October 18, 2021

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European and Eurasian Affairs Assistant Secretary Dr. Karen Donfried and Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Senior Bureau Official Matt Murray On the Secretary’s Upcoming Travel to France

39 min read

Dr. Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Matt Murray, Senior Bureau OfficialBureau of Economic and Business Affairs

Via Teleconference

MR PRICE: Hey, good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us for this call previewing the Secretary’s upcoming trip to France. As you know, we officially announced it this morning.

Just a reminder: This call is on-the-record, but it’s embargoed until the call is completed. We will focus on taking your questions pertaining to the trip during this call, and as we always do, we’ll have a transcript provided after the fact. Another reminder: This call is embargoed until its conclusion.

It’s our pleasure today to have two excellent speakers to preview the upcoming travel. We have our newly-confirmed Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Dr. Karen Donfried, and we also have Senior Bureau Official for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Matt Murray with us to brief you today. The briefers will give an overview of the trip, and then we will take your questions.

And so, with that, I will turn it over to Assistant Secretary Donfried. Please, go ahead.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Thanks so much, Ned. I am very glad to be here.

The Secretary will travel to Paris October 4th to 6th to chair the Ministerial Council Meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or the OECD, and to commemorate the organization’s 60th anniversary. This visit follows President Biden’s call with President Macron on September 22nd and the Secretary’s engagements with Foreign Minister Le Drian in New York last week to set the path on how we can deepen the cooperation and coordination between our two countries.

While in Paris, the Secretary will have bilateral engagements with our oldest ally, including, of course, a meeting with Foreign Minister Le Drian to discuss cooperation on a range of issues. Throughout his engagements, Secretary Blinken will emphasize how the Franco-American partnership is one of our strongest and most enduring bilateral relationships, and how as NATO Allies we have a joint commitment to shared transatlantic values which is ironclad.

You’ve heard this from both President Biden and Secretary Blinken before, but to reiterate, the United States is deeply committed to strengthening the transatlantic relationship, and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities together. The Secretary will also emphasize how the United States welcomes France’s and the EU’s leadership and engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. France and the EU are important allies in the region, and France especially has been a key player in focusing Europe’s attention on this increasingly important area.

Additionally, President Biden and the Secretary welcomed the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy released in September and reaffirmed the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the region.

As the Secretary noted in New York last week, we agree that the September 15th announcement would have benefited from better and more open consultation among allies. Our meetings in Paris are part of our commitment toward a process of in-depth consultations going forward. We recognize this will take time and will take hard work, and it will need to be demonstrated not only in words but also in deeds. We are all committed to working closely with our French counterparts at every level on this important effort.

Secretary Blinken will also discuss how the United States will work with France to revitalize and raise the level of ambition of the U.S.-EU relationship, working closely with our French counterparts when France assumes the presidency of the Council of the European Union in January. We’re working closely with France to push for higher climate ambition at the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow, and we’re confident France will maintain a strong focus on combating the climate crisis for its upcoming EU presidency in 2022. On the pandemic, our two countries share concerns about the health of our citizens, and the Secretary will discuss how our countries can continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19, share vaccine doses through COVAX in support of global vaccination efforts, and work together to safely restore global trade and travel.

I’ll now hand it over to Senior Bureau Official Matt Murray now to go into a bit more depth on the important aspects of our engagements at the OECD. Over to you, Matt.

MR MURRAY: Great. Well, thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Donfried, and good morning, everyone. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to talk more about Secretary Blinken’s participation as head of the U.S. delegation to the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting. The Secretary will be joined there by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Rouse, as well as Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment here at the State Department, Jose Fernandez. The experience and seniority of this delegation attests to the importance we accord to this ministerial, to the OECD, and more broadly to multilateralism.

As the assistant secretary noted, this ministerial occurs during the OECD’s 60th anniversary year. And since its founding in 1961, the OECD has become the premier forum for free market democracies to develop evidence-based economic policy and tackle shared challenges. Today the OECD’s 38 member-countries work together to create better policies for better lives.

