Kamala Harris photo

Background Press Call on the Vice President's Trip to Paris, France

November 03, 2021

Via Teleconference

6:33 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good evening, and thank you all for joining us to discuss Vice President Harris's upcoming trip to Paris, France, next week. My name is [senior administration official].

Today, I will note, this call is on background and will be attributed to "senior administration officials," and it will be embargoed until Thursday, November 4th, at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

I will note, although this call is, in fact, on background, attributed to senior administration officials, we would like you to know who we are joined by today. And we are joined by [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

I'll share a high-level overview of the upcoming trip, and then I will hand things over to [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

Following that, we will open it up to questions where Moses will join us again and give instructions on how to ask questions.

So, the Vice President and Second Gentleman will depart from Paris -- for Paris -- pardon me -- on the evening of Monday, November 8th, and they will return to the United States on Saturday, November 13th.

This trip is about building on President Biden's and Vice President Harris's work since day one of this administration to deepen cooperation with close allies, partners, and really to reestablish American leadership on the world stage.

As the world has become more interdependent and interconnected, the alliance between the U.S. and France has become even more important.

And this visit from the Vice President really signals the strength of our alliance as our nations work together to advance prosperity, security, and stability as we take on multiple existential threats and seize new opportunities. The Vice President will speak to many of those during her trip next week.

There are a variety of elements to this trip, including a bilateral program with France, participation in the Paris Peace Forum, participation in the Paris Conference on Libya, and other events and engagements.

There is, though, a common thread: The Vice President is exercising American leadership on consequential global challenges and issues.

Before I hand it over to [senior administration official], I will note that the Second Gentleman will join the Vice President for some of her engagements, and the Second Gentleman will also have his own schedule focused on advancing cooperation through events on gender equality, inspiring young women and girls, sports diplomacy, as well as educational exchanges.

So, with that, I give it over to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks very much, Symone. Really appreciate that good introduction.

Just a couple of additional details that I'll add about the specifics of the Vice President's trip.

On November 9th, when she arrives, the Vice President will tour the Institut Pasteur. As I think you all know, that is a world-renowned research institute located in Paris. The Vice President will meet with American and French scientists working on COVID-19 and pandemic preparedness globally.

The visit will underscore the longstanding scientific exchanges between the United States and France, as well as our determination to tackle global challenges, especially right now, as we're working together to end the pandemic.

The Institut visit is also personally important for the Vice President. Her mother, who was a scientist, conducted breast cancer research with scientists at the Institut Pasteur in the 1980s.

On November 10, the Vice President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Macron at the Élysée Palace. They will have a wide-ranging discussion across a range of issues to include the bilateral relationship, European security, the Indo-Pacific, global health, space, and a number of other subjects.

But the key message for this meeting is the importance of this relationship and the fact that U.S.-French partnership matters to the world. It also matters to the American people, because what we do together is really critical for both of our nation as well as the entire international community.

And as you saw in the joint statement following President Biden's meeting with President Macron in Rome, we are forward-looking in terms of our relationship. We have identified a number of areas around the world where we want to strengthen our cooperation. We are determined to do so, and the Vice President is determined to take that work forward in concrete ways.

Also on November 10th, which is the eve of both Veterans Days in the United States and Armistice Day in France, the Vice President, along with the Second Gentleman, will visit the American Cemetery, known as Suresnes, to honor the bravery and the sacrifices of those who fought and died for our country.

And on the following day, on November 11, the Vice President will participate in the Armistice Day ceremony.

I think it is really important to note here how important these events are -- the magnitude, the legacy of our bond with Europe, and the, really, excruciating sacrifices that we have both made to try to build international peace.

And for the Vice President, this is about honoring the service and the sacrifice of American service members and their families. Her commitment to American service members and their families is deep and enduring, and you will see that both at the American Cemetery as well as in the Armistice Day events.

And I think, just as a final word, when you look at the message of Armistice Day and the message of the American Cemetery, it is about the years that France and the United States have stood together, our shared values, and our commitment to continue doing the right things together around the world.

Now, let me stop with that and hand it over to my colleague.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. And hi, everybody. I will just pick it up where [senior administration official], on November 11.

Later in that day, the Vice President will attend and she'll deliver a speech at the opening ceremony of the fourth annual Paris Peace Forum, hosted by President Macron.

This is a forum founded in 2018 that brings together leaders from government, business, and civil society to look at multilateral solutions to big, global challenges. And the Vice President will be the most senior American official to attend the forum since its launch.

The theme of this year's conference -- they pick a big theme every year, even if they have wide-ranging panels on many things. This year it's focused on gaps in global governance. And it'll focus particularly on gaps in global health, post-COVID recovery, and look for new principles of action for the post-COVID world.

And I think you can expect the Vice President, in her speech, to focus her remarks on some big, converging global crises, but including, in particular, the challenge of rising inequality and the need for leaders around the world to join together and take bold action.

