Joe Biden

On-the-Record Roundtable by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan Previewing the President's First Day at the G7

June 13, 2024

Via Teleconference

9:13 A.M. CEST

MR. SULLIVAN: We've got a busy day ahead of us here at the first day of the G7. I'll just highlight a few items for you.

The first session will be on Africa, climate change, and development. And the President will have his chance, coming out of the Kenya state visit in particular, to talk about the full range of investments and approaches the U.S. has taken with respect to Africa to spur social and economic development, security, and in particular, investment. And I'll come on to that in a minute.

We believe the G7 will -- the statement will reflect the Nairobi-Washington Vision that President Biden signed with President Ruto on debt relief for low- and middle-income countries. And that's going to be an important outcome today.

Second, we'll have a session on the Middle East. This will be an opportunity for the leaders to get an update from President Biden on the negotiations with respect to the ceasefire and hostage deal, to talk about G7 support for bringing that deal to closure so that we can get a ceasefire in place and the hostages home.

They'll also talk about Lebanon and the increasing tension along that border, including the increasing intensity, scope -- intensity and scope of the strikes by Hezbollah deeper into Israel and including into civilian areas. President Biden will talk about the links between getting a ceasefire in Gaza and getting calm on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

And of course, they'll compare notes on the continuing threat posed by Iran, both with respect to its support for proxy forces and with respect to the Iranian nuclear program, where we continue to have grave concerns and where the IAEA spoke last week.

Next, the President will participate in a session with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine and the G7 leaders on G7 support for Ukraine across the board. And that will be an opportunity to talk about coordination on sanctions, which the United States announced yesterday and other G7 partners will be announcing over the coming days. Of course, to talk about many of your favorite subject and mine: the mobilization of the proceeds from Russian sovereign assets to help Ukraine with respect to its resilience and economic needs.

As I told some of you guys on the plane yesterday, there's been very good progress in the discussions among the G7 delegations here to reach an agreement for how to make that happen. And hopefully by the time the leaders meet today, we will have a common vision for the way forward, and the Italian presidency will be able to announce that there is a path forward. But we'll all just have to wait and see what happens here in a few hours' time.

This has been something that the United States has put a lot of energy and effort into because we see the proceeds from these assets as being a valuable source of resources for Ukraine at a moment when Russia continues to brutalize the country, not just through military action on the front, but through the attempted destruction of its energy grid and its economic vitality.

One more thing I'll just note today coming in is we believe that, entering our fourth G7 -- President Biden's fourth G7, G7 leaders are more unified, really, than they've ever been, at least in modern memory, on the major issues across the board, whether that's geopolitical crises or its challenges related to the global economy, including issues like Chinese overcapacity.

And as we've come into this G7, the European Union has taken what we believe is an important step with respect to the imposition of tariffs on electric vehicles from China. We welcome that action, which they implemented after a thorough investigation, to address China's unfair trade practices and the electric vehicle sector. And as we head into our first sessions here in Italy, we think this kind of alignment is what we're looking to build upon to create a level playing field for our workers and our firms.

And then, the last thing I wanted to talk about is: Later today, the President will participate in and help lead a side event on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, PGI. He'll co-host it with the Prime Minister of Italy. It will bring together leaders of the G7 and private sector executives, including the CEO and chairman of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, and the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, to identify incentives and methods to mobilize infrastructure investment with a particular focus on leveraging private capital.

And so, the President will showcase how we're scaling the G7's flagship infrastructure initiative to attract major investors so that we can not just generate -- because the demand is there -- but channel the demand for high-quality infrastructure financing and make a connection between sources of private capital and the needs across the developing world.

So at this event, the President is going to announce that since the launch of PGI in 2022, we've initiated investments that will mobilize over $60 billion in support of PGI. And we're going to, in the next few months and years, accelerate investments so that we will hit the President's $200 billion mobilization goal by 2027.

And he'll also highlight game-changing investments that we've unlocked in partnership with multilateral institutions in the private sector over the past year that advance our own supply chains and national security and our work to outcompete China. There'll be some more specific announcements that come out of that session later today.

And then, just to close out the day, of course, as I mentioned yesterday, the President will be signing a bilateral security agreement with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. We think this is a big deal, a milestone moment in the partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine and a real marker of our commitment not just for this month and this year, but for the many years ahead, as we will continue to support Ukraine both in defending against Russian aggression and in deterring future aggression so that Ukraine can be a sovereign, viable, thriving democracy rooted and anchored in its partnership with the West and in the Euro-Atlantic community.

So, sorry to go on for so long, but that's where we are this morning, and I look forward to taking your questions.

Q: Jake, according to European Union sources, every reference to abortion and reproductive rights have been cancelled from the final declaration at the request of the Italian presidency. This is, of course, also a matter of international rights. Does the President know? Does he agree with that? Is he going to raise the issue of reproductive rights and general rights, LGBTQ rights, during the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Meloni?

MR. SULLIVAN: The President always talks about human rights in all of his interactions, both with friends and with competitors and adversaries. And I don't expect the next two days will be any different.

