Jul 15, 2021
Joe Biden & Angela Merkel Joint Press Conference Transcript July 15
U.S. President Joe Biden & German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a press conference on July 15, 2021 during Merkel’s visit to the White House. Read the full transcript here.
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President Biden: (00:01)
Thank you all. Please have a seat. Today, it’s been my great honor, and I mean that, to welcome a dear friend back to the White House.
President Biden: (00:14)
And before I say anything else, chancellor Merkel, I want to express to you and to the people of Germany, my sincere condolences and the condolences of the American people for the devastating loss of life and the destruction due to the flooding over the past 24 hours in Germany and neighboring countries. It’s a tragedy and our hearts go out to the families who’ve lost loved ones.
President Biden: (00:44)
Chancellor Merkel has been here frequently over the past 16 years. Matter of fact, she knows the Oval Office as well as I do. But all kidding aside through this administration she’s been there for four years or for four presidents. But I want to take a moment to acknowledge the historic nature of her chancellorship.
President Biden: (01:07)
First woman chancellor in German history. The first chancellor from the former East Germany, and now the second longest serving chancellor since Helmut Kohl. Here’s an exemplary life of groundbreaking service to Germany. And I might add, and I mean it from the bottom of heart to the world. On behalf of the United States, thank you Angela, for your career of a strong principal leadership. And thank you for speaking out for what is right and for never failing to defend human dignity.
President Biden: (01:43)
I want to thank you for your continued support with a long standing goal of Europe whole, free, and at peace. You’ve been a stalwart champion of the transatlantic alliance, the Atlantic partnership. Under your chancellorship, the friendship and cooperation between Germany and the United States has grown stronger and stronger, and I’m looking forward to celebrating more at our dinner this evening. But today it was very much a working visit.
President Biden: (02:15)
Chancellor Merkel and I covered a wide range of issues where Germany and the United States are working to advance a shared agenda.
President Biden: (02:24)
We discussed together with our fellow major democracies at the G7, Germany and the United States have responsibilities to lead with our values as do the other members of NATO. And today I’ve confided that in our new Washington declaration, which we’ve codified, a document affirming our commitment to the democratic principles that are at the heart of both of our nations, and how we will apply them to meet the biggest challenges of today and tomorrow.
President Biden: (03:06)
Both our nations understand the imperative of proving that democracies can deliver the needs of our people in the second quarter of the 21st century. We will stand up for democratic principles and universal rights when we see China or any other country working to undermine free and open societies. And we are united. United in our commitment to addressing democratic backsliding, corruption, phony populism in the European Union or among candidates for the EU membership, or anywhere we find it in the world.
President Biden: (03:46)
We agree on the importance to further integrating the Western Balkans into the European institutions. In our continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the continued importance of reforms and the support of their [inaudible 00:04:04] aspirations.
President Biden: (04:07)
We stand together and we’ll continue to stand to go to defend our Eastern flank allies at NATO against Russian aggression. While I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream 2, chancellor Merkel and I are absolutely united in our conviction, that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors.
President Biden: (04:31)
And today we’re launching a climate and energy partnership to support energy security and the development of sustainable energy, sustainable energy technologies and emerging economies, including in central Europe and Ukraine. To unite our efforts, to up end, and on our global climate ambitions that we have to up the ante. What happened is we talked about when Paris accord was set, we thought we had established just how serious it was, but things have gotten much more dire since even that day. And to unite our efforts to up the ante on global climate ambitions.
President Biden: (05:18)
I also thank chancellor Merkel for the dedication and the sacrifice of German troops who have served side by side along with U.S. forces in Afghanistan for almost 20 years.
President Biden: (05:31)
And we reaffirmed our shared commitment to continuing to counter terrorist threats where we find them including in the [inaudible 00:05:38] in Africa.
President Biden: (05:40)
And when we think about the future, the future we want for the world, there’s no issue said at all that I believe we find other than the certainty that a commitment between the United States and Germany doesn’t benefit, whatever the problem, the concern is. We need to fight COVID-19 pandemic everywhere to strengthen global health security for tomorrow so we’re ready for the next pandemic.
President Biden: (06:16)
We need to make sure that the rules of the road governing the use of emerging technologies advance freedom, not authoritarianism and repression. We need to promote a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that enhances the prosperity and opportunities for all, and so much more. This isn’t just work of governments. The work is the work of our peoples, sharing their innovation and insights, joining together to amplify our collective impact.
President Biden: (06:49)
So today, we’re launching a futures forum between our two countries, which will bring together top experts across business, academia, civil society and more to collaborate as we shape our shared future.
