Press Gaggle by Senior Administration Officials Aboard Air Force One en route Joint Base Andrews | July 8, 2017
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews
7:00 P.M. CET
MR. COHN: So we’re going to divide up the labors here.
Q Just for the purpose of people back home, can you say your name before your speak?
MR. COHN: Okay, sure. I'm Gary Cohn. Secretary Mnuchin and General McMaster, we're going to be diving up the duties here. I'm going to be talking about the G20 in itself. General McMaster and Secretary Mnuchin will be talking about all of the bilaterals and all of the meetings with heads of state that we had over the last three days, including going back into Poland and the Three Seas meetings as well. So if you add them all up, probably 20 individual meetings with different countries over the last three days on the trip.
I'll first touch quickly on the G20. I think as you know, we had a very rigorous schedule for the President, and he made it more rigorous on himself by adding a few more extra meetings, which the Secretary will touch on.
The G20 schedule, as you know, that we went through in the prior press conference, talked on some of the major topics that we were quite interested in. The President took the opportunity to deliver speeches in each of the sections. The first section was the private leaders section on terrorism, where the President delivered his thoughts on terrorism, global terrorism, what's going on in terrorism around the world, and terrorism financing.
The Secretary would be happy to talk to you about what he's doing on fighting terrorism and terrorism financing and sanctions. We've become more aggressive on what we're doing there and trying to cut off funding to terrorism around the world. The global leaders as a whole were in consensus, in uniform thoughts on what's going on in the fight of terrorism around the world.
The second section, where the President also led off and spoke and delivered a speech on trade and finance. The President talked about what's going on in the U.S. economy; talked about the job creation, the job data out on Friday; talked about the 860,000-plus jobs since the inauguration; and talked about the stock market reforms and what's going on here, and how we're doing in the economy but how we've got to get our trade and our trade numbers better, and our trade imbalance, and how we've got deficits with most of the countries -- most of the countries around the table.
He talked about the trade deficit. He talked about nearly $800 billion of trade deficits and goods for the United States last year alone. He talked about how he wants to rectify that and how we're going to fight to level the playing field on trade and climate. So he delivered that speech to the group there.
Then we had section on migration, where the President delivered another speech a little bit later in the queue -- we went later in the queue on migration -- where the President talked about our views on migration, where he was looking at how he thought the world should look at migration. We should not promote the downward spiral of migration. We don’t want to see mass migration out of any country. We should see countries looking to build their own economies and keep their residence in their countries, and keep their citizens in their countries, and make their countries better places for their citizens. He does believe in migration, but migration for the right reasons, and did not want to see massive migration.
Today, I think you know, we started the day off by him going to the -- let me get my speeches here so I can -- the launch of the women's entrepreneurial financial initiative with the World Bank, where he announced our $50 million contribution, where he was onstage with Ivanka talking about what we are doing with the World Bank. And Dina down here, as well, was heavily involved. She's hiding. So we and many other countries were on the stage talking about the $300 million-plus contribution of the World Bank fund that they're going to leverage into billions of dollars to help women and women entrepreneurs, and women build businesses around the world. So that was the first thing we did this morning.
And then, of course, that led into the G20 forum on digitization and women's empowerment and women's employment. Again, the President gave a speech in there where we talked about the role of women in the world. We talked about the role of women in the economies and empowering women, where, again, he mentioned what we did this morning. He mentioned how his administration cares about women, empower women as a priority, including access to capital, mentoring and networking, and skills training, which fits into what we did a couple weeks ago in our employment week. We talked about worker training and all of those things.
So he continues to support the G20's effort to increase voluntary participation of women in the labor force and eliminate barriers that prevent women from achieving economic aspirations. That was his speech this morning that we talked about in women's empowerment.
And then, later this afternoon, we talked about what was going on in the final session, which I'm drawing a blank on right now. What was the final session this afternoon?
MS. POWELL: The women's session -- the women one. That was the final session. It was the final one.
MR. COHN: Yeah, that was the final. Okay, women was the final session. Then we had our closing session where there was the natural handoff from Germany to Argentina for the next year's G20. The President was quite active, quite involved in the roundtable discussions. He was very, very complimentary of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, in the way that she ran the G20 and the participation of everyone around the table.
If you have any questions on the G20, I'm happy to take them. If not, my two colleagues to the right will talk about the bilateral meetings.
