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Background Briefing Previewing Secretary Clinton's Participation in the First G-20 Ministers of Foreign Affairs Informal Meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Washington, DC
February 17, 2012


MR. VENTRELL: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. This afternoon, we’ve got with us [Senior State Department Official]. The ground rules for this call – this call is on background, so from here on out our speaker will be Senior State Department Official. Having said that, I’m going to turn the call over.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, thank you very much. And I am very happy to spend a little bit of time with you going over this first-ever G-20 foreign minister’s meeting and give you a little bit of our take on what we expect and what the meeting is likely to accomplish.

First of all, let me just say, this has been organized by the Foreign Minister of Mexico Patricia Espinosa. The idea was to bring other foreign ministers from G-20 countries, plus a few other countries that have been invited by the Government of Mexico, to reflect on important challenges facing the global community. And these include global governance, transnational crime, green growth, climate change, food security, development of policy, sort of a broad range of issues.

The point I want to emphasize is that, unlike most traditional G-20 meetings, this is informal, so we don’t anticipate a concrete detailed communique, as you tend to get from other G-20 meetings or a formal outcome document. And therefore, there’s more time spent on discussion and less time on the wording of a final communiqué because, as I said, there won’t be one.

This meeting also reflects, in many ways, the evolution of the G-20 since the first summit of Washington in the fall of 2008, which, as you all will I’m sure recall, was designed to deal with the global financial crisis. This is going to focus on broad non-financial global issues, some of which have been discussed by G-20 leaders in the past, but some of which are new to the G-20 process or at least have not been emphasized to any great degree, including some broad economic governance issues, some environmental issues, development policy, and green growth, as I mentioned earlier.

The Secretary is going to amplify some themes that are included in the broad G-20 mandate, which is balanced and sustainable growth. Although, as I say, she’s not going to get into the details of the G-20 financial part of the process, which is led, as you know, by the Treasury and which are – have been, up to date, the sort of core elements of the G-20. The kinds of things that she will focus on are, in many ways, similar to the speech that she gave in Hong Kong in July 2011, in which she called for an open, free, transparent, and fair global economic system. So, I think if you go back to that speech, you can get a sense of the kinds of things that she’s going to focus on in her initial intervention.

She’s going to address things like anti-competitive government practices or distortions, which encompass the ways in which governments artificially distort markets or create uneven economic playing fields, which she featured in her Hong Kong address, and also discussed to a degree in her speech in New York at the New York Economic Club in October, and these include protections, regulations, subsidies to either state-owned or state-supported companies, intellectual property piracy. As you know, protection of intellectual property has been one of the major issues we’ve been focusing on and is very important to her – forced transfers of technology, unfair benefits conferred upon state-owned or state-supported enterprises.

And all this, really, is designed to say look, in the 21st century, a lot of the barriers to trade, a lot of the distortions to trade, are not the ones that we’re focused on largely in the 20th century, which were at the border. Many of these are behind the border measures that tend to distort trade, tend to distort investment, work to the disadvantage not only of American companies but of other private sector companies around the world. So we’re not saying we’re forcing you or encouraging you to play by rules that we come up with, that we dictate. What we’re simply saying is that there are global rules. These global rules and norms have been established for years, and it’s very important for players in the global system to play by global rules and adhere to global norms. So this is one of the major themes that she’s going to talk about in terms of economic governance and will focus on in her initial comments.

Then, there are going to be other sessions in which she’s going to highlight the following subjects. One, the fight against climate change, specifically the initiative on short-term pollutants that she launched yesterday, and she’ll emphasize the importance of a positive outcome to the Rio+20 summit, which all of you know is something we’ve been working very hard on here in the Department and other agencies of government also. She’ll also address the need to ensure freedom of navigation and maritime security to promote a well-functioning global economy. And she’ll also address some governance issues like fight against corruption and bribery.

She’s going to leave before the last session, but she will be able to make, I think, most of the points in the three sessions that she will attend, because she has to get back to Washington. But I think you’ll find that these are issues that many of you are familiar with, because she’s emphasized some of these themes in past speeches. But the key point about this is, this is an opportunity for her to interact with foreign ministers or senior foreign ministry officials from other governments, and emphasize some of these systemic points and some of the major themes – again, not because our expectation is that there will be an informal communique, because there won’t be one.

But I think by talking to these other foreign ministers and underscoring these points, it emphasizes the leadership that she is providing in these areas, the leadership that the United States is providing in these areas, and the hope is that the outcome will be that these governments better understand what we’re trying to do, and it will create an environment of greater cooperation or enhanced cooperation in some of these areas. And many of these areas we’re already working with the governments that are there, but the fact is if there’s a session – an informal session – where she discusses the points that she’s emphasizing and others do likewise, it creates new momentum behind these various initiatives.

