Joe Biden

Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official Previewing the President's Second Day at the G7

June 14, 2024

Via Teleconference

10:02 A.M. CEST

MODERATOR: Good morning, and thanks for joining us on today's background call to preview the second day of the G7.

Our senior administration official on today's call is [senior administration official] here at the NSC. He has a few words here at the top, and then we'll get through some of your questions.

So, over to you, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thanks so much. So I'll start off by noting the announcement President Biden made yesterday. As you all know, President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy signed a historic U.S.-Ukraine bilateral security agreement reflecting the close partnership between our two democracies. The United States sent a powerful signal of our strong support for Ukraine, now and into the future.

Now, turning to today, President Biden this morning will participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Meloni. They'll have an opportunity to discuss a range of topics, including of course Ukraine, where Prime Minister Meloni has been very strong and supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And of course with Italy's leadership of the G7, there was also an important announcement yesterday on unlocking the value of the proceeds from Russian sovereign assets for the benefit of Ukraine. And I am sure they will discuss developments in Ukraine as well.

There will be an opportunity to discuss the PRC, as well, and the troubling support that the PRC has provided in terms of dual-use equipment and goods to Russia to advance Russia's defense industrial base -- things like optics, nitrocellulose, microelectronics, the sorts of items that go directly to the production of armaments that are used not just in Ukraine but that pose a long-term threat to the security of Europe.

That is something that is of concern to all of the G7 countries, and so I think we'll have an opportunity to discuss this as well, as well as the transatlantic relationship, as we are now just about a month out -- a little less than a month out from the Washington summit, the NATO Summit. Of course, Italy is a strong partner in NATO, and they'll have an opportunity to discuss some of the outcomes of that summit.

I would expect that there'll be an opportunity as well to discuss the Middle East and specifically Israel-Gaza, where, again, Prime Minister Meloni has been a strong partner. She has endorsed the President's plan for ending the war. And so, there'll be an opportunity to get into that as well.

And then finally, I think the other topic that possibly could come up or that may come up are the recent European elections. I'm sure you all are tracking the elections from the 6th to the 9th of June across Europe. Prime Minister Meloni's party did rather well, coming in first in Italy. And so now there will be a reset of the top European institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council. All of that will get underway in the coming days and weeks. And so I think the leaders will have an opportunity to get into some of that.

Following that, the President will have an opportunity to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis later this afternoon, or early evening. And there, I expect that some of the topics that they'll have an opportunity to discuss will be largely similar. I would expect there will be a discussion of Ukraine where the Holy See has been actively engaged. Cardinal Zuppi, in particular, has been an envoy working to return Ukrainian children who have been forcibly deported across the border, separated from their families. Of course, it's one of the huge tragedies of this war.

And the Holy See has also been engaged in trying to promote a peace agreement. And Cardinal Parolin, if I understand correctly, will be the Vatican's representative to the Switzerland peace conference that will kick off this Saturday, where Vice President Harris will represent the United States.

I would expect with Pope Francis that the President will also have an opportunity to discuss the Middle East and then also the issues of artificial intelligence and climate change, which are issues that are of great concern and interest to Pope Francis but also to the United States.

And I'll just say on AI, I think we are both interested in responsible use of artificial intelligence, preserving human dignity and human rights. And so they'll have a chance to get into that. That's also going to be one of the topics at today's G7 plenary session, with the participation of Pope Francis, and then also climate change, which is an issue that is near and dear to both leaders.

Of course, the President's plan for adaptation and resilience, which was launched in November of 2021, is an important effort to deal with climate change, as is the multilateral Loss and Damage Fund to which the United States has contributed $17.5 million, an important effort to mitigate some of the effects of climate change.

That's largely where I see those two conversations going. Of course, I can't tell you for sure what they'll discuss. Those are the likely topics.

But I think I'll pause now and take any questions that you all might have.

MODERATOR: Awesome. Thank you. Our first question will go to Tyler Pager with the Washington Post.

Q: Thanks. I wanted to ask you about abortion and whether the President plans to bring it up with Prime Minister Meloni. You know, there's some reporting that there's been disagreements over how that will manifest in the communiqué. And curious if you can just tell us what the latest update there is and whether the President plans to raise the issue today in his bilateral meeting.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, I'm not aware of an intention to discuss that topic. I can tell you that the G7 communiqué is going to be agreed by consensus by all G7 countries. And I'll just leave it at that.

Anyone else?

MODERATOR: James with the Financial Times.

Q: Hey there. Good morning. I was wondering if you could talk about the Indo-Pacific session and to what extent is there going to be much stronger language on, you know, calling out China for enabling Russia's war in Ukraine.

And also, if there's going to be anything more concrete in terms of economic coercion by China and overcapacity, and if the G7 is going to take more concrete steps against China on the economic front as well as the national security front.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So this is, as you know, an important topic for all of the G7 countries and leaders. And indeed, there will be an opportunity to discuss the issue of the PRC's support for the Russian defense industrial base, which, as I said earlier, is a critical issue not just in terms of the support and how it translates into Russia's offensive war machine against Ukraine, but also in terms of some of these systems that it helps to develop the capabilities, missiles, artillery, and whatnot that will pose a long-term threat to Europe's security and is of concern to all members of the G7.

And then also, as you mentioned, the issue of overcapacity is also an issue of concern to all of the G7 leaders, including subsidies that China provides, as well as unfair market practices that impact trade with all of the G7 partners.

So this will certainly be an issue that is raised in the communiqué and that has been discussed and will be discussed among the G7.