As chair of this year’s ministerial, the United States is focusing its agenda on building back our economies and societies after the COVID-19 crisis in an inclusive and equitable way. During the ministerial, Secretary Blinken will emphasize the importance of addressing the climate crisis as a top priority of the Biden-Harris administration. With more than 60 percent of the world’s GDP, the OECD can be a key driver for ambitious action, especially in modeling commitments and action in this decisive decade to move toward a net-zero economy by 2050. The Secretary will also discuss the importance of quality infrastructure development, including via Blue Dot Network certification, as key to building a truly sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, Secretary Blinken will address other key areas of cooperation and focus, including global trade and technology policies that serve our people, protect our interests, and promote our research and innovation capabilities. He will also emphasize our shared democratic values, including respect for human rights, promoting the free flow of data with trust, and finding inclusive and equitable economic strategies. We will highlight the importance of creating an economic system that grows from the bottom up and the middle out to build a better system that truly benefits workers.

During the ministerial, members will adopt a new vision statement to guide the organization for the coming decade. We look forward to a successful ministerial that will ensure our economic cooperation reflects transparency, equality, and fairness; generates better, sustainable, and more equitable economic opportunities for our citizens; and leaves a greener world for future generations.

So, thanks very much, and I’ll turn it back over to Ned Price.

MR PRICE: Thanks very much. Operator, if you just want to repeat the instructions for asking a question, we’ll then move to that portion.

OPERATOR: Sure. Once again, if you do have a question, please press 1 then 0. You will hear an acknowledgment tone that you’ve been placed in the queue, and you may remove yourself from queue at any time by repeating the 1 0 command. If you’re on a speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the number.

MR PRICE: Great. We’ll start with the line of Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Hello. Nice to hear you, Ned. Hope you feel better.

I wanted to ask you if there is any meeting planned for the Secretary in Paris with the President Macron, and, also, now there’s been the phone call between the two presidents, the meeting with Le Drian in New York, the meeting between the ambassador and Jake Sullivan here in D.C. Is there any deliverables you expect from the meetings in Paris for the agenda set up by the presidents? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: I’m happy to jump in here. Thanks so much for that question. So, as you know, President Biden spoke with President Macron last week, and following up on that, Secretary Blinken had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Le Drian in New York. And we are still working on the specific bilateral engagements that the Secretary will have when he is in Paris, but the process of in-depth consultations that we are undertaking at the direction of both presidents will look at a variety of areas where we can deepen that cooperation. And let me just try to give you a better sense of what that would be.

One area, perhaps obviously, where we’re looking to deepen our cooperation is in the Indo-Pacific. And there, as you know, the EU strategy came out on the Indo-Pacific just very recently last month; and France is going to play a critical role in that EU strategy. And we’re looking forward to seeing how France’s very strong input will inform that EU strategy, and the U.S. is keen to deepen our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Secondly, we are also looking at the Sahel and ways we can work more closely together in fighting terrorism there. As you know, France recently killed a senior terrorist leader who threatened both of us. And all of this will follow on the work that France consistently does to protect our security in the Sahel with the strong support and cooperation of the United States. So, we’ll be looking at ways to do even more together in the Sahel.

And just to give a third example, we also will be looking at transatlantic security, and European security, and ways that we can support France’s efforts to strengthen European security and defense capacity, as necessary. And, of course, we always do that in conformity with NATO. It is very much in our interest and Europe’s interest for those capacities to be strengthened. And having a more effective, capable European alliance is very much in our interest as well.

So, that just gives you a sense of what the Secretary will be focused on when he’s in Paris, and we’ll certainly be happy to share more information as we have it. And I just want to say that in my opening comments, I mentioned that we recognize that all of this will take time and hard work. And when I said that, I was quoting Secretary Blinken directly. And we are very keen to be continuing this conversation and looking for ways to deepen our strong and enduring cooperation with France. Thanks.

MR PRICE: We’ll go to the line of Matt Lee.

OPERATOR: Thank you, and your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi there. Hello?

MR PRICE: Hey, Matt, we’ve got you.

QUESTION: Hey, all right. Ned, hope you’re feeling better.

MR PRICE: Thank you.

QUESTION: You gave us all a big scare.

MR PRICE: Rumors of my demise are premature.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) I don’t think anyone was predicting your demise, but whatever. And sorry we’ll miss you in Paris. But for Assistant Secretary Donfried, congratulations on your confirmation and welcome aboard.