Q Can I ask, how hard did you have to work to get the final communiqué to make sure that you didn’t look like you were too isolated on things like climate? And how much of a fig leaf is it that you've managed to get wording to that effect?
MR. COHN: I actually thought the communication came together pretty -- I don’t want to say easily -- these things are never easy. To get 20 of your friends to agree where to have dinner together tonight is really hard. But I thought the communiqué came together pretty reasonably. There's a diversity of opinions in a group of 20, so there's people on every side of the issue. So it was never a situation where there was an isolated force there.
Obviously, the communication says -- so you can see it in there -- that we had chosen to get out of the Paris Agreement. So we were -- but everyone accepted that very early that we chose to get out of the Paris Agreement, but we do go out of our way to say in there that that doesn’t mean that we don’t support environment, and we're still working for the environment. If you look at what we've achieved environmentally in the United States, our numbers are pretty good.
So there was not -- it was not a situation where there was contentious discussion going on.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I would just say on the communiqué and if you look at how far we've come since the original G20 finance ministers meeting where we had one sentence on trade -- and I think as you all know, it was kind of 19 to 1, me being the one -- here, I think the trade paragraph has enormous substance to it. It incorporates the concept of reciprocal and fair trade. And I think there was a real focus on dumping and other issues on steel. I think there was an incredible consensus, and now it's many months later.
But anyway, why don’t I do this -- why don’t I just talk briefly about the bilats and then we'll take questions on anything you guys want.
So this was the President's second trip abroad. I think that a major focus of the trip was not just participating in the G20, but was very substantive -- they were very, very substantive bilats. And Secretary Tillerson joined us on the trip, in Hamburg specifically, to participate in the bilats.
I think as you know, we started in Poland with two bilats in Poland and then participating in the Three Seas with another 10 leaders. President Trump participated in that meeting, which was very substantive, and listened to each one of those leaders as they had different views.
We then came to Germany, where there were 10 -- there were another eight bilats here. There were three pull-asides on top of that. The bilats were very, very substantive discussions. These were not just relationship builders. These were very focused on economic issues, trade issues, security issues, North Korea.
I think as you know, we had a very significant trilat dinner with Prime Minister Abe and President Moon, where the focus was clearly North Korea and what we were going to do about North Korea.
The other two most substantive bilats were obviously the Russian bilat with President Putin, which started out with the intention of being a half an hour, and went for over two hours. We had another very substantive bilat today with President Xi of China, which lasted over an hour and a half, and would have lasted longer if we didn’t have to get pulled out to leave, since we had a time issue. But these were very substantive issues.
In regards to China, we had very direct discussions about North Korea. We had very direct discussions about military and security cooperation. And we had very direct discussions about the comprehensive economic dialogue, which we'll be following up with a meeting in July, in D.C. So these were very, very, substantive discussions.
MR. COHN: Let me add something. The three of us have been in, I would say, basically all of the President's bilats since day one. The relationships that --
MR. COHN: What was it?
Q (Inaudible) one.
MR. COHN: I said basically all. The relationships that he's building and the comradery that he has is just extraordinary. I mean, you can see the personal relationship he has with Xi and Abe and all these people. The warmness and the openness that's going on between the two of them, it's really extraordinary.
Q Just to follow up on that, and to what Andrew asked about --
MR. MNUCHIN: (Inaudible) on Merkel, okay? Whatever original discussions there were, that was one of the most substantive meetings where it was very clear that the President addressed issues of trade very directly. Merkel was very direct. It could not have gone better. I think it was very clear we're on the same page on almost every issue. And whether it was Theresa May, where obviously it's the U.S.'s most substantial ally -- I mean, these were very substantive discussions where the President was brilliant and had a command of these discussions and the issues.
Q Can you talk specifically about the meeting with President Xi? In his public remarks, the President was complimentary of President Xi and what he's done on the issue of North Korea. But we know he has also said that he is frustrated that China hasn’t done more. So did he voice that in private? Or can you characterize at all what their discussion was with regard to how to respond to the latest --
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I think the discussion was very direct. So it started with a -- again, this was an hour-and-a-half meeting with a very large component of it focused on North Korea. And I think we had substantive discussions about -- for the financing of North Korea. We had substantive discussions about ways of dealing with North Korea together.
And I think that President Trump made very clear to President Xi that he is focused on this issue, and wants to move forward and make progress. And I think President Xi gave a very interesting perspective from their standpoint. So I think it was very predominantly about --
Q Did he ask (inaudible) --
MR. SPICER: I'm want to get McMaster in here. Let's do
that, and then we can keep going.