President Biden: (07:06)
Madam chancellor, I know that the partnership between Germany and the United States will continue to grow stronger on the foundation that you have helped to build. On a personal note, I must tell you, I’ll miss seeing you at our summits. I truly will.
President Biden: (07:23)
So thank you again, Angela, for making the journey for our productive meeting today and for your country.
Chancellor Merkel: (08:52)
… be engaged in the men’s process. We will be actively acting should Russia not respect this right of Ukraine that it has as a transit country. So Nord Stream 2 is an additional project and certainly not a project to replace any kind of transit through Ukraine. Anything else would obviously create a lot of tension. And we’re also talking about how we can actually make this very clear together.
We also talked about other priorities in our foreign policy. For example, our relationship with China, we are countries who stand up for free democratic societies, sign up for those rights, civic rights for those who live in these societies. So wherever human rights are not guaranteed, we will make our voices heard and make clear that we don’t agree with this. We are also for territorial integrity of all countries of the world.
We also talked about the many facets of cooperation and also of competition with China, be it in the economic area, be it on climate protection, be it in the military sector, and on security. And obviously there are a lot of challenges ahead.
On the nuclear agreement with Iran, JCPOA, we think that everything ought to be done order to bring this to a successful conclusion, but I think that is something that is also… The ball very much here is also in the Iranian camp.
Now over many, many years, we’ve served together in Afghanistan. You’ve been able to contain to a certain degree, terrorists dangers, but unfortunately we have not been able to build a nation as we would like it to look, and still I would hold, it was a good partnership, has been a good partnership with the United States all throughout this experience. Also very good contacts between our soldiers, our soldiers greatly appreciated that.
We also talked about [inaudible 00:15:27], the [inaudible 00:15:28] zone, where terrorism is on the rampage. And obviously for us in Europe, this is a great challenge, and also for the countries on the ground. We’re very grateful to the United States for their mission in order to contain and push back against these terrorist advances.
We’ve also agreed on a German-American dialogue between our business communities, because we have considerable trade links and we wish to build on this, and obviously the economy and economy ties are of importance to us. It was a very, very good exchange. We’re close partners. I would like this to remain even after I have left office. I think with this visit, we probably paved the way to make it possible, and to also create formats where we can exchange, because the world will continue to be a place that is full of challenges.
So thank you very much for making it possible for us to tackle those together. Thank you.
President Biden: (16:26)
Thank you very much. We’re each going to take two questions, and I’m going to begin by recognizing Steve Portnoy and congratulate you on your new role as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. My sympathies. No, but thank you.
Steven Portnoy: (16:45)
I appreciate that, sir. On behalf of the press corps, thank you. And we’re looking forward to the day we can have even more reporters all the way to the back of the room. So thank you very much.
Steven Portnoy: (16:52)
I have a couple of questions for you. Also, a question for the chancellor. Mr. President, with respect to Latin-America and the developments there in the last week plus, what are the circumstances under which you would send American troops to Haiti? That’s the first question.
Steven Portnoy: (17:08)
The second question is, when it comes to Cuba, what is your current thinking on American sanctions toward Cuba and the embargo? Today your press secretary said that communism is a failed ideology. I assume that’s your view. I was wondering if you could also give us your view on socialism.
Steven Portnoy: (17:26)
And then for the chancellor, the question is, madam, the president said that you know the Oval Office as well as he does. I’m wondering if you could reflect on your exchanges with American presidents over the last 16 years, and particularly contrast the current president with his most immediate predecessor.
President Biden: (17:44)
In two minutes or less. Obviously I know why they elected you president. Well, let me start off by answering the question relative to Haiti and Cuba. Communism is a failed system, universally failed system. I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute, but that’s another story.
President Biden: (18:15)
With regard to whether the circumstances in which we would send military troops to Haiti, we’re only sending American Marines to our embassy to make sure that they are secure and nothing is out of whack at all. But the idea of sending American forces into Haiti is not on the agenda at this moment. Number one.
President Biden: (18:43)
Number two, with regard to Cuba. Cuba is a unfortunately a failed state in repressing their citizens. There are a number of things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba, but it would require a different circumstance or guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government. For example, the ability to send remittances back to Cuba. I would not do that now, because the fact is, it’s highly likely that the regime would confiscate those remittances or big chunks of it.
President Biden: (19:26)
With regard to the need, COVID. I mean, assuming they have a COVID problem in Cuba, we’re prepared to give significant amounts of vaccine, if in fact I was assured an international organization would administer those vaccines and do it in a way that the average citizens would have access to those vaccines.