Look, the sense that we’re all getting from – since the President’s phone call with President Macron, and then the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Le Drian, and then Jake Sullivan’s meeting yesterday with Ambassador Etienne – and now this trip is that you guys recognize not only that the whole AUKUS thing would have benefited from greater communication or greater whatever, openness, but that you guys really screwed this up here. So, I’m wondering, how much blame are you guys willing to accept for making a mess of this. Do you think you have done enough already or are you prepared to go further? That’s my question. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Thanks so much. You started out so nicely by congratulating me on my confirmation, which I appreciate —

QUESTION: I – yeah, well, get used to it. I’m never nice.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Oh, okay, you were just starting out that way. Look, I think that we have been clear that we agree with the French that the September 15th announcement would have benefited from better and more open consultations among allies.

Now, that said, President Biden and Secretary Blinken have been very open about their focus on revitalizing alliances and partnerships to support the rules-based international order. That means both strengthening longstanding historic ties, including with our NATO Allies and the EU, as well as working through new configurations such as the Quad or AUKUS. And our goal here is to have a network of alliances and partnerships that will continue to be our greatest source of strength, and we think this network of alliances and partnerships is critically important to dealing effectively with 21st century challenges. And we are going to work hard with the French to deepen our relationship with them. They have an enormous interest and commitment to the Indo-Pacific. They are deeply engaged there. And we are looking toward building and deepening these partnerships, whether with France or with allies in other parts of the world. And I do believe we will get there, but it will take some hard work.

And, you referenced all of the examples of how we’ve already begun that hard work, and I know Secretary Blinken is looking forward to carrying that forward next week. Thanks so much.

MR PRICE: We’ll go to Andrea Mitchell.

OPERATOR: And one moment. And your line is open.

QUESTION: Ned, I just want to echo what Matt said about how we are all wishing you a speedy recovery.

MR PRICE: Appreciate it.

QUESTION: And I’ve been thinking about you.

MR PRICE: Thanks.

QUESTION: And to Assistant Secretary Donfried, congratulations. I do want to follow up, though, and ask about the lack of trust, because there’s been no explanation as to why it had to be kept secret, why – among our oldest allies, which – with our oldest ally you couldn’t just say, look, we think this in America’s interest and give them a heads-up. For them to learn about it through the media and all the rest, isn’t it going to take more than a visit and more than promises to restore a feeling of trust on their part?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Thanks so much for the congratulations, Andrea. Appreciate it. So, I think that when we talk about alliances, there are really three key elements – that you share interests, that you share values, and that fundamentally alliance is built on trust. So, I’m not for a minute going to underestimate the important of trust in any of these relationships. And I think the key to successful alliance is all of those three elements, and the French have been very clear that they feel that trust has been disturbed. And we understand that for these relationships to be as effective, as we want them to be, we need to make sure trust is there. And I agree that words are not sufficient to rebuild trust, that actions matter, deeds matter. And so, the outcome of these conversations that began last week – President Biden with President Macron, Secretary Blinken with Mr. Le Drian – and that will continue, and as you know, the President will be meeting with President Macron later in October as well, that out of these conversations need to come concrete actions that show how, in working together, we will rebuild that trust.

And I would say that is our plan for how to move forward and show that this relationship between France and the United States, the broader transatlantic relationship, that these relationships are – will deliver, and thereby we build trust that we are going to deliver concrete results that make the U.S. safer, that make France safer, that deliver for our citizens. And I do believe it will be those concrete deeds and actions that rebuild the trust. Thank you.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION: Thanks very much. Hi, thanks. Assistant Secretary, could you detail a little bit more what those concrete actions would be? Would the U.S. consider revising the terms of the AUKUS deal, for example, or sending – signing some sort of contract or other agreement with France on incorporating its submarines, for example, into AUKUS? I mean, I just would love to get a bit more of a sense of what those concrete actions would actually be. Thank you.