I can't speak to the specific assertion. I have not heard that with respect to discussions over the communiqué itself.

But from the President's point of view, he doesn't change up his message based on who he's talking to, and nothing about that will change today.

Q: On a ceasefire, Jake, can you update us based on what's the latest? I understand you spoke yesterday and there's really not much that you can say. But for people who are confused about the state of play at this point, would it be fair to characterize that Hamas has not agreed in private but say publicly that they have agreed, and Israel is the opposite of that in private, agreeing, but in public not agreeing?

And then, if you could, just update my question yesterday, which was the U.N. inquiry that has called out both Hamas and Israel for violating international law and committing war crimes. If you've had a chance to look at that.

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, we've made our position clear on the second issue in the report that emerged from National Security Memorandum 20. That's the U.S. position with respect to these questions of international humanitarian law. And I'll let that speak for itself. The U.N. is going to speak for itself through multiple voices and multiple channels. And I'm not going to give it further comment today.

I don't entirely agree with your characterization. Israel has supplied this proposal. It has been sitting on the table for some time. Israel has not contradicted or walked that back. To this day, they stand behind the proposal that was put on the table in late May that President Biden described in his May 31st speech. So I don't think that there is a contradiction in the Israeli position.

I do think Hamas's assertion that they've accepted that proposal, to the extent that they are saying that publicly, is not correct. What they have done is responded to that proposal with an amended proposal. And as I said yesterday, some of those amendments are modest or minor. They're not unanticipated. We can work through them. Others are not consistent with what President Biden laid out or what the U.N. Security Council embraced.

But our goal is to figure out how we work to bridge the remaining gaps and get to a deal. So we're going to work with Qatar and Egypt. Qatar and Egypt will work with Hamas. Qatar, Egypt, and the United States will work with Israel. And the goal is to try to bring this to a conclusion as rapidly as possible.

Now, I can't give you a timetable for that. I would have to say that in complex negotiations like this, especially indirect negotiations, things don't happen necessarily instantly. And so, I may not have an update for you 12 hours from now any more than I do from 12 hours ago, but I can tell you that we are working actively to generate a path forward based on what Hamas has come in with that gets us to a result that's consistent with what the U.N. Security Council laid out and consistent with what President Biden laid out. We believe that is possible.

We still believe that it is important for the world to continue to train the focus on Hamas, who has said on behalf of the Palestinian -- on behalf of, you know, its leadership and, you know, its view of what is happening in Gaza, that it wants to get to a ceasefire. If, in fact, it does, there's a ceasefire on the table. They should take it and not try to push this thing in a direction where we just get to stalemate.

And so, I think continuing to encourage Hamas to step up and do its part will be an important thing for the rest of the world.

Q: Just to put a finer point on that, Jake. So the Israelis have not agreed, at least publicly, to commit to a permanent peace path, the first phase, because that's essentially, you know, what Hamas is saying that they need in writing, or at least that's what we're hearing. Has the Israeli -- I mean, can you confirm that Israel will commit to a permanent ceasefire, despite the fact that we haven't heard it from them publicly?

MR. SULLIVAN: What I can confirm is that the Israelis have agreed to the proposal that the President laid out in detail, step by step. If you go back and read his May 31st text, everything in that is completely faithful to a document that Israel itself put forward and has not walked away from.

Q: Despite everything that they say publicly?

MR. SULLIVAN: I don't think it's despite everything they say publicly. I think if you look at the document as laid out -- or, excuse me, the President's speech as laid out, that is something the Israelis have committed to, remain committed to. And I haven't heard any Israeli leader right now contradict that they stand behind the proposal put forward in late May.

Q: Jake, can you say a little bit more about the Washington-Nairobi Vision and what that means specifically? As I understand it, there's a lot of concern about China's slow progress in agreeing to debt restructuring. So will there be language that specifically calls out China, or will it be more broad? And, you know, what changes as a result of what you're expecting to happen?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, there are elements of the Nairobi-Washington declaration, or Washington-Nairobi declaration, that are really about increasing the capacity of countries bearing significant debt burdens to be able to pay those off, getting them access to lower-cost financing so that they're not just stuck with the high-cost financing that is like an albatross around their neck. And we've taken a number of steps through the multilateral development banks, the international financial institutions to make that available.

Second, it's about coordination and effectively getting the major private and public creditors together around a common vision.

And that leads to this third point that you're raising, which is China is a significant creditor to a lot of countries who are saddled by debt burdens.

The G7 communiqué is not singling out or focusing on a single country. It's talking about a common approach every country, including China, should sign up to. But in the discussion the leaders have, they will all very much squarely face the reality that so much of the crushing debt burden facing countries around the world comes from China, and China needs to be a constructive actor in that.

And I think you'll hear a common voice from the G7 about what the right path forward is. We'll be aligned on that. And that, I think, will set these developing countries up to have a more constructive conversation with China than they've been able to have to date.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the migration aspect of the G7? I wondered -- a lot of the nations who are here are grappling with migration challenges, in particular the U.S. And I wonder what is -- you guys hope to glean from those discussions.