And these ministers deal with these on a daily basis. She has met with many of these people on numerous occasions, and this is a useful opportunity for an informal conversation about her priorities and about the great challenges that face the global system. And it goes back to the first point, that the reason the Mexicans called this is to have the opportunity for these ministers to reflect on important challenges facing the global community. And as you see, the kinds of things she’ll be discussing are challenges that face the global community, and her leadership in this process is very important at this meeting and it will strengthen our voice in various fora going forward on these types of issues.

So with that, I will stop and be very pleased to answer any questions.

MR. VENTRELL: Operator, can we take our first question, please?

OPERATOR: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press *, then 1. To withdraw your question, press * 2. Once again, to ask a question, press *, then 1. One moment please, for the first question.

One moment please. Our first question comes from Andrei Sitof with TASS Russian News Agency. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you, and thank you, sir, for doing this. Two brief things: Technically, do you know if all other countries will also be attending on the ministers’ level? Specifically, I’m interested if my Minister Lavrov will be in attendance. I’m – I don’t – simply don’t know that. And if so, if any bilaterals are set at this point? And I also have a question on international governance after this.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. Okay. The first part of your question: Many governments are sending their foreign ministers. Not all governments are sending their foreign ministers. Many of them are sending other senior officials. But I think the best way to get that answer is from the Mexicans. They’re keeping track on a real time basis of who’s coming. But it will be – there’ll be a large number of foreign ministers anyway.

QUESTION: And do you plan any bilaterals there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There will definitely be bilaterals. They have not all been scheduled yet. But she is – our Secretary certainly is going to have some bilaterals, and I assume other governments are going to have bilaterals too. The way it’s set up is that there are meetings, but as you doubtless know, in these fora, there is time for coffee breaks and dinners and opportunities for bilaterals, which is a very important part of the ambiance of these types of G-20 meetings.

QUESTION: And on the substance, I wanted to ask about the recent piece of news that President Zoellick of the World Bank is leaving, stepping down from his position. Do you think, sir, that this will be a good opportunity to discuss the issue of transition at the World Bank? And is there any chance that a non-American might have a shot at that --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it’s a very good question, but he just made this announcement yesterday, and I think it’s a little too early to have a discussion of that at this meeting.

QUESTION: But we do have an announcement from the Treasury that they’ll be putting up a candidate. That does mean that the Americans will still want to have a candidate from the U.S.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it’s best to leave that to the Treasury. We’re – at this meeting, I think the prospects of a discussion of that issue are very unlikely because it’s such a – it just happened yesterday, and I think we – everyone needs little bit of time to digest it and think about the next step. But I don’t think this is on the formal agenda of this meeting at this point. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me if there maybe is a little bit of informal conversation about it, as there will be about a lot of things, but this is not a formal agenda item, and we certainly do not plan to make it one. And I think most other governments won’t either.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Shin Nakayama from Nikkei Newspaper. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you very much.


QUESTION: My question is: Is there any possibility that they will talk about political or security issue like Iran or Syria?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it’s not on the formal agenda, so there was – as I said in the answer to the previous question, there are, at these meetings, always opportunities for informal conversations – in bilateral meetings, when they get together a small group for a coffee, or maybe a small group for breakfast or lunch. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the more significant political issues on the world stage are discussed, but it will not be a formal item on the agenda. But informally, they have an opportunity to discuss virtually anything, and there are clearly some major foreign policy issues out there, and it would not at all surprise me if there are conversations about them.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have an intention to talk – bring up this issue?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think she has intention to bring this issue up, but I – it would not at all surprise me if informal conversations around these types of issues were to take place. At this point, her formal agenda is the agenda that I’ve outlined, but if you – but as I say, it wouldn’t surprise me if there are informal conversations with foreign ministers of other countries about this issue or others that are major issues on their minds as they conduct their everyday business. So I wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s not a formal agenda item.

QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. VENTRELL: Operator, do you have any additional questions?

OPERATOR: At this time, we have no further questions. If you’d like to ask a question, press * then 1.

At this time, we have no further questions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, first of all, thank you very much for listening. And if you have any questions you want to direct to the State Department’s Press Office, please feel free. I also want to say, just to – the Secretary will be coming back a little bit early. One reason is that the next day she has the first-ever Global Business Conference that she is going to be hosting, where we have representatives, business leaders, business facilitators from over a hundred countries coming to Washington to discuss global business issues, trade, investment, and the global rules for improving the global system to enhance business opportunities for American companies, and indeed, the global system as a whole. So, that’s another event.

Again, she’s going to be talking about international economic issues largely at this meeting, although there’ll be, as I mentioned, others as well. And she is going to be hosting this international business conference when she returns, and that will be on Tuesday. So, this is a big week for international economic issues and international business issues, and we’ll be doing more briefings on that later on. But I think it’s part of her very strong focus on international economic issues, on economic statecraft, and on support for American business. So, this is as part of a well thought out series of plans for emphasizing these basic and very fundamental issues that are important to the American economy and the global economy. So, thank you for listening.

MR. VENTRELL: Thank you, all. That concludes today’s conference.

PRN: 2012/250

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