Intercontinental Paris Le Grand
2:02 P.M. CET
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, everyone. Everybody ready? Well, I want to start by thanking the people of France and President Macron for the warm welcome that we have received during the course of this very productive trip. This trip, I believe, signals in a very clear way the enduring, the longstanding, and the future alliance and commitment between the people of the United States and France and our governments.
I believe that this trip also reaffirms the commitment of the United States to working with our partners worldwide. As many of you are aware, this week and this visit included many conversations with many foreign leaders; I believe there are at least 30 heads of state who have attended the various meetings that we have been having. And therefore, the conversations have not only been a bilateral conversation between the President of France and myself, but meetings and discussions that we’ve been having with leaders around the globe.
I said many times — many of you in the American press have heard me say it — that I do believe we are at the beginning of a new era, as highlighted by the pandemic, to be sure, but also marked by the increasing awareness — see COP26 — of the climate crisis and the imminency [sic] of that and the urgency of this moment.
Technology: What it has done in terms of creating opportunities but also creating real concerns about security. We are at the beginning of a new era. In fact, this is something that President Macron and I talked about extensively. And in, then, this moment, for nations who are partners and allies, we must together work together to see where we are, where we are headed, where we are going, and our vision for where we should be, but also see it as a moment, yes, to together address the challenges and to work on the opportunities that are presented by this moment.
So that was in many ways the theme of this visit. It was to also discuss, and in particular with President Macron and our friends and allies in France, what we must do collectively with our other partners and allies to address and to focus on what should be the norms and the rules of the 21st century.
To that end, we had a number of conversations, including, again, with other world leaders. But in particular with President Macron, I talked about a number of issues, and I’ll outline several of them.
The issue of global health: Of course, one of the most pressing challenges that all nations are facing. As you know, the first visit that we made upon landing, essentially, in Paris, was to go to the Institute Pasteur. Of course, I also have a personal sense of connection to that place. My mother did research there. But what is most significant is that the relationship between the scientists and the scientific research that has taken place in France has often been in collaboration with scientists around the world, including the United States.
In fact, when we were at the Pasteur Institute, we will recall that it was in 1961 that mRNA was developed, which, of course, was not only the basis for the work that we talked about in terms of the advances in breast cancer, but the basis for the vaccine that is now saving lives around the globe.
We talked about the pandemic in the context of global health, in the context of our need to prepare for the next pandemic, and what our two nations have a moral obligation and responsibility to do in terms of not only addressing the public health needs of our own citizens but participating with our friends around the globe and, in particular, those that are most vulnerable and most in need.
You’ll recall yesterday one of the panel’s world leaders talked specifically about the disparities and inequities in terms of vaccine distribution around the world. That was a priority for our discussions while we were here.
The issue of space. Well, I, of course, chair the Space Council for the United States. But when we look at the opportunities that are presented by space exploration, they are vast. President Macron and I talked specifically about the partnership and the ongoing partnership that the United States and France have had as it relates to emerging technologies, and how they connect to economic security and to national security.
And so we had an in-depth conversation about our intention to grow, the relationship that we have as it relates to space. And again, that relationship is not only convening the experts and the most talented of our respective nations to engage in ongoing innovation, but also, and critically important, to work together as allies in establishing universal norms around what will be the behaviors in space and how they will be interpreted by all nations.
In many ways, when we think about space exploration, it is the next frontier. And we are the leaders in this pursuit. And what we do now, without any doubt, incrementally or expansively, will have a profound impact on where this issue ends up in the years and decades to come.
We talked about regional security. Again, the alliance between France and the United States is longstanding on that issue. As we celebrated Armistice Day, Veterans Day, as we went to the American Cemetery here in Paris, we saw symbols of the enduring and longstanding relationship that we have had on that issue.
And so we did discuss our partnership as it relates to defense. We did discuss the fact that after World War Two, we created a transatlantic alliance based on our mutual understanding about the interconnection and interdependence between the United States, France, and our allies on the issue of security defense.