President Biden: (19:50)
One of the things that you did not ask, but we’re considering is they’ve cut off access to the internet. We’re considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access. I think I’ve answered your questions. Thank you.
Chancellor Merkel: (20:11)
Allow me, if I may, to elaborate on three different points. Any German chancellor has a vested interest to talk and that’s in very much in the vested interest of Germany to work and talk together with any American president. We’ve always had contact and you’ve been able to… It was, I think, very transparent, and today it was a very friendly exchange.
Oh, sorry. I have to call Mr. [inaudible 00:20:43] and his German question.
Speaker 5: (20:46)
Thank you very much madam chancellor, Mr. President. Allow me, if I may, to ask a question as regards Nord Stream 2. Madam chancellor, you just said that you would act actively should Russia be in breach of its commitments, for example, interrupt gas transit through Ukraine. What do you mean in concrete terms? Will Germany then switch off Nord Stream 2 from the German side? What sort of legal grounds would you be sort of claiming?
Mr. Present, you have fought so many years. The U.S. has fought so many years against Nord Stream 2. Now there will be only a few days left until this pipeline comes into operation. Will you allow it to go ahead, to put it in operation or will the people who operate the system actually have to contend with sanctions on the horizon?
Well, Mr. [inaudible 00:21:40], says the chancellor, you know that we’ve worked a lot, not only Germany, incidentally, but the whole of the European commission for talking to Russia and Ukraine negotiating a treaty that ensures until in 2023, the gas contract and after that gas deliveries must be possible as well, and that is what I’ve heard, at least. Let me be very careful here in my wording. Then, should that not go ahead, we have a number of instruments at our disposal, which are not necessarily on the German side, but on the European side, for example, sanctions as regards, Crimea or breach of the Minsk treaty has shown that we have those functions, these instruments at our disposal.
We have possibilities to react. We are in contact with our European friends on this. But at the point in time of which I hope we will never have to take those decisions, you will then see what we do.
President Biden: (22:48)
My view on Nord Steam 2 has been known for some time, good friends can disagree. By the time I became president, it was 90% completed, and imposing sanctions did not seem to make any sense. It made more sense to work with the chancellor on finding out how should we proceed based on whether or not Russia tried to essentially blackmail Ukraine in some way.
President Biden: (23:19)
So the chancellor and I have asked our teams to look at practical measures we could take together, and whether or not your energy security, Ukrainian security are actually strengthened or weakened based on Russian actions. And so this is… we’ll see.
President Biden: (23:44)
Miss Leonard of Bloomberg.
Jenny Leonard: (23:52)
Can I hold it? Okay. Thank you, Mr. President. I have two questions for you and then some for chancellor Merkel as well. Your administration tomorrow is issuing a business advisory for Hong Kong. I was wondering if you can explain why you think that is necessary.
Jenny Leonard: (24:10)
Then secondly, on your Build Back Better agenda, have you spoken to senators Manchin and Sinema about the $3.5 trillion framework? Are you confidence that they’ll be on board at that level? If they demand that you lose some components, will you be able to keep progressives on board?
Jenny Leonard: (24:32)
I wanted to ask you whether you have a feeling that after the talk with president Biden, he better understands your viewpoint as regards to China or whether the situation is still tense, whether they’re still decoupling. And secondly, whether you think that the United States has contributed enough to vaccinate the rest of the world. Or do you think it’s only… Is it appropriate for children in the United States being vaccinated, children below the age of 12, while adults in other countries have no chance to get vaccinated?
President Biden: (25:16)
That’s all. I thought I said, we’d take two questions, but I guess that translator take two questions or more from each person called on.
President Biden: (25:28)
Let me talk about the business advisory. The situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated, and the Chinese government is not keeping his commitment that it made how it would deal with Hong Kong. It is more of an advisory as to what may happen in Hong Kong. It’s as simple as that, and as complicated as that.
President Biden: (25:55)
With regard to, am I confident? I’m supremely confident that everything’s going to work out perfectly in time. Look, I understand why the press among others is skeptical that I can actually get this deal done on infrastructure and on human infrastructure. I’ve watched and listened in the press declared my initiative dead at least 10 times so far. I don’t think it’s dead, I think is still alive. I still have confidence we’re going to be able to get what I proposed and what I’ve agreed to in the bipartisan agreement on infrastructure.
President Biden: (26:39)
We’ve each committed, I trust, the members of the Republican senators who have made the commitments relative to how we should proceed, and what would be included in the package for infrastructure and men and women of honor, and I expect they would keep their commitment.