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, as you know -- it's kind of amazing to say this -- but two years ago, more than two years ago, the President hosted the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. And as part of that, he pulled more than 20 countries together around the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection. And that basic vision for how to do effective, humane, and orderly migration management has remained at the core of his approach. And it has three elements to it.

The first is humane and effective enforcement. The second is investing in root causes so that people do not feel compelled to leave in the first place. And the third is expanding legal pathways so that we can have regular migration that can replenish the vitality of our nation and other nations across the hemisphere.

So to put a fine point on it, the goal of the President here at the G7 on migration is to take the Los Angeles Declaration and make it more than a regional compact but something that becomes a global vision. And we believe that the outcome of the G7 will reflect those core pillars of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. And it will build upon the actions that the President has taken, including the recent actions on border enforcement, as well as the steps he's taken to open up more legal pathways and to invest in root causes, not just in the Americas but in other parts of the world.

And other G7 members are particularly focused on root cause investments in Africa and what I've just laid out with respect to PGI and the first session that will unfold today on Africa, climate, and development. That's all consistent with that pillar of the LA Declaration and that element of what the G7 approach will be when it's adopted today.

Q: As part of the discussion the President had over migration, he talked with, I think it's Spain and Canada -- right? -- to discuss, like, moving migrants over in Europe?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, as part of lawful pathways.

Q: Yeah. Is there any discussion to broaden that to other G7 nations?

MR. SULLIVAN: It's not going to be a formal agenda item today, but it is a subject of some discussion with other countries as well, who are looking for regular, lawful migration for their economies, for their economic growth.

And so, the President has always made clear that if other countries want to be partners with us in that regard, as Spain and Canada, then he would welcome that. And those discussions are ongoing.

Q: Hey, Jake. The President has often talked about, coming out of the first G7 in England, the conversations he had with Scholz and other then-world leaders about America being back, America's commitment to the world stage. Obviously, this could be his last G7.

And I'm wondering if you can read us into how he's thinking about having some of those conversations, how your counterparts have talked with you about the possibility that there's a different American president next year (inaudible), and how you may put in place things to try to bridge any gaps between American administrations. I mean, just sort of how that might be hanging over some of the conversations, especially on the heels of the European elections, where a number of -- Macron, Scholz, their parties suffered some serious defeats.

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, one of the great things about the G7 is we're all democracies, so the leaders here don't get to pick and choose how things go in their countries politically day in, day out. They leave that to the people of their countries.

But at the same time, I think the President, like the other G7 leaders who have just come off elections, they're going to be focused on the task at hand. And from his perspective, the real work to be done here is work that is going to put the United States in the best possible position to protect our interests and reflect our values.

So whether it's Russian sovereign assets or it's alignment about Chinese overcapacity, support for Ukraine, coordination on the ongoing crisis in Gaza, he's going to set kind of the broader election context aside and really focus in on the work that needs to get done here. And he's going to measure a successful G7 by whether or not we've made tangible progress on those issues. I think we're teed up for success in that regard, but we'll have to see how the next two days unfold.

And then, you know, he's in -- every day subsequent to this summit, his goal is going to be to do as much as possible to reinforce the idea that the United States is best served if we are closely aligned with our democratic allies and partners; that we are more likely to accomplish our objectives, more likely to protect the interests of our workers and businesses, more likely to produce security and stability when we are aligned, as opposed to in conflict, with the leading democracies of the world. That's going to be on display today.

And the difference between past times when the U.S. has not been aligned and what you're going to see here in Puglia is something that can actually be measured, from my perspective, in an improved American standing in the world and the improved capacity of the United States to deliver for its people.

Q: Very quickly, on the state of the talks for unlocking the assets, (inaudible) to get this done or individual countries getting loans? Is the U.S. giving more loans? How does that stand?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, as a fellow member of the Air Force One plane team flying over here -- (laughter) -- I must have repeated like six time --

Q: Are you (inaudible) again?

MR. SULLIVAN: -- that I wouldn't get ahead of -- look, the Italian presidency, I think, has done a really good job of bringing everyone together around the table to try to deal with what's, you know, both a simple and a complex proposition. The simple proposition is we got to put these assets to work. The complex proposition is how you do that specifically.

And so, I think we are on the verge of a good outcome here. I will wait until we have the session on Ukraine and let the Italians describe where we are.

As I said on the plane yesterday, I think we will have the major tentpoles of this decided but some of the specifics left to be worked through by experts on a defined timetable. That's how I anticipate this will all play out, to include how things will unfold on the vehicle and the range of countries that may step up on issues related to the loan.

Q: Fifty billion sound right?

MR. SULLIVAN: I've read that. (Laughter.)

AIDE: All right, we need to go.

Q: Thanks, Jake.

9:35 A.M. CEST

Joseph R. Biden, On-the-Record Roundtable by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan Previewing the President's First Day at the G7 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/372773

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