We talked about the Indo-Pacific. As you know, I, in my last trip — foreign trip — went to Vietnam and Singapore to reestablish the commitment and the enduring commitment that the United States has as a member of the Indo-Pacific to our friends and our partners in that region.
One of the most important issues that we have discussed as a current issue in that regard is the challenge that all nations are facing in regard to supply chains. That was a discussion we had here as well. And the discussion was essentially this:One, it is indisputable that all nations have suffered because of the pandemic, predominantly on the issue of supply chains. Two, that the global demand will not be met, cannot be met by any one nation.
And so, it requires then — if we are to meet the challenge of supply chain issues — coordination, collaboration, and partnership.
So, that was part of the discussion we had as it relates to the Indo-Pacific but also as it relates to a general perspective on an issue that is challenging — and I will speak for the American public — for families every day when folks are trying to think about how they’re going to get products they need, are auto manufacturers concerned about getting critical components, and when families are worried about being able to make sure Santa Claus gets whatever Santa Claus should get to the children by Christmas.
We talked about what we will do as it relates to the Sahel, which is a specific region on the continent of Africa. We have a mutual concern there that relates to the ongoing challenges that the countries in the Sahel are facing. Among the many priorities that we share is a concern about what we need to do to address potential violence and ongoing violence.
And to that end, we renewed — if there was any doubt, which there was not — our mutual commitment to work to — with each other on counterterrorism.
As you know, at the Paris Peace Forum yesterday, we addressed the growing issue of inequality — again, something we have been discussing for months — which is that this pandemic, in many ways, has highlighted, has magnified the longstanding pre-pandemic failures and fractures and fissures in our systems.
And so, we talked about what we can do together to address these inequities and the inequality that has existed since the beginning of time around the world.
I’m particularly excited about the convening and the number of nations that came together to have this conversation and to express a commitment to work more closely with each other, understanding, again, the interdependence and interconnection that we have. And so, we talked about inequality and inequity in a number of ways.
As you know, I presented what I believe should be an approach to the issue, which is to not simply accept that it has always been, but instead to challenge ourselves to do something about it. And the method by which we can do something about it is to ask, “Why is it?”
And then I went through a list: Why is it that a very significant number of women around the world are subjected to sexual and domestic violence? Why is it that we are still seeing children around the globe who are hungry? Why is it that we see that there are certain nations who have the resources that have caused, among many things, them to be some of the greatest emitters of pollution in the world, and others — who are responsible for a negligible amount of emissions — are taking the greatest brunt?
So we have before us, again, in the midst of great challenges and opportunity — when we come together during a week like this — nations around the world to speak truth, to challenge each other, and to dedicate ourselves — certainly those of us who consider ourselves to be partners and allies — to actually address these issues together, understanding the mutual commitment but the mutual investment.
Technology — another of the issues that is a marker of this new era in terms of the influence, the ubiquity, but also the challenges that individuals and nations face because of growing technology.
We talked extensively, both in our bilateral but with others, and again yesterday on a stage, about what we as nations must do — who have similar values, whose nations were founded on similar principles — to apply those principles and norms to how we will engage with each other and interpret each other’s actions, as it relates to our use of technology. And, of course, cybersecurity being the most obvious point there, addressing what we have seen in the United States and around the world: the hackers that have compromised systems, ransomware, not to mention the daily abuse of individuals’ privacy, and manipulation and monetization of other people’s data and personal information.
So, these are some of the conversations that we had on technology. As you know, we also, as the United States, expressed that we will partner in the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.
We talked about democratic elections. It’s a challenge for all of us, on the former topic, which is technology — and again, I talked about that yesterday; it’s an issue that President Macron and I talked about it — a mutual concern about how technology can be used to weaken democracies, and, in particular, what we have seen in recent times, being used specifically to that end, to manipulate elections.
So, we have talked about what we must do together — again, as partners — to address this issue, both in terms of, yes, norms and standards, but also in terms of accountability, including a very important point, which I believe — and I’m pleased to see that, gradually, partners and allies are all agreeing — should be a norm, which is that there should be attribution when it occurs.