MR PRICE: Thanks, Nick, and I’m happy to let the assistant secretary to weigh in, but I would just remind everyone we’re here to preview the call – the upcoming trip next week, in the first instance to Paris, and to speak about the itinerary and the important bilateral and OECD engagements that will be going on there. So, we’ll have plenty of opportunity to talk about AUKUS and what comes next, including next week, but just want to keep us focused as much as we can on the trip. But, Assistant Secretary, if there’s anything you’d like to add.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Thanks so much for that, Ned. I would just say AUKUS is not intended to replace existing arrangements or existing partnerships; and on the contrary, we welcome the opportunity to discuss how to include the EU and other partners in our initiatives around the Indo-Pacific going forward. And just to reiterate, we welcome the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy, we welcome France’s engagement in the region, and we’re looking forward to discussing the specifics of how we can deepen cooperation on the priorities identified in that strategy that we share. And that could include strengthening international rules and ocean governance, digital connectivity – but those are all of the things that we will be discussing going forward. Thanks so much.

MR PRICE: We’ll go to Missy Ryan.

OPERATOR: One moment. And your line is open.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks. Thanks so much. I’m glad you’re feeling better, Ned. I just had a quick follow-up on the France and the AUKUS questions, not to – if it’s possible to talk about this in the context of the trip just to inform our understanding of how things are going to go.

There has been a lot of commentary and some suggestions from the French themselves that this situation is – besides the – setting aside the trust issues and the feelings of the French, that it’s an indication of a sort of fundamental shift in the way the U.S. engages with Europe, an indication that now the priority is Asia.

So, what would you all – how do you respond to that suggestion that this is really an illustration that the primacy of the transatlantic relationship is over? How would you respond to that idea, or what can the Secretary and the department and the Biden administration do to allay those concerns on the part of the Europeans? Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Thanks so much for that question. I think it’s getting back to this point of whether there’s a competition between or among our allies. The President and the Secretary have been clear that they believe the U.S. is stronger when we are engaging globally with our allies and partners.

And when we’re talking about the Indo-Pacific, we will be doing that with our partners in the Indo-Pacific, our allies there, as well as with our allies in Europe. So, our goal here is to create a strong web of allies and partners as we look to meet challenges that face us in the Indo-Pacific. I realize it will take us hard work to get there, but that is the goal. And I know the Secretary of State and the President are committed to both working with our NATO Allies and the Quad in the Indo-Pacific to build this stronger network of allies and partnerships to help us meet these 21st Century challenges. That is our goal.

MR MURRAY: And if I could build on that – this is Matt Murray from the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs – I think it’s worth highlighting here that Secretary of State Blinken traveled to Pittsburgh this week, along with Secretary Raimondo and Ambassador Tai ,to participate in the inaugural U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial.

And as the question was regarding the importance of the transatlantic relationship, I think it’s very much worth flagging this event, because it was at the TTC Ministerial where Secretary Blinken and the other co-chairs worked with their European counterparts to look towards setting the agenda and work plans for the coming year for the Trade and Technology Council, which was an outcome, as you all know, from the U.S.-EU Summit in June.

And we, definitely, see and made clear this week that Europe and the United States have a shared interest in ensuring that we do have strong transatlantic trade and investment ties, and that other countries around the world abide by international rules and norms.

And I think as we look ahead to the OECD Ministerial next week, there is an opportunity to build on that, to work with some of our most important allies through the OECD. As I noted earlier, the OECD has become the premier forum for free market democracies to face shared challenges and meet the commitments to our people. And this commitment to the OECD, and to multilateralism more broadly, I think also demonstrates what Assistant Secretary Donfried just noted about the importance of the transatlantic relationship, and that this is another – from the economic perspective, the European Union is a very important economic partner. And we want to continue to build on that relationship through opportunities like the Trade and Technology Council this week as well as the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting next week. Thanks.

MR PRICE: We’ll take a couple final questions. We’ll go to Simon Lewis.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks a lot, Ned, and echoing all the well wishes. I wanted to ask a question on the OECD to Senior Official Murray. There’s a few countries that are hoping to get membership in the OECD. I think six proposed at this meeting. I wonder if you guys have a position on – you have a specific position on those countries. It’s Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia. And specifically, Brazil; I wonder if you have any comment on sort of what specifically would you want the Brazilians to – if you’re not going to support their membership at the moment, is there any kind of specific metrics that you’re looking for them to fill before they could become a member? Thanks.

MR MURRAY: Yeah, thanks for the question. I don’t think at this point we’re prepared to talk about specific countries, but we very much look forward to working with members of the OECD after the Ministerial Council Meeting to find a path forward on OECD enlargement.

