MR PATEL: Hey, everybody. Good morning and thanks so much for joining on this trip preview call for Secretary Blinken’s travels to Finland, Sweden, and Norway that he will depart for on late Monday evening.
Joining us today for this call is Acting Assistant Secretary Dereck Hogan and the senior advisor in our Cyber and Digital Policy Bureau, Ruth Berry. We’ll have them give some brief opening remarks at the top to discuss the trip and then we will take some questions.
So with that, let me turn it over to Assistant Secretary Hogan. Ambassador, go ahead.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you, Vedant, and good morning, everyone.
So I’m honored to really be joined here this morning with Ruth Berry and we’re going to give you the overview of the part of the trip that will begin first, which is the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council.
The breadth and policy issues that will be covered in meetings with our allies and partners over the next week reflects the broad and timely goals that we expect to achieve on this trip.
Secretary Blinken will begin his travel to the region by going to Luleå, Sweden on Monday, May 29th to Wednesday, May 31st.
First and foremost, advancing the transatlantic cooperation and democratic approaches to trade, technology, and security are vital priorities not only for the United States and the European Union, but for the whole world as well.
So this fourth meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, or TTC, will build on our shared commitment to deepening the U.S.-EU economic relationship today and for the future.
In addition to deepening our trade and investment ties, we will look to address the many challenges that threaten our shared interests and values, including by boosting our resilience to economic coercion and ability to respond to non-market practices; increasing resilience in our critical supply chains; and developing and protecting critical technologies in a way that reflects our shared values.
This TTC is particularly timely as it comes just two weeks after the G7 summit in Hiroshima during a period when the EU is re-evaluating its policy toward the PRC.
So I’ll now turn it over to my colleague, Ruth, to talk more about the TTC agenda. Ruth.
MS BERRY: Thank you. As Assistant Secretary Hogan mentioned, Secretary Blinken will co-chair for the United States the fourth meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council with Commerce Secretary Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Tai. The TTC has been a very busy and fruitful stream of work over the past two years or so, and we’re looking forward to this ministerial. As you know, it’s one of our foremost diplomatic platforms with the European Union and it’s incredibly important to strengthening the transatlantic relationship and identifying areas of convergence and collaboration. And the continued participation across the U.S. Government and the European Commission has led to deeper understanding of our shared goals and improved communication and relationships at all levels of our administration.
The policies, progress, and projects that have come out of the TTC continue to move the needle towards a more secure and sustainable world.
And for this next TTC, we expect continued progress in several key areas, including holding Russia accountable and supporting Ukraine via work on export controls and the misuse of technology; the clean tech transition; technology cooperation; and trade and supply chains.
Cooperation specifically on technology issues remains a top priority – working on standards development, artificial intelligence, combating mis- and disinformation, and promoting secure and trustworthy ICT networks in emerging economies. And across these issues, stakeholder engagement continues to be a key priority for both the United States and the European Commission.
Since the last TTC, working groups have been focused on implementing the joint roadmap on artificial intelligence, identifying a common vision for 6G, working together to support secure and trustworthy digital connectivity projects in third countries, and considering ways to share information and analysis related to foreign information manipulation.
And that’s a bit of the focus specifically on some of the technology-related progress. And with that, I will turn it back to Acting Assistant Secretary Hogan, who can cover the rest of the Secretary’s trip.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you, Ruth. So in addition to the TTC, the Secretary will reaffirm our strong partnership with Sweden and meet with the Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson and Swedish Foreign Minister Billström. The Secretary will underscore U.S. support to Sweden’s accession to NATO as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, Secretary Blinken will travel to Oslo, Norway, where he will participate in an informal meeting of NATO ministers of foreign affairs.
The Secretary will discuss preparations for the July NATO Summit in Vilnius, allied support for Ukraine, and other transatlantic priorities with Allies and with invitee, Sweden. The NATO Summit in Vilnius will be an important opportunity to further demonstrate unity and to signal our enduring commitment to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
Secretary Blinken will also discuss our longstanding friendship and cooperation with Norway when he meets with Norwegian Prime Minister Støre and Norwegian Foreign Minister Huitfeldt.
The Secretary will then travel to Helsinki, Finland on Thursday evening to highlight our strong bilateral relationship with our newest NATO Ally. On Friday, the Secretary will meet with Finnish Prime Minister Marin and Finnish Foreign Minister Haavisto. Additionally on Friday, the Secretary will give a speech in Helsinki to highlight all the ways in which Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been a strategic failure, and our continued efforts to support Ukraine’s defense of its territory, sovereignty, and democracy in pursuit of a just and durable peace.