GENERAL MCMASTER: Okay. All right, first, I just wanted
to remind everybody that the President's second overseas trip began in Poland, where he attended a Three Seas Conference with 12 heads of state from central and southern Europe. It was an extremely successful exchange of views and perspectives there. And you really got to see the three main objectives that the President gave us to structure this trip being met from the very beginning of the trip, which is promote American prosperity, protect American interests, and provide American leadership.
And you saw the overlap between defense and security cooperation with energy security, and the role the United States can play in ensuring that those nations are not dependent on any one source of energy and are not then susceptible to the kind of coercion associated with that single source of energy.
He also saw how those nations really want American leadership -- really want America to be engaged in that part of the world. And what the President was able to do there, and in his meetings with President Duda and the Polish leadership, is really reaffirm America's leadership, commitment to our allies, and to NATO in particular.
And the very powerful speech that he gave I think is a great example of the overlap between those three objectives of prosperity, protecting our interests, and providing American leadership.
I think what is really important is I think you can see with the President's engagement is the advancing of American influence and leadership, and a recognition -- by us, by everyone -- that America First doesn't mean that the rest of the world last. America First doesn't mean America alone. And it means that peace, prosperity, and the rule of law are the surest guarantors of liberty, both at home and abroad. And that speech in Poland -- I would just ask you to go back to that text to see the overlap between those three objectives.
The President reiterated his commitment to mutual support and defense through NATO, and he gave a stirring affirmation of our values and why it's important for us to understand who we are, and to be determined to protect our values. He talked through the historical lens of the Polish experience to emphasize what we need to do today to defeat the enemies of all civilized people represented by these terrorist organizations that use a perverted interpretation of religion to foment hatred and justify violence.
And throughout the trip, throughout his engagements with leaders -- as Secretary Mnuchin already mentioned -- the President emphasized the need to deny safe havens and support bases for terrorist organizations, and talked about ongoing operations with our allies and partners to do that in the defeat-ISIS campaign in places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
He then also, though, emphasized again the need to cut off funding not only for terrorist organizations but also to those who propagate this extremist ideology that continues to fuel this problem and bring people into these organizations, and then, of course, to combat the ideology itself. And so that was a theme in almost all of the bilateral engagements as well as the beginning of the trip in Poland.
You have the list of all the bilateral engagements. We're happy to answer any questions you have. But I think what you saw is that America First means building coalitions -- building coalitions especially with those whose interests overlap with ours. And what you saw is really a high degree of common understanding of not just problems that we're facing, but also opportunities that we can take advantage of.
And each of these meetings, each of these engagements with leaders advanced American interests in the areas of our security and American prosperity. And we can cover lots of specifics on that if you'd like as well.
And then, of course, there's a recognition that the United States benefits when our allies and partners are stronger, and when burdens and responsibilities can be shared and shouldered more equitably.
And so what you've seen is a very big emphasis on defense cooperation and a desire for us to have interoperable capabilities with our allies. And that was a big defense cooperation theme throughout all the engagements in Poland and in the G20 as well.
Q General McMaster, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov walked out of that bilat yesterday and went out, and they told people that President Trump had accepted their denial of election interference. Is that true?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Let me just say, first of all, I think President Trump handled the meeting brilliantly, okay? It was very clear what started as a 30-minute meeting -- and President Trump made it very clear in addressing the issues around the election. After a very substantive discussion on this, they reached an agreement that they would start a cyber unit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cybersecurity together. And President Trump focused the conversation on Syria and the Ukraine and North Korea.
And I think it’s very important that President Trump had a very substantive dialogue with his counterpart on this. And it is very clear that there are many issues we need to open a dialogue on. And I think President Trump handled it brilliantly.
Q General McMaster, can you address not the question of how President Trump handled it, but the question of how Putin and Lavrov have handled it. What are you going to do about it? I mean, it's not true, is it, that President Trump accepted Putin's statement?
GENERAL MCMASTER: What the President and Secretary Tillerson charged us with as they came out of the meeting is what we’re going to do going forward. Secretary Mnuchin mentioned one of those aspects already, which is a recognition of the importance of cybersecurity and the need to make sure that we protect election systems in the United States and in Europe and elsewhere. So that is one of the things we're going to focus on going forward.