We see the OECD’s global relevance derived not necessarily from its size or composition of its membership, but from the quality and the impact of its policy instruments and best practices. So, you know, our view is that we need to ensure that the OECD can absorb and integrate new members without weakening its high standards or the effectiveness of its work. And we need to ensure that candidate countries are also prepared and committed to becoming members.

As you know, the OECD is a consensus-based organization, so any decision on which country would be invited to join the accession pipeline will ultimately need to be made by all 38 member countries. Thanks.

MR PRICE: We’ll go to Piotr Smolar from Le Monde.

OPERATOR: And your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, good morning, everyone. You underlined this morning several times the necessity to demonstrate the closeness of transatlantic ties in deeds, not in words. But let me ask you this about a very precise example. Yesterday in Geneva, interagency delegations from the U.S. and Russia convened for the second meeting of the Strategic Stability Dialogue. One of its main aspects is arms control in the European space, and President Macron wants the Europeans to be a part of the discussion – not only to be informed, but to be in the room. Is this going to happen?

MR PRICE: Piotr, that’s something we can discuss in another forum. I know that we issued a readout of those talks yesterday, and as we always do, we brief our allies in the aftermath of those discussions. But we’ll happy to address that in another venue, and we can get back to you on that.

Let’s go to Robin Wright.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. And best wishes, Ned. For those of us who are not on the trip, I’d be very grateful if you could give us a sense of what the United States and France might be able to do in the Indo-Pacific, in terms of deployments or developing strategy. And can you – might you kind of help us understand what deeds the United States might do for France not just on global issues like providing vaccines to COVAX and on the environment?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: So, what I’ll say on that is those are exactly the sorts of issues that we will be discussing in the coming days and weeks. And the reality, as you know, is that we have a very close partnership with France already in the Indo-Pacific, and France is very engaged. So, it’ll be building on the strong cooperation that is already there and seeing how, by enhancing and deepening that cooperation, we can make what we do in the Indo-Pacific together more meaningful and more effective. So, I don’t have those specifics for you today, but you’ve touched on exactly the sorts of issues that will be at the heart of the conversations coming up, so stay tuned.

MR PRICE: And we’ll conclude with Joel Gehrke.

OPERATOR: Thank you, and your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this, and congratulations, Assistant Secretary Donfried. I have questions for both of you, one briefly on the – following up on my colleagues on the AUKUS front and U.S.-Franco relations. Is there any policy step that you’ve heard or in consideration from the French side that might be taken to mend the breach that they’ve described? And if so, can you tell us, have – do they have any kind of requests specifically that would reassure them? And if not, how do you – I guess I wonder while we – as we keep having these conversations about managing the fallout from this, how do you on the one hand have good, sound policymaking that isn’t transactional between allies, and on the other hand, not sort of stumble into sort of managing emotions instead of doing policy?

And then for Mr. Murray, I wondered if you could put a finer point on the relationship between U.S. engagement with the OECD and sort of the broader China competition. You’ve mentioned that the OECD is this forum for democratic economies. We’re obviously coming off the Trade and Technology Council, which I’ve heard described before as a place where perhaps the U.S. and the EU could begin to create kind of a common market with high standards to create alternatives that people – that companies and countries aren’t necessarily dependent on China for things. I wonder how – if there’s a relationship between the TTC we just did and your engagement next week with the OECD.

And of course, it’s interesting in light of all the atmospherics that the OECD is chaired by an Australian now, or a director-general of Australia. So how is this forum for kind of that broad Indo-Pacific European cooperation on the economic front? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DONFRIED: Thanks so much for those questions. I would say that I don’t think there’s a silver bullet in terms of how we are working to deepen our relationship with the French going forward. Clearly, a takeaway from AUKUS was the need for better and more open consultations among allies. So, if that’s the takeaway, then what we’re doing now is saying okay, how do we use those deepened consultations to actually be a force for good in pursuing American interests, French interests, European interests, et cetera. And I tried to give you a sense earlier of the variety of themes that we’re going to be discussing in that context. One of those themes is very specific in terms of deepening our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, but we’re also going to be looking at ways to stand together more closely against terrorism, and I think that likely will focus on the Sahel. We also will be talking about how we can deepen that cooperation, with regard to transatlantic security and European security.

So that gives you a sense of the topics, but what we’ll be doing in the coming weeks is then deciding the concrete policies that will advance our shared interests in those areas. Thanks.