And the conclusion of the trip, Secretary Blinken will return to Washington on Friday, June 2nd.
Thank you, and we now look forward to answering your questions.
MR PATEL: All right. Operator, would you please remind our journalists how they may get in the queue to ask questions?
OPERATOR: Once again, if you have a question on today’s call, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.
MR PATEL: All right. Why don’t we start with Humeyra Pamuk from Reuters.
OPERATOR: Your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, everyone. Good morning. Thanks for this. I have two quick questions. One is on China. There’s been quite strong language recently in G7 communique against Chinese economic coercion, and we’ve seen in previous meetings with NATO they also adopted strong language. So I’m just wondering, what’s your broad goal for this meeting? I know it’s an informal NATO ministers meeting, but I just – can you just talk a little bit about in what context, like how would you handle the China question in this one? And are you sort of, like, aiming for some similarly strong language?
And I’m also curious about Sweden’s NATO bid. Finland is in, and U.S. keeps saying Sweden’s ready now. But we’ve seen Turkish President Erdogan say last week in an interview that he doesn’t think that Sweden is ready. So I’m wondering what the U.S. is able to do to bring him on board so Sweden’s membership is ratified before the Vilnius summit, which has been a goal of Washington. Thanks.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you for that. So on your first question regarding China, so clearly the informal ministerial will focus on global threats and challenges as set up, actually, by the Madrid summit last year and the Strategic Concept. We discussed – leaders discussed in detail the destabilizing influences that China has brought into the Euroatlantic community. So teeing up for the summit in Vilnius, the informal ministerial next week will focus a bit more on ways we can respond to those destabilizing influences.
When it comes to your second question, Sweden, we have had extensive conversations with the Turkish Government about allies, including ours – a clear conviction that Sweden is ready for membership now. And so of course we have the elections, the second round of the elections in Turkey this coming Sunday, so we’ll see how they will go. But clearly this will be an ongoing part of our discussions of our engagement with the new Turkish government. So we do very much look forward to seeing both Turkey as well as Hungary ratify Sweden’s accession protocols very soon (inaudible) prior to the summit in Vilnius.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Let’s next go to Shaun Tandon from AFP.
QUESTION: Hey there. Thanks for doing this call. Could I ask you in some more detail about the Oslo talks? Particularly on Ukraine, as this prepares for the Vilnius summit. What is the United States comfortable with offering to Ukraine at the summit? A full invitation of membership – is that something that’s on the cards at all, or some sort of concrete commitments to NATO?
And also in Oslo, to what extent do you plan to discuss a successor, if any, to Secretary General Stoltenberg? And if so, do you have any people in mind? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you for that. So on the first question, yeah, we look to make progress on the key deliverables for the upcoming Vilnius summit, and particularly on NATO’s continued support to Ukraine – practical support, nonlethal support – and strengthening Alliance deterrence as well as defense. We will also focusing – we’ll be focusing on how we can deepen our global partnerships, specifically with our Indo-Pacific partners, and so that’s where we will be when it comes to your first question.
And then when it comes to your second question in terms of language, we remain steadfast in our commitment to NATO’s “Open Door” policy. Any Alliance decision is between all NATO Allies and the aspirant country, so we will look for ways to support Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, but right now, as I mentioned earlier, the immediate needs in Ukraine are practical, and so we should be focused on building Ukraine’s defense and deterrence capabilities.
And with respect to the secretary general question, of course, that’s ongoing discussions that will be taking place. Over.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Let’s next go to Missy Ryan of The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Shaun asked some of my questions, so I’ll just follow up and ask: Is – will Secretary Blinken meet with any Ukrainian officials during the visit or in Oslo specifically? And do you expect any sort of announcement or deliverables at the NATO ministerial, just to set expectations? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you, Missy. So when it comes to your first question, we have nothing to announce right now when it comes to potential bilats or pull-asides. We will certainly keep you apprised should anything develop.
And then when it comes to your second question, no, we’re not planning on any deliverables. That’s why this is an informal ministerial. This is really just the last opportunity for the foreign ministers to get together prior to the NATO Summit in July, so it’s really to tee things up for the summit in Vilnius. Over.