But I think the most important thing, from my perspective anyway, coming out of the meeting, is the importance of having a bilateral relationship with Russia so we can work on problems together. And so as Secretary Mnuchin mentioned, and as Secretary Tillerson mentioned already, it was a wide-ranging, substantive discussion. No problems were solved. Nobody expected any problems to be solved in that meeting. But it was a beginning of a dialogue on some tough problem sets that we'll begin now to work on together.
And you saw the beginnings of that with the work that Secretary Tillerson has done with the Russians on Syria. It's the very beginning of attempting to get to some degree of stability in a portion of Syria to begin to get to an outcome there that ends the humanitarian suffering there and begins to bridge toward enduring political settlements in at least parts of that troubled country and for that long-suffering population.
So you see the beginning of working together in these areas.
Q But you have the President of another country making a statement about the President of the United States. Do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: You know, we're not going to make comments about what other people say. President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that. But President Trump handled himself brilliantly. It was very clear he made his position felt. And after very substantive dialogue on this, they agreed to move on to other discussions. And I think it's very clear that they've opened a dialogue, that it's important to have a dialogue.
As we've said, they focused on a ceasefire on Syria, focused on making sure that we have a cyber unit to make sure that Russia and nobody else interferes in any democratic elections. And we focused on the issue of North Korea, which is a major concern to us and all our other allies.
Q Why did you decide to raise it anyway, though? There seemed to be a debate, sort of, in the days leading up to the meeting: "Would he raise it? Would he not raise it?" Why did he decide to sort of raise it at all? Was that essential, do you think, to start that dialogue? Or why did he decide --
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I think it was obvious that it was an issue, and President Trump was going to bring it up and raise it. He wasn't afraid of it. He addressed it head on, and then they moved on to other issues.
Q How do you develop an atmosphere of trust and working together on all these important issues that you just laid out when the two sides can't even agree on what happened in that conversation in the first face-to-face meeting? I mean --
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I think it's very clear that there's lots of things that we need to work on with them. And there's a commitment to move forward, work on issues that we can work on together. And I think the Syria ceasefire is a major, major success. If we can have a ceasefire and focus on how we work on Syria, and build a cyber unit, and be committed to make sure that nobody ever interferes in democratic elections again, that is a major accomplishment that President Trump is focused on.
Q Did the issue of Russia's properties in Maryland that the U.S. confiscated come up? And how did President Trump respond?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I'm not aware of that coming up. I got debriefed on the meeting and didn't hear anything about that. So it may have, but I don't know.
Q One follow-up to Gary on the question of the G20 and climate change. We understand there was some tension with President Macron over climate. Can you describe what happened there? And can you also look forward to this upcoming trip to Paris and describe the relationship and what he wants to do there between Macron and Trump?
MR. COHN: Look, there's a debate on climate -- from your question. But I think the President -- I'll read you two -- I think the section I left out before was climate. So I'll read you two sentences out of the President's speech.
You know, he says: The United States believes that responsible economic development and economic stewardship are essential priorities of all nations. Indeed, these are globally complementary. And then the President goes: Honestly, the United States develops all of our domestic energy resources, including oil, clean coal, natural gas, nuclear power renewables, while at the same time reducing emissions, protecting natural habitats, and ensuring truly clean air and clean water.
So the President clearly believes in the environment. He talked about it here. You know, Macron and the President have somewhat different views on how to achieve the end goal, but I think the end goal is the same. And they were debating how to achieve the end goal.
Q And what about the broader relationship between those two men ahead of the Paris trip?
MR. COHN: Their relationship is great. I mean, they had two different pull-asides. Macron personally called the President and invited him, and asked him to come to the 100th anniversary of Bastille Day next week. The President is going to Paris next week.
GENERAL MCMASTER: It's Bastille Day and the 100th anniversary of the entry of American troops into World War I. Sorry, sir.
MR. COHN: Thank you. Thank you, General. (Laughter.)
Q But what does he want to achieve on that trip?
MR. COHN: We are scheduled already. The schedule is determined. We'll probably tell you guys what it is next week. But it's going to have a couple official meetings mostly around, I would say, security and military meetings, as well as a long bilateral between the two.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: All right. I think we're going to cut it off at this point.
Q No, don’t cut it off.
Q No, that's not fair. Seriously, that's not very long.
Q What about Erdogan? What about the Erdogan meeting?
MS. SANDERS: It was 27 minutes.
Q Twenty of it was not Q and A.
7:25 P.M. CET