After the opening day of the forum -- still on November 11 -- the Vice President will attend a dinner hosted by President Macron and joined by a number of other world leaders who will be both at the Paris Peace Forum and the next day's Libya Conference, about which I'll say a word in a minute, for candid conversations on all of these challenges, including the need to reinforce global institutions and to shore up democracies in the face of authoritarianism.

The next day, November 12th, the Vice President will participate in the Paris Conference on Libya. This is a conference co-hosted by President Macron, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Draghi of Italy, and the U.N. Secretary-General Guterres. And it is expected to include over 20 heads of state and government from throughout the region and the world.

And the Vice President is attending to show U.S. support for the Libyan people as they work to reestablish their sovereignty and establish lasting peace.

Specifically, on Libya, we want to show our support for the Libyan people as they move towards national elections and as they focus on the importance of the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries and fighters from Libya. We want to build a stable and prosperous Libya free from foreign interference and capable of combating terrorism within its borders.

And we'll also be expressing a deep concern for human rights and the situation of migrants and refugees, and reinforce the imperative of protecting vulnerable people, including those fleeing conflict.

And I think, as a general statement, the overall trip, as we've described it, and the Paris Peace Forum and the Libya Conference are all based on the convictions that solving global problems requires America to be at the table.

And the Biden-Harris administration, I think you've seen, takes our global leadership role seriously, takes our partners and alliances seriously, and really wants to work closely with our likeminded partners, as well as the countries that may have different or competing views but a shared interest in finding diplomatic solutions to challenging problems.

Lastly, the next day, November 13, the Vice President and Second Gentleman will meet with our diplomats serving at Embassy Paris to convey their appreciation for their service before returning to the United States.

And, with that, I will bring that description to a close and hand the floor back to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you so much. At this point, we will take some questions. I will remind folks, if they joined us late, that this call is on background, attributed to "senior administration officials," and it is embargoed until Thursday, November 4, at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Moses who will give you all some instruction on how to ask the questions.

Q: Hi, thanks for having this call. I'm just wondering if the Vice President is planning to hold any sort of availability for journalists to answer questions. Will she be hosting a news conference after the bilat or anything like that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you for that question, Katie. I will say definitely we are planning -- before the Vice President goes wheels up from France, at the end of her trip, she will have a availability for the press. She will give a statement about her trip to -- her trip in Paris and her events over the week and then take questions at the end. And then there will be gaggle opportunities as well.

And as we have more, we will absolutely let you know. That's what we have right now.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Hey, guys. Thanks for doing the call. So, I'm wondering: To what extent is this trip a part of the broader efforts to fully restore and strengthen relations between the U.S. and France following the submarine affair?

And, you know, if not for that rift -- which appears to have been mended, in particular in the wake of the President's meetings with President Macron in France -- would you guys have sent a lower-level official if it were not for that rift?

And what more work, specifically, do you feel needs to be done to improve that relationship? And how will the Vice President help with that effort while she's there? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, Jeremy. Thanks very much for asking that question. I think it's a really great one.

I want to just circle back to a couple of things that I said but also that [senior administration official] said. The relationship between the United States and France -- and also the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and Europe -- is really critical for us. And this is something that candidate Biden stressed throughout the campaign.

And from the very first days in office, President Biden and Vice President Harris have made strengthening our alliances a core element of what we want to do for our foreign policy. It is how we plan to tackle the major challenges that we're facing around the world.

And, as you noted, President Biden and President Macron had a very positive meeting in Rome. They came out with a joint statement. The focus from that joint statement was that we are looking forward.

I know you saw the comments that the President made; he spoke from the heart when he was addressing press questions about this issue. And so, I think he really spoke in considerable detail there.

The Vice President has also made her relationship with world leaders a priority. She spoke to President Macron very early on in the administration, in February. She has spoken to a number of other world leaders. And so, this is a great opportunity for her to continue to develop her partnership not just with President Macron, but with the -- what we expect will probably be 25 other world leaders that will be attending both these events: the Paris Peace Forum as well as the Libya Conference in Paris.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The only thing I'd add to that, because I think that really is exactly right in terms of the broader picture -- the only thing I would add is: The Paris Peace Forum -- the themes are themes that the Vice President herself has been very much focused on.

Beyond this point about the importance of partners and allies, which the President and Vice President have stressed from the start, the Vice President has been focused on global health and gender equality and climate and inequalities in general. And that happens to be the focus of the Paris Peace Conference this year.

So, in that sense, this is not only an opportunity to reinforce partnerships, like our close partnership with France, but to deal with some of the global challenges that have been vice presidential priorities from day one.

Q: Just to put a finer point on it, though, could you guys be a little bit more specific about what the Vice President's visit will do to help reinforce that relationship, which has been through a lot over the last several months; and whether or not she would have been the U.S. official attending the Paris Peace Forum if not for that rift?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Jeremy. I'm going to reiterate something I said at the top of this call: that this visit by the Vice President signals that the strength of our alliance as nations, specifically the United States and France working together to advance prosperity and security and stability, working together to address these existential threats -- and we know what they are: the pandemic, climate change, I could go on -- but also seizing opportunities is extremely important.

