This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

The White House

Press Briefing By Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor For International Economic Affairs


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                            July 8, 2009

G-8 Press Filing Center
L'Aquila, Italy
11:05 A.M. (Local)
MR. HAMMER:  Good morning, everyone.  Welcome to Italy.  We have an opportunity here to speak with Mike Froman, who is the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.  We have a brief window.  He's going to give some remarks and then take your questions.
MR. FROMAN:  Thanks, Mike.  Welcome to Italy.  The summit will begin with a lunch discussion of the global economy, where the leaders will focus on where we are in the recovery, what additional -- or what next steps need to be taken, both with regard to fixing the financial system, with the status of restoring growth, and also preparation for exit strategies. 
There will be discussions this afternoon of global issues, including development issues, climate change, food security.  And then tonight, there will be a dinner -- a leaders-only dinner that will focus on geopolitical issues, where we expect issues like Iran, nonproliferation, North Korea, and other issues of that sort to be discussed.
There will be a series of declarations issued after the afternoon session.  There will be three declarations -- one on the global economy, one on development in Africa, and one on climate change.  And there will be an additional political declaration released after the dinner tonight.
And with that, why don't I open it up for questions.
Q What are you hoping for out of the political declarations on Iran, both on the weapons issue and on the post-election?
MR. FROMAN:  Well, I'm not going to --
Q Can you repeat the question?
MR. FROMAN:  The question was, what are we expecting out of the political declaration, particularly with regard to Iran, both on the election and on the nuclear issues.
Rather than preempt what the leaders might issue, I think we'll wait for the declaration, but I think there will be a good discussion among leaders about -- and sharing their perspectives on Iran more generally on both sets of issues.
Q Will there be a separate document?  There was talk about that for Iran, to take it out of the political declaration and having an adult document for that.
MR. FROMAN:  Not clear at this time.
Q But does the U.S. support that position?
MR. FROMAN:  I'd say -- I have no information about that at this time.
Q (Inaudible) tomorrow, but I understand that the Major Economies Forum, the sherpas and (inaudible) reached agreement on climate change, and I understand that that drops the numerical targets from the draft agreement, the 50 percent and 80 percent reductions by 2050.  Could you comment on that, Mike?
MR. FROMAN:  I think you'll see the whole declaration tomorrow.  You'll also see a climate portion of the G8 declaration today.  The Major Economies Forum declaration deals with the whole set of issues around Copenhagen, including mitigation, adaptation, financing, and technology.  And we'll go through the details of it after it's released.
Our view is that it represents a significant step forward in terms of adding political momentum on the key issues to be dealt with in the U.N. process, but that there is still a lot of work to be done and these are difficult issues and the negotiators will be meeting going forward to try and resolve them.
Q There were reports today -- yesterday and today about the lack of preparation and inattention of the Italian presidency in the run-up to this summit.  The New York Times makes the case today in the op-ed, claiming that President Obama should take the lead to fill this gap.  How do you comment on that?  And the second question is it looks like you had a lot to do in the run-up to this summit because of the Italian --you personally, yes -- (laughter) -- and that you had to call a sherpa conference because the Italian presidency didn't do that.
MR. FROMAN:  Yes, I saw stories to that effect.  Let me say first of all, that specific reference to us calling us a separate sherpa call is not true.  I'm not sure where it came from and there was -- I'm also the sherpa for the G20 process.  We did have a call about the Pittsburgh summit a week or so ago, as we're leading that summit, but we did not call a G8 sherpa call.
Let me say more generally, I think the Italian presidency has done a terrific job of preparing for the summit and I think both in the physical sense that we're here at a place that just a few months ago would not have envisaged having such a summit, and they've done a terrific job of building out this facility and making it possible for the leaders to gather in an appropriate location given the earthquake.
But secondly, on the agenda, I think the Italians defined an agenda early on and worked methodically through it.  The way the G8 works is we all contribute to the process and each of our leaders and each of our administrations have particular issues that we work with the presidency on to put on the agenda and to hopefully get adopted at the summit.
We've done that on some issues, but on many of the issues -- take food security, for example, while it's been a major focus of ours, it goes back to the G8 summit of last year in Toyako where the G8 made a major initiative of food security.  We're trying to take it to the next step and we've been working hand in glove with the Italian presidency, who also feels very strongly about the issue.
So I'm somewhat surprised by the reports.  I think the Italian presidency has done a very good job of preparing for the summit and I think it will be a successful summit.
Q Can you give us an update on where the G8 is generally on economic security and exit strategies or pumping more money -- where are you?
MR. FROMAN:  Well, you'll see the final declaration in a few hours, but I'd refer you back to the finance ministers' declaration in Lecce from a few weeks ago, where the G8 finance ministers got together to discuss the macroeconomic situation.  Secretary Geithner was there and --
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I think you'll find that there will be discussion of -- that there is still uncertainty and risk in the system, but that it's also important to return to fiscal sustainability in the mid-term, and that sort of balance will be struck most likely here at the leaders, as well.