MR PRICE: And we’ll take one final question from Nike Ching of VOA.

OPERATOR: Thank you, and your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Glad to hear your voice, also second all the well wishes from others. Good morning, Assistant Secretary. Congratulations. Good morning, Matt. Glad to hear your voice.

I would like to ask about the Blue Dot Network. Are there deliverables as the U.S., Australia, and Japan are working with the OECD to develop a methodology for certification of infrastructure projects? Some observers say the Blue Dot Network is a warning shot to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. What is your take?

And separately, can I also ask about Mexico? Maybe Ned, could you please shed some light? Is the migration crisis on the agenda? As large groups of Haitians recently headed to the U.S.-Mexico border, what does the U.S. ask from Mexico? Is the U.S. providing assistance to Mexico to fly some Haitian migrants back to their homeland? Thank you very much.

MR MURRAY: Yeah, thanks very much. This is Matt. Yeah, I think to your question about the Blue Dot Network, the United States very much values our partnership with the OECD in developing and implementing the Blue Dot Network infrastructure initiative, and we look forward to further discussions on this topic at the Ministerial Council Meeting next week. As the Blue Dot Network emphasizes, we want to work together with many of our likeminded partners and allies to raise the standards for infrastructure development and to help ensure that infrastructure investment is open and inclusive, transparent, and financially, environmentally, and socially sustainable.

And this also ties into the previous question about China and the OECD and the Trade and Technology Council. The administration is very interested in engaging likeminded partners and allies to talk about the behaviors of non-market economies, including China. And the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting is a key opportunity to affirm the OECD’s shared values of transparency, equality, and fairness, to generate better and sustainable and more equitable economic opportunities for our citizens and leave a greener world for future generations. And then this line very much follows on this week’s successful U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council.

At the OECD, we welcome China’s participation in the Ministerial Council Meeting as an observer. And separate from the Ministerial Council Meeting and more generally, the U.S. Government has undertaken a comprehensive review of the U.S.-China trade relationship, because the United States welcomes healthy, fair competition with our trading partners. And economic competition with the PRC should be fair. And it’s in this context that we very much want to continue to have engagements in multilateral settings, such as the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting. Thanks.

MR PRICE: And Nike, to your second question, we’re just focused on Paris today. We’ll have more to say on potential additional elements as the days go on.

So, with that, want to thank everyone for joining this call, want to thank our speakers, Senior Bureau Official Matt Murray and newly confirmed Assistant Secretary Karen Donfried. Thank you all for tuning in and we’ll talk to you shortly.

More from: Dr. Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Matt Murray, Senior Bureau OfficialBureau of Economic and Business Affairs