That was once a debatable point among nations. But we are seeing that there is a broader consensus, that there must be attribution. We must call it out, to use a colloquial, when we see it. And then we must do something about it, and that is the point about accountability.
I would say to the American people that the work that the President and I and our administration has been doing over these last many, many months is, yes, reestablishing relationships, strengthening relationships around the globe, but it is also directly connected to what will benefit the American people in their everyday lives.
When I think about this trip and I think about one of the greatest priorities of President Biden and myself and our administration, which is the American worker, I look at the conversations that we are having through that lens and, therefore, the importance and significance of establishing these relationships and these agreements.
When you think about issues such as trade, when we think about supply chains, when we think about resilience, all these issues impact the American worker.
When we think about American farmers or first responders who rely on satellites and the integrity of the information and the data we can collect there — and, by the way, as part of the discussions and the agreements that we had during the bilateral with President Macron, I agreed and we agreed, on behalf of the United States, to join the observatory — the space observatory — to, again, look at the potential for satellite technology in space and how that can directly relate to our partnership on combating climate change, including issues like predicting weather patterns, addressing issues like drought, which directly affect the farmers of America and farmers around the world.
The children of America: Well, as you all know, a large part of my career, I was a prosecutor focused on issues affecting women and children. There was a time when I specialized in child sexual assault cases, some of the worst behavior you can imagine.
What was said yesterday, about the importance of nations coming together on norms and standards and policies on this issue, is critical. Because as was highlighted, perhaps making a lot of folks uncomfortable, as — but as the reality of the pathology of this issue — is that behaviors happening down the street here can impact children in their homes throughout America.
And so, we must have these difficult conversations, but based on the issues that are impacting people right now, in this moment, in this new era — understanding, again, that nations are interconnected and interdependent — on how we approach these issues and what we deem to be our responsibility for addressing them.
So, in conclusion — and then I’m happy to take questions — I want to just talk briefly about the American Cemetery. My husband and I visited it as one of our first stops and in observation, obviously, of Armistice and Veterans Day. And if there is any question about the why or the what, in terms of our relationship as the United States with France, that is one
visual and one concrete example of the endurance and the mutual commitment and interdependence between the United States and France.
When we were there, we saw the graves commemorating the lives of Americans who lost their life here fighting for the ideals and the values that our two countries share and hold dear.
We saw there brave, brave individuals who were laid to rest, including someone from the place of my birth — Oakland, California — Inez Crittenden, who was a woman who decided she would serve her country and move to France to engage in the Resistance and to support American troops and allies.
So, when I think about this relationship, I think about it certainly through the lens of history, but I think we all share, and certainly the conversations that President Macron and I have had have emphasized, that we must always remember that history. But let us also be grounded in what we must do today, in preparation for tomorrow.
So, with that, I’m happy to take any questions.
Symone, are you —
MS. SANDERS: Yes, I’m —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — or shall I?
MS. SANDERS: — my microphone was not on.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. Okay.
MS. SANDERS: So, let’s do our first question from Philippe Ricard from Le Monde.
And I will just hold it for you.
Q Ah, okay. Thank you very much. Philippe Ricard from Le Monde. I have a question about the recent breach of trust between France and the United States linked to the AUKUS alliance in the Indo-Pacific. Do you believe you have done the job to try to repair the relation between Paris and Washington during your trip? Which guarantees did you give to Mr. Macron to avoid such a crisis could happen again in the next venture?
And maybe, as Vice President of the United States and as the first woman in that job, do you think the way you dealt with this issue during the last days could be a kind of model for European and American (inaudible) leaders? Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I will tell you that was not the purpose of this trip, and we didn’t discuss it. What we did discuss is the issues that are challenging us and the issues that are the basis for this relationship, and the strength and the endurance of this relationship.
And so, I’ve gone through the list of those issues. And there were more. We talked about, for example, our mutual interest in the Western Hemisphere and issues that range from what are the current challenges to what have been relationships that, one could argue, should be strengthened and, some might even say, have been neglected.