Q I just wanted to follow up on the exit strategy issues.  Do we and some of the Europeans differ on when you start pulling the plug?
MR. FROMAN:  I don't think so.  I think, again, if you look at the Lecce statement of finance ministers, that was a whole G8 statement and you'll see that it was a consensus view that we are still in the midst of an economic downturn, that there -- while there is some positive signs, there is also uncertainty and risk out there; that we all agree that we need to return to fiscal sustainability in the mid-term.  And with regard to specifics, the specific question about exit strategies, people said it's time to prepare exit strategies, but not necessarily to put them into place yet.
Q Does the President's acknowledgment that he's open to a second stimulus complicate that process of exit strategies and the negotiations on that here?
MR. FROMAN:  No, I don't think so.  I think every country will evaluate its own situation and its own capacity and need for action.  I think as a whole, the G8 shares a perspective that it's important that we come out of this with a balanced and sustained growth, that we take the necessary actions to do so, and that we return to fiscal sustainability over the mid-term.
Q Can I ask you (inaudible)?
MR. FROMAN:  The question was about food security and to elaborate on that.  There will also likely be a statement on that, as well.  This is an area of great interest to the President and to Secretary of State Clinton, who's been very active in shaping this initiative.  It embodies several ideas about how to go about development policy:  for example, supporting country-owned programs, doing so in a comprehensive way; so covering all the various parts of the agricultural development, agricultural productivity and food security issues; doing so in a coordinated fashion among donors so that instead of each of us doing scattershot programs we're working together to fill the needs of the country-owned programs; leveraging multilateral institutions where appropriate; and making a significant and sustained financial commitment to the area.
There are those five principles that have been -- that I think you'll find to be embraced by the G8 and others.  This is actually a larger statement than just the G8, and there will be a financial element to that, as well.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  Not yet.  It's still a work in progress.  Countries are coming up with additional commitments, and by Friday we should have a number.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I'm sorry?
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  The President announced in April that he would seek to double the U.S. commitment to food security and to seek a billion dollars for the FY10 budget for food security, and so the U.S. will be a significant part of this initiative, but it also very much leverages other countries' commitments, as well.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I'm not sure what you're referring to.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I think one of the important outcomes of this summit will be a focus on accountability, and you'll see that the G8 is taking steps, again not just to make commitments but to hold itself accountable for how it fulfills those commitments.  There will be more data published and there will be an ongoing process to deal with accountability.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  Well, of course, you know President Hu has returned to China, and so I don't know what the latest on the bilat schedule is.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  My understanding is State Councilor Dai will be representing China in the meetings here.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I'm sorry, one more time?
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I think there will a be discussion as they review the state of the global economy on where we are on a number of the follow-up items within the G20 from London, not necessarily specific going down a series of things, but an affirmation that we not only need to take steps to recover from this crisis but also to prevent future such crises from developing in the future.
Q What, concretely, do you expect to get out of discussions on Iran, North Korea and nuclear nonproliferation?
MR. FROMAN:  I think I'll leave that for the political discussion tonight and the political statement.  I think on nonproliferation specifically it's an area -- of course the President has laid out an initiative in his Prague speech, and I'd expect there to be some embracing of the principles of that speech by the rest of the G8.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. FROMAN:  I think the leaders will have a broad-based discussion of where we are with the economic recovery.  I don't expect any of the leaders to push each other for any particular response, more that they are working together and coordinating their efforts to get out of the recession as quickly as possible.
Q Sir, if the statement on Iran tonight is largely the same that the one -- you know, that's been released in Trieste by the foreign ministers, what would that mean -- that nothing happened between the two summits?
MR. FROMAN:  I'm going to leave that to the political discussion tonight and to the issuing of the statement afterwards.
MR. HAMMER:  One last one because Mike has got to run.
Q I noticed that you didn't know the status of the bilat with President Hu because he went back.  But, I mean, it was supposed to be tomorrow morning at 10:00, so most likely it's going to happen.  How disappointing is it that that bilat won't happen because of the fact that, you know, you have a big agenda, including North Korea, trying to move that forward.  Is it disappointing that it probably won't happen?
MR. FROMAN:  We have a broad-based agenda with China and we always look forward to sitting down.  The leaders always look forward to sitting down to discussing the various issues in the bilateral relationship and globally.  Since this meeting didn't happen, they'll look forward to their next meeting.
MR. HAMMER:  All right, thank you very much and we expect they will have Mike come back at some point later in the day. 
Thanks, guys.
11:20 A.M. (Local)