President Joe Biden told reporters during his first news conference in months that he was encouraged by how he was received at this weekend’s Group of 20 Leadership Summit in Rome, dismissing concerns that allies might not take solace in his pledge to turn the page from his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
“They listened. Everyone sought me out. They wanted to know what our views were, and we helped lead what happened here,” Biden said of other world leaders Sunday evening. “We got significant support here. … The United States of America is the most critical part of this entire agenda.”
Back in Washington, however, the President’s ambitious legislative agenda is stalling in Congress. And in Virginia, Biden-backed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe faces a tough election on Tuesday
The President also dismissed concerns that poll numbers posed a significant problem for his administration’s priorities, saying, “Look at every other president. The same thing has happened. But that’s not why I ran.”
This was Biden’s first solo news conference since the one he held in mid-June in Geneva, Switzerland, following a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the wide-ranging question-and-answer session, which lasted less than a half hour, Biden asserted that “there’s really no substitute for face-to-face discussions and negotiations among the leaders to build an understanding and cooperation.”
The President said he “found it disappointing” that the leaders of major polluters like China and Russia are not showing up at this week’s international summits.
Biden said it would be up to nations to deliver on their promises.
“The proof of the pudding will be eating,” he said. “I think you’re gonna see we’ve made significant progress and more has to be done, but it’s gonna require us to continue to focus on what China’s not doing, what Russia is not doing, what Saudi Arabia is not doing.”
On Iran, Biden told reporters the US is “continuing to suffer” because of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
The President also reflected on his “personal” relationship with Pope Francis, who he visited at the Vatican on Friday
Biden praised Francis as “someone who’s provided a great solace for my family when my son died,” but he did not directly respond to a question about a proposal that tried to to permit individual American bishops to deny communion to politicians, like the President, who support abortion rights.
The President’s engagements with reporters have been somewhat limited throughout this first leg of his journey through Europe.
While the American press was allowed to ask questions in the room with Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron before their bilateral meeting Rome, the press was entirely shut out of the President’s meeting with Pope Francis. Footage of the meeting from inside the walls of the papal state was distributed by Vatican Television.
The President next heads to Monday’s United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Global supply chain efforts
Earlier Sunday, Biden signed an executive order intended to streamline stockpiling efforts as he looks for solutions supply chain logjams, part of a number of efforts taking place during his final day in Rome for the Group of 20 summit.
The order delegates authority to the Pentagon to release materials from the National Defense Stockpile, which the White House says would allow for quicker response to supply shortages.
On Sunday, Biden also announced increased funding to promote international supply chain resilience, which he said would help the US and international partners “cut port congestion by slashing red tape.” And he is directing his secretaries of State and Commerce to convene a summit next year focused on the issue.
During an event he hosted on global supply chain resilience at the G20 in Rome, Biden also called on countries to renew efforts to address supply issues, particularly relating to national security.
He said to the group of world leaders at the event: “I urge all of you … to consider bolstering your stockpiles critical to national security in your countries. But like so many of our challenges today, it isn’t a problem any one of our nations can solve through unilateral actions. Coordination is key.”
Biden said the real way to solve the supply bottlenecks would be ending the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that it’s “the ultimate key to unlocking the disruptions.”
Shortages of goods have become a political liability for Biden and are contributing to inflation. He convened the special session at the G20 to address the topic, where officials say he will ask individual countries to identify ways they can shake loose the blockages.
Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its 2021 US growth forecast by one percentage point — the most for any G7 economy — because of supply chain disruptions and weakening consumption. And as supply chain disruptions hiked prices for consumers and slowed the economic recovery, Moody’s Analytics warned that the disruptions “will get worse before they get better.”
Moody’s pointed to differences in how countries are fighting Covid-19, with China aiming for zero cases while the United States is “more willing to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.” The firm also cited the lack of a “concerted global effort to ensure the smooth operation” of the worldwide logistics and transportation network.
Meeting with Erdoğan
Earlier Sunday, Biden raised concerns over Turkey’s possession of a Russian missile system and human rights issues in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House said, amid simmering tensions between the two nations.
The two leaders met for about 55 minutes on the sidelines of the final day of the G20 Summit, taking place this year in Rome.
Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system was fiercely opposed by NATO and by Washington, and signaled a deepening relationship between Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden addressed these concerns directly with Erdoğan, a White House readout of the meeting stated, while also underscoring “his desire to maintain constructive relations, expand areas of cooperation, and manage our disagreements effectively.”
A senior administration official told reporters after the meeting: “The President also raised human rights issues, saying that this is a set of issues — democracy, rule of law, human rights — that are important to him. And that those are issues that he and his administration will continue to raise.”
The two leaders also discussed regional issues, including the political process in Syria, delivering humanitarian assistance to Afghans, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus, the White House said.
Biden will also hold his first solo press conference in months on Sunday.
The meeting on Sunday morning with Erdoğan was not previously on Biden’s public schedule and was relayed Saturday evening to reporters by a senior administration official. The sit-down came about a week after Erdoğan ordered 10 ambassadors — including those from the US, France, and Germany — be declared “persona non grata” after they released a joint statement calling for the release of jailed Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Ahead of the meeting, Biden said he planned on having a “good conversation” with the Turkish President while standing beside him. Biden didn’t answer questions from reporters about whether he planned to raise human rights issues or whether he believed Turkey was too close to Russia.
Ahead of the meeting, an administration official told reporters in Rome: “Certainly, the President will indicate that we need to find a way to avoid crises like that one going forward, and precipitous action is not going to benefit the US-Turkey partnership and alliance.” The official added the two leaders are expected to discuss Libya, and their defense relationship.
Biden and Erdoğan last met one-on-one in June at NATO headquarters in Brussels, a meeting Biden called “positive and productive.” It was a closely watched meeting after Biden in April became the first US president in decades to recognize the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide — a move that risked a potential fracture with Turkey but signaled a commitment to global human rights.
More of Sunday’s events
Biden skipped two of the more informal events arranged for G20 leaders during this weekend’s summit in Rome.
The President did not attend a performance Saturday night held in the 1,700-year-old Baths of Diocletian, where most of the other leaders were treated to a performance of Puccini under soaring stone arches. Instead, the President attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Church with the first lady.
On Sunday morning, many G20 leaders gathered at the Trevi Fountain and tossed coins over their shoulders into the water. Biden skipped the event, as he was about to meet with Erdoğan, who also did not attend.
Aside from the bilateral with Erdoğan, the President met with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Sunday afternoon, where the two leaders “reaffirmed the importance of the US-Singapore Strategic Partnership and reviewed opportunities to build on the momentum generated by Vice President Harris’ visit to Singapore in August,” according to the White House.
Biden “expressed his desire to deepen cooperation with Singapore in pursuit of our shared interests and a free and open Indo-Pacific, including in upholding freedom of the seas and advancing supply chain resiliency,” the White House statement said.
Biden also participated in two G20 sessions on climate and other sustainable development, according to the administration official.
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