We talked extensively about our mutual interest — and, in many ways, a longstanding focus of France — on the continent of Africa and how, obviously, what happens in Africa can impact our nations, both from a security perspective and an economic perspective, but also a moral perspective.
We talked about what we have as also a perspective on alliances and the strength of alliances and the importance of paying attention to those relationships, and understanding the strength of them but also the fragility of them — meaning, we can’t take relationships for granted; we must be present.
And that’s one of the reasons that I’ve been traveling like I have, and the President has been traveling — in spite of the restrictions we’ve had with COVID — because we do understand the significance of being present.
And as it relates to me as Vice President, I think that there is no question that I am here as a representative of my country. And my presence here is reflective of the priorities that the United States has, as it relates to France.
MS. SANDERS: Thank you. Our next question will come from Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg.
Q Thanks a lot. Oh, thank you.
MS. SANDERS: I’ll hold it.
Q Okay, thank you — you hold onto it.
Ma’am, the U.S. is experiencing record inflation — the worst in 30 years — way beyond expectations. OPEC didn’t increase oil production. Can you tell us a little bit about how you would prevent the new spending in your Build Back Better Agenda from exacerbating the problem? And also, what else are you going to do to fix this problem with inflation?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, thank you. Well, let’s start with this: Prices have gone up. And families and individuals are dealing with the realities of — that bread costs more, that gas costs more. And we have to understand what that means. That’s about the cost of living going up. That’s about having to stress and stretch limited resources. That’s about a source of stress for families that is not only economic but is, on a daily level, something that is a heavy weight to carry. So, it is something that we take very seriously. Very seriously.
And we know from the history of this issue in the United States that when you see these prices go up, it has a direct impact on the quality of life for all people in our country. So it’s a big issue, and we take it seriously.
And it is a priority, therefore. So we have addressed it in a number of ways. One of the issues that we know is related to this is the supply chain issue that we just discussed.
And so, on a domestic level, in terms of domestic policy, one of the approaches we have taken is to work with labor unions and to work with municipalities in opening back up and extending the hours of our ports. There are actually three I have in mind: Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Savannah. And, in fact, part of the infrastructure bill benefit is, most recently, what we will do to assist Savannah in broadening their ability to be an active port.
And we’ve seen a reduction in the container ships off of the Long Beach and LA ports because of what we’ve done, which is to extend, as you know, the 24 — or to extend the hours to now 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But there is also a point that is important to make on the Build Back Better framework. One, it is designed to make it less expensive for working people to live. It was specifically designed to bring down the cost of childcare and increase accessibility and availability; designed to bring down the cost of eldercare and make it available to all those working families that need that support and need that help.
And Build Back Better is not going to cost anything; we’re paying for it. So when we can get Build Back Better passed — and we are optimistic that we will — the American people will see costs actually reduced around some of the most essential services that they need to take care of their basic responsibilities, including issues like childcare and eldercare, and also preschool. And that’s an important to mention also.
And, in fact, I had some conversations here in France, including with the Minister of Education in France, about the, again, global impact of the pandemic on childcare but also on education, and in particular for our youngest children.
Universal pre-K — when we’re able to do that — three and four years old — getting education at no cost, what that is going to do in terms of not only supporting working families who otherwise can’t afford to put their kids in a private situation and have — and otherwise don’t have it available — that’s going to have a huge impact on lowering the cost for families.
So that is a big part of our agenda. And I think it’s important to also stress that it’s not going to cost anything for the American taxpayer.
Q One quick follow-up.
MS. SANDERS: Our next ques- — I’m sorry, Jen, but we — I want to make sure we are able to get to a lot of folks. We’ll be seeing you later and tomorrow, so I’m confident you’ll have an opportunity.
Our next question will come from Noah Bierman at the LA Times.