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    The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) primary rationale for its policies on private pilots' sharing expenses with passengers is based on passenger expectations of safety. FAA policies allow private pilots to share the cost of certain flight expenses with passengers but prohibit these pilots from engaging in “common carriage,” which is communicating to the public a willingness to fly in exchange for compensation. These policies generally prohibit pilots from using the internet to find passengers. FAA officials said these policies are in place because they are concerned the public might expect a similar level of safety on private expense-sharing flights as commercial flights. However, the safety record of commercial aviation is better than that of private flying (general aviation). For example, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), commercial carriers had a fatal accident rate around 30 times lower than general aviation in 2018. FAA officials said their goal for FAA's 2020 guidance on expense sharing was to restate and clarify existing policies. Example of an Aircraft Private Pilots Could Use for Expense-Sharing Flights Stakeholders described benefits of expense sharing but expressed mixed views on FAA's policies and guidance. For example, stakeholders cited potential economic benefits to the general aviation sector and a potential expansion of the pool of future professional pilots as benefits of expense sharing. Most (eight of 13) stakeholders said FAA's 2020 guidance on expense-sharing is clear and provides sufficient information. However, some stakeholders said the guidance could provide more definitive examples of allowed expense-sharing flights, and others disagreed with how FAA defined certain concepts such as how pilots can be compensated for flying passengers. Also, stakeholders split on whether FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find expense-sharing passengers. Seven of 15 stakeholders, including four representatives from companies with expense-sharing applications, said FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find these passengers by citing, for example, ongoing positive experiences in Europe. However, eight stakeholders, including six of seven professional organizations, said FAA should not. These stakeholders cited safety-related risks of expense sharing including what they characterized as FAA's limited capacity to enforce current regulations and flights using less experienced pilots. Private flying is expensive, and FAA allows private pilots to reduce their costs by carrying passengers and sharing certain flight expenses with them. However, private pilots cannot engage in common carriage. If pilots do engage in common carriage, they are subject to FAA's more stringent regulations covering commercial air carriers. Some private pilots have sought to use internet applications to find expense-sharing passengers. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directed FAA to issue advisory guidance clarifying how private pilots may share expenses. In February 2020, FAA released this guidance as an advisory circular. The Act also includes a provision for GAO to review FAA's policies on expense sharing. This report describes: (1) FAA's rationale for its policies on how private pilots may find expense-sharing passengers and (2) selected stakeholder perspectives on FAA's policies and the risks and benefits of arranging these expense-sharing flights online. GAO interviewed FAA officials on how FAA developed its policies and guidance related to expense sharing. GAO also reviewed FAA's data on enforcement actions related to expense sharing and safety data from NTSB. In addition, GAO interviewed a non-generalizable sample of 15 private-sector stakeholders, including professional organizations, such as trade groups representing general aviation pilots, companies that developed expense-sharing internet applications, and flying clubs. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Las Vegas Resident Sentenced to Prison for Elder Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Las Vegas resident who participated in a fraudulent prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $9 million was sentenced today to federal prison, the Department of Justice announced.
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  • Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Village of Airmont, New York, for Zoning Restrictions that Target the Orthodox Jewish Community
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that it filed a lawsuit against the Village of Airmont, New York, alleging that it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by targeting the Orthodox Jewish community through zoning ordinances restricting religious schools and home synagogues, and by enforcing its zoning code in a discriminatory manner to prevent Orthodox Jews from using their property consistent with their faith. 
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  • Military and Dual-Use Technology: Covert Testing Shows Continuing Vulnerabilities of Domestic Sales for Illegal Export
    In U.S GAO News
    Terrorists and foreign governments regularly attempt to obtain sensitive dual-use and military technology from manufacturers and distributors within the United States. Although the Department of State (State) or Department of Commerce (Commerce), or both, must grant approval to export sensitive military and dual-use items, publicly reported criminal cases show that individuals can bypass this requirement and illegally export restricted items such as night-vision goggles. In the wrong hands, this technology poses a risk to U.S. security, including the threat that it will be reverse engineered or used directly against U.S. soldiers. Given the threat, the subcommittee asked GAO to conduct undercover tests to attempt to (1) purchase sensitive dual-use and military items from manufacturers and distributors in the United States; and (2) export purchased items without detection by domestic law-enforcement officials. To perform this work, GAO used fictitious individuals, a bogus front company, and domestic mailboxes to pose as a buyer for sensitive items. GAO, in coordination with foreign law-enforcement officials, also covertly attempted to export dummy versions of items. GAO interviewed relevant agencies to gain an understanding of which items were in demand by terrorists and foreign governments. GAO actions were not designed to test controls of other countries. Relevant agencies were also briefed on the results of this work.GAO foundthat sensitive dual-use and military technology can be easily and legally purchased from manufacturers and distributors within the United States and illegally exported without detection. Using a bogus front company and fictitious identities, GAO purchased sensitive items including night-vision scopes currently used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify targets, triggered spark gaps used to detonate nuclear weapons, electronic sensors used in improvised explosive devices, and gyro chips used in guided missiles and military aircraft. Interviews with cognizant officials at State and Commerce and a review of laws governing the sale of the types of items GAO purchased showed there are few restrictions on domestic sales of these items. GAO was also able to export a number of dummy versions of these items using the mail to a country that is a known transshipment point for terrorist organizations and foreign governments attempting to acquire sensitive technology. Due to the large volume of packages being shipped overseas, and large volume of people traveling overseas, enforcement officials within the United States said it is impossible to search every package and person leaving the United States to ensure sensitive technologies are not being exported illegally. As a result, terrorists and foreign governments that are able to complete domestic purchases of sensitive military and dual-use technologies face few obstacles and risks when exporting these items. The table below provides details on several of the items GAO was able to purchase and, in two cases, illegally export without detection.