President Biden: (27:03)
With regard to the further issue of what’s going on and what will confuse the listening audience, but reconciliation, that is the mechanism by which you have to get every single Democrat to agree to proceed on matters like what I announced today.
President Biden: (27:22)
Today, I don’t know whether you have any children. It’s none of my business whether you do, but if you do, you’re going to get, if you’re making less than $150,000, they’re going to get a significant stipend. That is a tax cut.
President Biden: (27:35)
If you have a child under the age of seven years old, you’re going to get in your bank account today, you’re going to get a payment of one 12 months divided, $3,700 for that child divided by 12 every month, just like a social security check. It’s expected to reduce child poverty by over 40%. It could be a significant, significant game changer.
President Biden: (28:07)
We have mechanisms to pay for both these mechanisms. There may be some last minute discussion as to who, what mechanism is used to pay for each of these items, both the infrastructure package and the human infrastructure package. But I believe we will get it done. Thank you.
Chancellor Merkel: (28:33)
We talked about China and there is a lot of common understanding that China in many areas is our competitor. That trade with China needs to rest on the assumption that we have a level playing field so that we all, well play by the same rules, have the same standards. That incidentally was also the driving force behind the EU-China agreement on trade. That they abide by the core and labor norms of ILO. We are convinced of ours needing to be technological leaders for our countries, our two countries, in both in many, many areas. Obviously it’s legitimate for China wishing to do this as well. But for example, we will cooperate in many technological state of the art technologies, for example, chips. I think the act that the president launched is fundamental in this respect and crucial. We want to trade together at a time of digitalization where security issues loom very large in our agendas.
We ought to have an exchange on this. We ought to talk about this. We ought to talk about norms, standards that govern the internet. Whether we can agree on common norms, particularly as regards to the relationship of us with China, we ought to coordinate our efforts. We do that in the European Union and we should do it with the United States. Then there are interests, obviously, sometimes they’re virgin interests, but sometimes common interests. But we also have obviously areas where American companies compete with European companies, and we have to accept that.
I think basically the rules as to how we deal with China ought to rest and do rest on our shared values, and I think on the pandemic, we are obviously of the opinion that the pandemic, we can only master the pandemic if each and everyone is vaccinated. We are trying to boost production. We are trying also to get as many people in our country vaccinated as possible, which obviously opens us up to criticism of those countries who has yet have not had the chance, which is why we invest a lot of money in COVAX, which is why we encourage our companies to increase their production of vaccines.
In Africa, we are trying to help Africans to upskill people so that they too can have their own production sites. We’re going to do this by de facto. There is an imbalance. I agree. But we’re overcoming, we’re putting our all into that, and also together in overcoming that imbalance.
I’m sorry, I call on Ms. Schäuble from the Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. Thank you.
Juliane Schäuble: (31:23)
… one for each of you. Mr. President, my first question touches an issue that worries a lot of people in the U.S. and in Germany. Can you explain to us why there still is a travel ban for people coming from Germany or other states of the European Union, while people from Turkey where the number of new cases are seven times as high can come? You have repeatedly said that you’re following scientific data. What is the main argument for not lifting the travel ban for the Schengen region.
Juliane Schäuble: (31:57)
Chancellor Merkel, [German 00:31:59].
You talked to the business companies here, you heard their concerns. You heard the headaches. Some have threatened that they’re going to shift business away from the United States. What was your main argument to work for a lifting of the travel ban? Have you had success with this?
President Biden: (32:22)
We brought in the head of our COVID team, because the chancellor brought that subject up. It’s in the process of being how soon we can lift the ban. It’s in process now, and I’ll be able to answer that question to you within the next several days, what is likely to happen. I’m waiting to hear from our folks in our COVID team as to when that should be done. Chancellor did raise it.
Chancellor Merkel: (32:55)
I did raise the issue, yes, and got the same answer that the president gave you just now. The COVID team is evaluating the matter. We had an exchange on, in both areas, the Delta variant actually being on the increase. That is again, a new challenge to both of us. Obviously, before such a decision, one has to reflect, and it has to be a sustainable decision. It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days, so I have every confidence in the American COVID team.
President Biden: (33:33)
Having been here many times, we don’t leave right now, we’re going to miss dinner. Chancellor and I have a dinner with a number of folks very shortly. So thank you for your attention, and thank you for your questions. Thank you.
Chancellor Merkel: (33:47)
Speaker 8: (34:10)
You like that?
Speaker 9: (34:11)
That’s really good.