MODERATOR: AJ with Bloomberg.

Q: Good morning. Can you say if there will be any bilat with Modi of India?


Q: Is there a particular reason why some of those bilats were chosen and other leaders are not getting meetings?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Look, these trips, there's always a lot of leaders and very little time. Most of the day is spent up with participation in the G7 sessions, the plenary sessions, where obviously all of the G7 leaders are present and they have a robust discussion there.

At this particular G7, Prime Minister Meloni has invited a range of other leaders, as you know, including the Turkish president, the Kenyan president, and a number of others. And so, there are opportunities for some bilats on the margins. Pope Francis is obviously one of the guests as well. But there's very little time, and so we have prioritized just a few bilateral meetings.

And, of course, yesterday's historic bilateral security agreement signing with President Zelenskyy, which really capped off an intense day of meetings here at the G7.

Q: Sam, we're sharing a cell phone, so I'm going to hand my phone over to Andrea from Reuters. And she might pass it to someone else. Hang on.

Q: Hey. Hello. Hey, thanks for doing this. So I wanted to follow up on the previous question from James about what the G7 -- so in addition to discussing China, are there specific measures that you can share or maybe language from the communiqué about what -- you know, the response both on the industrial overcapacity and also on the sanctions front?

And then, I wanted to ask on the debt component. This is an issue that's often been raised by the Pope. I wonder if that's going to come up in the bilat with the Pope.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, on the latter question, you know, I don't know. It may. Obviously, debt overhang is an important issue for a lot of the developing world. It may or may not come up; I just can't tell you.

But in terms of the language in the communiqué, which I don't have in front of me, but certainly the issue of overcapacity. China's support for subsidies, I should say, for electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, solar panels, and other items have contributed to overcapacity in just about every Western market, and it's of concern to all of the G7 countries. So that will be reflected in the communiqué. And then actions that will follow from that will be taken individually by G7 countries.

You've seen what -- some of the actions that the United States has taken. You've seen the European Union also take action. So there is a common concern.

Q: Great. Somebody else want a question? Okay.

MODERATOR: We're good?

Q: Yeah, we're good.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you both. Our next question will go to Colleen with AP.

Q: Hi there. Good morning. So, I wanted to ask two questions. One is: There's apparently some criticism that Biden didn't attend the main dinner last night with the other leaders. I just -- you know, can you just speak generally about how the President chooses to attend events?

And then, my second question is related to Tyler's question. I just wondered if you can talk a little bit about the discussion over how to word the communiqué, whether there was concern on the U.S. side, in particular given, you know, the battle over abortion rights in the U.S. I know you were saying that you feel comfortable with the communiqué, how the communiqué will come out, but I just wondered if you could talk a little bit more about, you know, from the U.S. side, the level of importance on the language surrounding it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, again, on the communiqué, this is language that is going to be agreed consensually, which is how these communiqués get done, by all of the G7. As I recall, the language in this year's communiqué will endorse the language that appeared in the last G7 Summit in Hiroshima, which had some extensive language on sexual and reproductive health rights. So you can look at that language, and that'll give you a preview of what is going to appear in this year's communiqué as well. Again, that's consensual language among all the G7.

As for the schedule, you know, look, I don't have any sort of magic formula to share with you. As I said earlier, these are very intense days filled with lots of meetings. And we try to see as many leaders as possible. It's obviously impossible to see everybody who's here, so we prioritize the best we can.

As for last night, as you know, we capped off the day rather late at night with a historic bilateral security agreement that was preceded by a bilateral between President Biden and President Zelenskyy that was of -- you know, I don't think this is hyperbole to say -- of historic significance. It's a 10-year agreement that sets out our cooperation on security and defense, on supporting Ukraine's economic and governance reforms, on building a just and lasting peace, and on ensuring that there's accountability in this war for Russia's actions and aggression. That was a big deal. And that's what capped off our day yesterday evening.

AIDE: And, Sam, I think we have time for one more before he has to go to the bilat.

MODERATOR: Great. Our last question will go to Paolo with La Repubblica.


MODERATOR: Paolo, we can't seem to hear you. So we will go on to Peter Nicholas with NBC.

Q: Hi. Thank you very much for doing this. With respect to the 10-year security agreement, if there's a different president in place in January 2025, is that president bound by this 10-year agreement, or can he cast that aside if he chooses?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, this is an executive agreement. It is intended to show the United States' steadfast support for Ukraine over the 10-year period. So it is structured in a way that it has both near-term goals in terms of training and equipping, but then also in terms of support for institutional reform.

We certainly intend to make good on what is included in this agreement because it is in the interest of the United States to support Ukraine's democratic trajectory, to support its economic reforms and reconstruction, but also to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. That's the aim of the agreement.

But to your point, it is an executive agreement between the United States and Ukraine.

Q: And I have a quick follow-up question. President Biden told Time Magazine that when he travels abroad, he often hears from his counterparts consternation about possibility of former President Trump returning to power. Has he gotten those questions or inquiries at this G7, or has any member of -- have members of the American delegation gotten those sorts of questions and inquiries about the election and about the possibility of Trump's return?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can just speak for myself in the meetings that I've been in, and I have not heard this topic come up in my time here.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Thank you, everyone, again for joining us. As a reminder, this call was held on background, attributable to a senior administration official. If we weren't able to get to you, as always reach out, and we'll try to have more folks for you to hear from later today. Thanks, everyone.

10:21 A.M. CEST

Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official Previewing the President's Second Day at the G7 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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