Q Thank you. Have Democrats been too dismissive of — I’ll re- — I’ll start over in case people didn’t hear. Have Democrats been too dismissive of the results of this month’s election? Is there a course correction needed, especially since you said, “What happens in Virginia will in large part determine what happens in 2022, 2024, and on”?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think we’ve — there’s been robust dialogue and discussion about the elections that just took place. And as we focus on the needs of the American people, we are fighting for their needs, which is why we were able to pass Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill where Republicans — not just one or two — came together with Democrats, understanding that it is important that we who are engaged in electoral politics deliver on behalf of the people. And we have accomplished that.
Some would say it was historic in that we’ve been talking for quite some time, through many administrations, about “Infrastructure Week,” and it finally happened.
So, moving forward, the next step is to pass our Build Back Better Agenda, which, again, is going to be about delivering for the American people. What they want is that we’re not sitting around talking about politics; that we’re talking about, instead, the policies that are going to impact them and improve their lives. And that’s where we’re putting our attention.
MS. SANDERS: Our next question will come from Katie at the New York Times. Katie Rogers.
Q Thanks, Vice President Harris. Speaking of global health, we’re all wearing masks in this room except for you. The French — which is fine. (Laughs.) The French essentially have a vaccine passport that has allowed public life here to return to some semblance of normalcy. All of us with you had to fill this out before we traveled here. Should the United States have such a requirement?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we have, as you know, been very careful to guide public policy where it is our role to guide it, based on what the scientists and medical professionals tell us. And we are also leaving it, as you know, to local communities, in large part, to make those decisions.
I think the most important thing at this moment for us in the United States to focus on is that we now have the ability for children to get the vaccination — the shot. We have, at our disposal, the ability to actually engage in smart public health conduct and protocols. And we have free, safe vaccines available for everyone.
And our biggest challenge right now is to urge everyone to engage in saving their life and the life of their family members and their communities by getting vaccinated.
But that’s really — and it has been, it’s no secret, one of our biggest challenges. And — and we will continue to focus on that.
MS. SANDERS: Our next question will come from Sarah from ABC. Sarah.
Q Thank you, Madam Vice President. A follow-up to Jen’s question on inflation: For Americans at home who are feeling the economic pinch, when do you expect they can expect to feel relief? You mentioned Christmas in your remarks. Will this be the most expensive Christmas in history after the most expensive Thanksgiving in history?
And then, on one of the provisions in the Build Back Better bill: paid family leave. Here in France, women are offered 16 weeks of paid maternity leave; fathers are offered 28 days. Is it frustrating to you that the U.S. can’t secure the same for American parents? And why is paid family leave not a red line in this package for this administration?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, on the inflation piece: We, as I said earlier, fully appreciate the significance of things costing more. It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal.
And so, we are doing what we can, making it probably one of our highest priorities — I talk to the President about it often — one of our highest priorities. We need to bring cost down for the American people and, in particular, for working people and working families.
And again — I’ll go back to my previous point — that is why we have been pushing so hard since the beginning for Build Back Better, because it is absolutely and almost uniquely designed to do just that — to make it easier for people to live. And, for most Americans, making it easier for them to live means bringing the cost of living down, especially for essential services.
On the piece about paid family leave: Yes, it’s frustrating. It’s something I’ve been advocating for for years, as has the President, and it was in our initial proposal. And in terms of what we believe will actually address — again, a topic of conversation — the topic of conversation on the mainstage yesterday — inequities, the inequality of systems and structures.
We know that this is an issue that disproportionately affects women and working women. We know that in the United States — and I know around the world — we have seen working women, because of the pandemic, leave the workforce at the rate in the United States; the most recent number I saw is somewhere around 2 million women have left the workforce.
And let’s be clear about this: An issue that impacts working women not only directly impacts the economy of their household, it impacts the economy of our whole society.
When you lift up the economic status of women, you necessarily lift up the economic status of families, and all of society benefits.
So, yes, I’m frustrated. And it is, I think, a shame that we are not yet a leader on this. We have work to do. And that is why the President and I are committed to doing this work. It’s important, and it matters.
And again, I’ll go back to my previous point: You know, there are those of us who have been fighting for this for a long time, and there are many more who perhaps kind of heard about it but really saw it during the pandemic.