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  • Former Colorado Police Officer Sentenced on Sexual Assault Charges
    In Crime News
    Curtis Arganbright, 43, a former Westminster Police Department (WPD) officer, was sentenced today in federal court in Denver, Colorado, to 72 months in prison and three years supervised release.  In addition to his prison sentence, Arganbright will forfeit his law enforcement certification and be required to register as a sex offender.
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  • Supplemental Material for GAO-21-536: 2020 Federal Managers Survey: Results on Government Performance and Management Issues
    In U.S GAO News
    This product is a supplement to Evidence-Based Policymaking: Survey Data Identify Opportunities to Strengthen Capacity across Federal Agencies (GAO-21-536). Between July and December 2020, GAO surveyed nearly 4,000 federal managers on various organizational performance and management issues. The survey asked managers for their perspectives on their agencies' capacities to develop and use different types of data and information in decision-making activities, such as when allocating resources. In addition, the survey sought views on agency efforts to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a 56 percent response rate, the results are generalizable to the 24 major agencies included in the survey, and across the federal government. This product makes available the results from GAO's 2020 survey—at a government-wide level and for each agency. It also provides information about how and why GAO conducted the survey, and identifies other GAO products that analyzed and reported these survey results. For more information, contact Alissa H. Czyz at 202-512-6806 or czyza@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Indian Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, And Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar Opening Statements at the U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue
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  • Electricity Grid: Opportunities Exist for DOE to Better Support Utilities in Improving Resilience to Hurricanes
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2012, utilities have taken steps to improve grid resilience to severe hurricanes, such as (1) implementing storm hardening measures to enable the grid to better withstand the effects of hurricanes; (2) adopting technologies to enhance operational capacity and help quickly restore service following disruptions; and (3) participating in mutual aid programs with other utilities and training and planning exercises. For example, utilities have implemented storm hardening measures that include elevating facilities and constructing flood walls to protect against storm surges. Utilities have also adopted technologies that enhance communication capabilities and monitor systems to detect, locate, and repair sources of disruptions. However, these utilities reported challenges justifying grid resilience investments to obtain regulatory approval, and some utilities have limited resources to pursue such enhancements. Example of Hurricane Resilience Improvement: Elevated Substation Various federal agencies can provide funding for efforts to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes, including the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, eligibility for most federal funding for grid resilience, including some USDA and FEMA funding, is limited to publicly owned utilities and state, tribal, and local governments. The Department of Energy (DOE) does not provide direct funding for grid resilience improvements, but it has efforts under way, including through its National Laboratories, to provide technical assistance and promote research and collaboration with utilities. DOE has also initiated preliminary efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, including resilience metrics and other tools such as a framework for planning, but DOE does not have a plan to guide these efforts. Without a plan to guide DOE efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, utilities may continue to face challenges justifying resilience investments. In addition, DOE lacks a formal mechanism to inform utilities about the efforts of its National Laboratories. Such a mechanism would help utilities leverage existing resources for improving grid resilience to hurricanes. Hurricanes pose significant threats to the electricity grid in some U.S. coastal areas and territories and are a leading cause of major power outages. In recent years, hurricanes have impacted millions of customers in these areas. Adoption of technologies and other measures could improve the resilience of the grid so that it is better able to withstand and rapidly recover from severe weather; this could help mitigate the effects of hurricanes. This report examines (1) measures utilities in selected states have adopted to enhance grid resilience following major hurricanes since 2012 and any challenges utilities face funding such measures; and (2) federal efforts to support the adoption of measures to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes and any opportunities that exist to improve these efforts. For this report, GAO assessed agency and industry actions; reviewed relevant reports, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal, industry, and local officials. GAO recommends that DOE (1) establish a plan to guide its efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, and (2) develop a mechanism to better inform utilities about grid resilience efforts at the National Laboratories. DOE agreed in principle with these recommendations, but its proposed actions do not fully address GAO's concerns. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Settles Claims Against California Supermarket Chain and Affiliated Money Lender for Discriminating Against Asylee Worker
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced that it signed a settlement agreement with Northgate Gonzalez Markets Inc., a California-based supermarket chain, and Northgate Gonzalez Financial LLC d/b/a Prospera Gonzalez, an affiliated payday loan company (collectively, Northgate).
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