned that the argument behind the scenes, that you had not mentioned China in three years in one of these communiqués. What did you argue behind the scenes to try to bring people to the point where they got?
THE PRESIDENT: To answer that question — there’s no way to answer without sounding self-serving. Let me just say this: I just laid out what I thought was the need for us to be consistent to protect our economies and to see to it that other struggling economies, who needed help, got the help and were not held captive by other nations.
But you might ask that to others. I’m not trying to be a wise guy, but I —
And Wall Street Journal. Andrew.
Q As you said, the G7 countries committed to send 1 billion coronavirus doses overseas, but the World Health Organization says 11 billion doses are needed.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q How are you going to bridge that gap? Will the U.S. commit to send additional doses overseas? And given the gap, is it actually realistic to end the pandemic by 2022?
THE PRESIDENT: It is — it may take slightly longer than — worldwide. But the United States is going to continue — I think there’s a possibility, over 2022 going into 2023, that we would be able to be in a position to provide another billion — us. But that’s not done yet.
I only — I’ve been very careful, as I’ve dealt with this pandemic, to tell you what I know and say what I thought could be done, and when I’ve announced that I’ve gone and done it. What I don’t want to do is be getting too far ahead in suggesting that we can do things and I can do things — the United States can do things that I don’t have done yet.
So, I — there was a clear consensus among all our colleagues at the G7 that this wasn’t the end; we were going to stay at it until we’re able to provide for — able to provide for the needs of the whole world, in terms —
Because, look, it’s not just the right thing to do. And from a — from a — how can I say it? From a — from a moral standpoint. But it is also the correct thing to do, in terms of our own health, our own security. You can’t build a wall high enough to keep out new strains. You can’t do that.
And so, I think this is going to be a constant project for a long time. And there may be other pandemics. We — again, setting up a system whereby we can detect — before it gets out of control — one, a pandemic, that may be on the horizon — a virus — is important.
So, we are not going to — as long as there’s nations in need that — being able to be vaccinated, we in fact — not — not only that: We’ve been engaged in helping — which I’ve made clear, and most of our — my colleagues understood it. I mean, they understood it — knew it from trying it themselves. This is a gigantic logistical effort. It’s one thing to send nation X, X number — Y number of vaccines. It’s another thing to have the people that can actually get it in somebody’s arm. And so, we are also providing the ability for other countries to manufacture their vaccines. We’ve all agreed on that.
India has the capacity to do that. They don’t have the material capacity thus far to do the manufacturing. But there’s a lot going on to provide — not only to, quote, “give” vaccines, but to provide the ability of the countries in question to produce their own vaccines.
AIDE: Last question. Last question.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to answer anything. No, I’m joking. Last question. Peter Alexander, NBC News.
Q Mr. President, thank you very much. About Vladimir Putin and your meeting this week: As you’re well aware, the U.S. has been slapping sanctions on Russia for years for its malign activities, and Russia has not stopped. So what specifically will you do differently to change Vladimir Putin’s behavior?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, there’s no guarantee you can change a person’s behavior or the behavior of his country. Autocrats have enormous power and they don’t have to answer to a public. And the fact is that it may very well be, if I respond in kind — which I will — that it doesn’t dissuade him and he wants to keep going.
But I think that we’re going to be moving in a direction where Russia has — has its own dilemmas, let us say, dealing with its economy, dealing with its — dealing with COVID, and dealing with not only the United States, but Europe writ large and in the Middle East.
And so, there’s a lot going on where we can work together with Russia. For example, in Libya, we should be opening up the passes to be able to go through and provide — provide food assistance and economic — I mean, vital assistance to a population that’s in real trouble.
I think I’m going to try very much — hard to — it is — and, by the way, there’s places where — I shouldn’t be starting off on negotiating in public here. But let me say it this way: Russia has engaged in activities which are — we believe are contrary to international norms, but they have also bitten off some real problems they’re going to have trouble chewing on.
And, for example, the rebuilding of — of Syria, of Libya, of — you know, this is — they’re there. And as long as they’re there without the ability to bring about some order in the — in the region, and you can’t do that very well without providing for the basic economic needs of people.
So I’m hopeful that we can find an accommodation that –where we can save the lives of people in — for example, in — in Libya, that — consistent with the interest of — maybe for different reasons — but reached it for the same reason — the same result.
Q I want to ask you about a comment that Vladimir Putin said today. But why do you think he hasn’t changed his behavior in spite of everything the U.S. has done to this point?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) He’s Vladimir Putin.
I’m not going to get into much more than that, because I’ve got to sit down with him. And I’ll be happy to talk to you after that. But —
Q But he said — then, just to conclude — today, he said that Russia would be ready to hand over cyber criminals to the United States if the U.S. would do the same to Russia and an agreement came out of this meeting coming up. So, are you open to that kind of a trade with Vladimir Putin?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’m open to — if there’s crimes committed against Russia that, in fact, are — and the people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States — I’m committed to holding them accountable. And I’m — I heard that; I was told, as I was flying here, that he said that. I think that’s — that’s potentially a good sign and progress.
Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.
Q May I ask, sir, (inaudible) — (off mic.) The European allies — can I ask a question about the European allies?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) I’m going to get in trouble with my pre- — my staff. Yeah, go ahead. But pretend that I didn’t answer you.
Q Thank you very much, sir. You have often said repeatedly that “America is back.”
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q At the same time, you’ve kept in play some Trump-era steel and aluminum sanctions. And I wanted to ask you: When you’re having these conversations with European allies who are very concerned about these sanctions, how do you justify that? And what are your plans for —
THE PRESIDENT: A hundred and twenty days. Give me a break. Need time.
3:22 P.M. BST