Also, this continues a theme from the Vice President's trip to Southeast Asia earlier this year -- specifically, the United States showing up for our allies and partners, that the U.S. is a global leader and we -- our commitments are -- we stand by them and are key.

So, I don't have a crystal ball here. I'm not going to play the "what if" game. Many of -- there are things that happened three months ago that I wouldn't have predicted three months before that.

But what I can tell you is the Vice President is looking forward to this trip. This trip is extremely important. And, you know, again, as our world has become more interconnected and more interdependent, this alliance specifically, between the U.S. and France, is more important now than it has ever been.

I think we have our next question.

Q: Yes. Hi, thank you all for doing this. I had two quick questions. One, as you all were saying right now that the alliance is more important than ever, could you explain how at all just the departure of Angela Merkel from Germany is affecting the dynamic and the relationship between how this administration views its relationship with France?

And then, a separate, quick follow-up on Libya. A few folks I was speaking with in the past few days about the United States' positions on Libya have stressed to me that, essentially, the U.S. policy on Libya has been rather murky over, say, the last decade in the last couple of administrations. And I'm wondering, beyond support for elections, is there anything else that we may expect to hear from the Vice President?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks very much. And I think it's important that you note the, sort of, expected departure of Angela Merkel following the German elections.

Here's what I would say about that: The Vice President has met with Chancellor Merkel. And not only did they have a very good meeting, but I think they came out with a meeting of the minds in terms of the kind of agenda that both of them have for governance and leadership, and a really strong reaffirmation of the transatlantic link that Symone referred to.

We have confidence in the European Union's ability to deal with leadership transitions, to deal with a number of transitions to include Brexit. There are always going to be some complicated issues that have to be worked through, and leadership transitions happen.

But we are committed to working together with Europe to deal with all of the challenges that we face. And part of what the Vice President will be doing while she's in Paris, in addition to spending time with President Macron, is spending time with other European leaders, other world leaders, and talking about all of the things that we need to do together and how to pool our collective energy and resources in order to make those things happen in the kind of collective action that we want.

Let me turn to [senior administration official], if I can, for the Libya question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Thanks for the question on Libya.

Look, there's no question that Libya has had a tough decade. Since the Libyan revolution and in the fall of Qaddafi and the NATO intervention, the country has been through a lot with, you know, effectively division, civil war, struggling to figure out how to produce and export oil and to share it, and, frankly, in the past couple of years, even violence as the two sides have gone back and forth on the battlefield.

But I think the point now is after acknowledging this tough decade, there actually is hope in Libya. The Libyans have come together, and they have said they want to hold elections. And they have said they want to see foreign forces get out of the country. And the U.N. Security Council came together to endorse that process.

And now President Macron, actually, following on some initiatives by Chancellor Merkel -- in fact, going back to the first part of your question -- is trying to bring countries together, including countries that were deeply divided, backing alternative sides in Libya and fueling the crisis, to try to get them all together on the same page.

And so, we think it's important, the Vice President thinks it's important for the United States to be at that table and to lend our support for legitimate and effective elections that lead to international consensus on not just having these legitimate and effective elections, but bringing into power a government that Libya wants and getting the foreign forces out of the country.

So that's why she's going to be there with that important message from the United States.

Q: Yes, hello. Thanks for doing that. Just one quick question on whether there will be or already planned any bilaterals on the sidelines of the Peace Forum or the Conference on Libya.

And the second question on the bilateral with President Emmanuel Macron and whether the -- what is the message, the position of the United States when it comes to the European defense that President Macron has been pushing for when it relates to NATO?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great, thanks very much. In terms of the rest of the details of the Vice President's schedule, we can get back to you, in terms of any other events beyond those that we've mentioned in this call.

On European security and defense identity, I think you will have seen in the joint statement that came out following the meeting between Presidents Biden and Macron the U.S. offered a very strong endorsement of European security and defense identity, and noted that we see this as complementary to NATO, supportive of the things that NATO is trying to achieve, that there is not incompatibility between the two.

So, I think the statement speaks quite clearly to this issue. And I know the Vice President will be happy to follow up in discussions in Paris.

So, thanks very much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you all so very much. I know we had a couple more questions in the queue, so if we did not get to you, please -- everyone at this point should have received an email from Rachel. So please feel free to reply to Rachel with your questions, and the Office of the Vice President and NSC will work to get back to you very quickly.

As a reminder, this call is on background, attributed to "senior administration officials," and is embargoed until Thursday, November 4th, at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time.

You also should have in your email background, from Rachel, on the Vice President's engagements in Europe and European leaders, and just background on some of the work she's been doing. That background is also under the same embargo.

So if you have any additional questions, if there's something we missed, please feel free to get back to us. Thank you for your time this evening and have a great night.

END 6:57 P.M. EDT

Kamala Harris, Background Press Call on the Vice President's Trip to Paris, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353262

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