MR PATEL: We will next go to Will Mauldin with The Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. I just wanted to ask, since we’re in the region with a new NATO member, a maybe NATO member, and a long-term NATO member, what is the difference that that makes in terms of U.S. partnership up there? In other words, when Secretary Blinken goes to Finland, what new level of cooperation will he be able to show from the U.S. diplomatically or militarily that they couldn’t already show as sort of a general partner of NATO? And what message would you have for Sweden about if its – how ties there would be able to persist even if its NATO membership is delayed? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thanks. So our partnership with Finland prior to the membership of Finland was already very strong, but of course, now as Allies, we will be looking to discuss what we can be doing even more together in the Alliance together as a full-fledged member.
When it comes to Sweden, again, already a very, very strong partnership in all realms that we have with Sweden. And as I said before, the United States is confident that we and our allies are well-positioned to help Sweden address its security needs. So the United States and our allies have been clear that we will not tolerate any aggression against Sweden, but we very much look forward to seeing Sweden cross the finish line, becoming a full-fledged member of the Alliance, and so we’ll have some discussions on that. Over.
MR PATEL: Let’s next go to Kylie Atwood with CNN.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing the call. First, a quick follow-up question on the, quote, “ongoing” discussions regarding a replacement to the NATO secretary general. I’m wondering if you could just elaborate a little bit on what the Biden administration views as a timeline here for when U.S. officials would publicly hope to say who the U.S. is looking to replace the secretary general.
And then my second question is about trade. Ursula von der Leyer earlier – von der Leyen, excuse me – earlier this spring indicated that the EU might cancel a trade deal with China that it reached in 2020, as part of what their economic de-risking effort is, and I wonder if the United States would support such a move. Thanks.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thanks, Kylie. On the first question, yeah, really not going to get into the private diplomatic discussions that are taking place in terms of the secretary general appointment. Clearly this will be, as I said before, part of our ongoing discussions, including in Oslo.
When it comes to the second question, the EU itself is – as you noted, is undertaking a review of its China policy. And EU leaders have called for increasing resilience in critical supply chains, reducing dependencies on unreliable partners that do not share their values, as well as examining ways to partner with others to ensure that emerging technology is developed in a way that reflects their values. And so of course we very much support those efforts, and that will be part of the discussions that we will be having with our EU colleagues in Luleå in Sweden. Thanks.
MR PATEL: Great. Let’s now go to Alex Raufoglu with Turan.
QUESTION: Good morning. Thanks so much for doing this. I have really quick questions – would appreciate it if you provided any preview of the Secretary’s Friday speech. It’s important, particularly given the venue. Why did you guys choose Helsinki to highlight Russia’s strategic failure? And secondly, to just expand on Shaun’s and Missy’s question, curious if it is the U.S. position that NATO should consider Ukraine’s accession before the end of the war, following, for example, of a divided Germany.
And finally, on Georgia, given everything has been going on in Georgia recently – the Russian flights and other concerns – I’m just very curious if Georgia’s NATO aspiration is still at the same level that you guys had been talking about, for example, the past couple of years. Last time we heard – last year, the Secretary met with his Georgian colleague – if there’s any setback there. Thanks so much.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you. So on your first question, I previewed already in my opening remarks the thrust, the tone of the Secretary’s planned remarks in Finland. So I’m not going to get ahead of the speech itself, and we will have more to tell you as we get closer to the day of the speech, which is Friday. And of course, the backdrop is perfectly suitable given that Finland is our newest NATO Ally.
When it comes to – I believe your second question was on Ukraine accession to NATO. I don’t have anything more to add than what I’ve said before, right. I mean, we very much support Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, but we continue to remain focused with the Ukrainians on the practical support they need to preserve and defend their territorial integrity, their sovereignty, their democracy. So that’s what we’re focusing on. Of course, NATO has an important role to play on Ukraine, so over the next few months Allies will be meeting, including, as I mentioned earlier, in Oslo next week, to discuss the scope of its support package for Ukraine. And so we look forward to those conversations.
And then if you could repeat your third question, I’m sorry.
OPERATOR: Oh, they’ve already dropped from the queue.
MR PATEL: Ambassador, I think it was about Georgia’s NATO ambitions and what the discussions are going to be around that at the ministerial.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Yeah. Yeah, nothing to announce at this time on that. Thanks.
MR PATEL: All right, everybody, that looks like all the questions we have and all that we have time for today. Want to really appreciate everyone joining. Again, this call was on the record and embargoed until the call’s conclusion, which will be concluding momentarily. I want to thank you again for joining, and we’ll talk to you all very soon.