I mean, most recently, I had the TV on but I was doing some- — I was in a briefing, I think, so I was doing something else, so I didn’t hear. But it was an image of somebody doing a Zoom, and their — one child came in — (laughs) — and then the toddler came in after that, and then somebody came in and grabbed the two kids. And then, yesterday, we saw a different example of that. But, yeah, it’s a big issue.
MS. SANDERS: Our next question will come from Jeremy Diamond at CNN.
Q Thank you, Madam Vice President. Good to see you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You too.
Q One question on the trip and then another on the domestic front, if you will.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. Sure.
Q President Biden has affirmed the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, including stronger European military capabilities. But on the specific point of President Macron’s belief in European strategic autonomy and a European army, is that something that the administration supports or opposes?
And then, on the domestic front, while you’ve been here in Paris this week, Americans have been closely watching the trial of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Eleven of the twelve jurors in this trial are white, only one of them is Black, despite 26 percent of that county’s demographic being Black. The judge in this case even said that there appears to have been intentional discrimination in the selection of that jury.
So, do you believe that justice can still be done? And given the history of jury discrimination in the United States, do you believe that reforms are needed to ensure that juries represent — are representative of the jurisdictions that those courts serve? Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I’ll take your last point first, which is: I’m not going to comment on any active trials for obvious reasons. I don’t want to in any way influence or distract from what are the facts and the evidence in that case. But on the —
Q But on the broader point, (inaudible)?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But on the br- — yeah, I will.
On the broader point: We have, still, a lot of work that we can do to improve the integrity of our criminal justice system. And as you know, I’ve worked on that for many years. And that includes ensuring that protections are in place so that anyone that is accused of a crime and charged with a crime has a jury of their peers. And we want to put in place all of the safeguards that are available to do that.
For example, over the years, there has been talk about understanding that jurors, if they are a working person — if they work two or three jobs — unlikely they can sit for hours on end and, potentially, weeks and weeks on end and not be at their jobs — see earlier point — and not get paid leave. And they just can’t afford it. Which means that we will, in those cases, have a jury that is probably not a jury of peers.
There is work that we’ve always had to do. And we actually have embedded in the jury selection procedure specific objections that, on behalf of a client, a lawyer can make when it becomes clear that there is a systematic and racially-based exclusion of potential jurors. So, we always have to have protections in place in our criminal justice system as a whole, including in our jury selection system. Yes.
Yeah, and on the point about strategic defense: As I said earlier, the United States and France have a longstanding relationship that is about — about support and alignment, and that will continue. And that will continue.
MS. SANDERS: Thank you all. Unfortunately, that is all the questions we have time for today.
Q Can we please have a question, please?
Q The French —
MS. SANDERS: Okay. Okay. Okay.
(Cross-talk from reporters.)
That is all the time we have for today. We have additional opportunities.
(Cross-talk from reporters.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let’s take one question.
MS. SANDERS: Okay. All right.
I will hold the mic.
Q Mrs. Vice President, this is François Clemenceau with le Journal du Dimanche. I would like you please to comment on what we are watching at the Polish-Belarus border for days and weeks now. Do you agree with your European partners that we are watching a crisis where immigration is weaponized?
And I would like you to comment because you’re in charge of the immigration in the U.S.: Do you — or can you compare it to what you are seeing at the southern border in the U.S. with the weaponization of the Latino immigration into the U.S.?
And secondly, can you just give us what are your hopes about the next meeting last November — at the end of November between the Europeans, Iran, in order to find a common solution to reactivate the JCPOA? Thank you very much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. On the last point, the United States and the President has been clear about this: We are looking to reenter. And we are looking forward to the talks that we anticipate and hope will be productive to that end. And we are aligned with our allies in that regard.
On the issue of Belarus and what is happening at the border with Poland, we are very concerned about that and closely paying attention to it. And the Lukashenko regime, I believe, is engaged in very troubling activity. It is something that I discussed with President Macron. And the eyes of the world and its leaders are watching what is happening there.
Okay. Thank you all. Thank you.
END 2:40 P.M. CET