QUESTION: And joining us now, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Chris. It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: This trip is building up to I guess the climax, the meeting with Russian President Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. Here’s what Putin said this week about relations between the U.S. and Russia. Take a look:
(Via interpreter) “We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years.”
Do you agree that relations between the U.S. and Russia are at the lowest point in recent years?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, that may be the one thing that I’d agree with President Putin on. And one of the things that President Biden will begin to test is whether Russia is interested in a more stable, predictable relationship, which would be to everyone’s benefit. But if not – if it continues to take reckless and aggressive actions directed at us or our allies and partners – the President’s going to make clear that we’ll respond forcefully, as we did in the case of election interference, the SolarWinds cyber hack, the attempt to murder Mr. Navalny. So this is the beginning of testing the proposition about whether Russia wants a more stable, predictable relationship itself and whether, in some areas where there’s mutual interest, we can find some ways to cooperate.
QUESTION: When the President arrived in Europe earlier this week, he was pretty general about the message he intends to convey to Mr. Putin. Take a look at what he said then:
“Then to meet with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know.” (Applause.)
So let’s get more specific. Putin just said or it was reported that he said this morning that he’s willing to hand over cyber criminals to the U.S. if we hand over cyber criminals we’re harboring to him. Is that a satisfactory resolution to the ransomware problem?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Chris, I don’t want to get ahead of the President, but let me say this: When it comes to ransomware, no responsible country should be in the business of harboring criminal organizations engaged in those practices. And that is something that the President very much intends to take up with President Putin. That’s very much on the agenda.
QUESTION: But what can he do about it, Mr. Secretary? I mean, I know he can say there are these gangs, they’re shutting down our pipelines, they’re shutting down our food supply. But other than complaining about it, what can the President do?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, let me take one step back for a second. We’re not coming into – the President’s not coming into this meeting with President Putin in a void. We’re coming off of a G7 summit, a NATO summit, a meeting with the EU leadership. And what we’re demonstrating in each of these meetings and summits is that democracies can come together and work effectively to actually deliver results for our people and, by the way, for people around the world. And also, when we’re working together militarily, economically, diplomatically, politically, we’re a very powerful force.
There was a major poll that just came out that showed that across those countries, 75 percent of the people on average now have confidence in American leadership and in President Biden. That’s up from 17 percent a year ago. So we’re now in a position where, when it comes to dealing with Russia and the challenges it poses or dealing with China and the challenges it poses, we can come with a much more united front. And so I think you’ll see – and again, I’m not going to get ahead of the President, but when it comes to looking for action to deal with things like ransomware, we’re in a stronger position with tools of our own and the international community with us to elicit that action.
QUESTION: Why did the President decide to hold a solo news conference after his summit with Putin on Wednesday as opposed to the joint press conferences that he usually holds with foreign leaders and the joint press conference that President Trump and Putin held after their summit in 2018?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Chris, I think it’s the most effective way for the President to be able to talk with the free press and to share for as long as he can what was discussed in the meeting with President Putin, as well as to cover the entire week, to talk about what we’ve accomplished over the course of the G7, the NATO meetings, the EU meetings. By the way, he’s doing a solo press conference I think almost right now in the UK after the G7, so this is not a rare practice.
QUESTION: One of the President’s main objectives on this trip is to get the allies – both the G7, the EU, NATO – to join together – I guess not NATO, but the others to join together in calling out China for dumping its exports at unfair trade – unfair low prices, and also to call out China for human rights abuses. Now, I know there’s a communique, but I want to ask you the practical effect. Have the U.S. and the allies agreed that they are going to condemn forced labor, for instance by the Uyghurs? Have they agreed that they’re going to go to the WTO and ask for duties on China for dumping exports?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: First, Chris, it’s important in and of itself that the communique, this document that comes out of the G7 and talks about what the G7 leaders have agreed on – it’s important in and of itself that there’s a focus on China. Go back to 2018, the last time these leaders came together – no mention of China in the document summing up what the G7 was focused on.
Going forward, we had very detailed discussions about the kind of work that could be done, the kind of actions that could be taken, for example, in preventing the export of products made with forced labor in China or, for that matter, preventing the export of products that could be used to repress people in China. All of that was on the table, and I think you can expect to see going forward different countries taking action across those areas.
But one other thing that’s really important – I just want to spend a second on it – one of the things that the leaders agreed to was this so-called Build Back Better for the World, and that is an agreement to work to start to pool all of our resources, our development resources; make investments in low and middle-income countries; get the private sector to make these investments, to build up their health care systems, infrastructure, technology, which will be strong markets for our products; but to do it in a way that’s a race to the top, not the bottom, in terms of the standards, in terms of respect for workers, for the environment, for privacy, all of these things.
That’s a very powerful positive alternative to what China is doing with its so-called Belt and Road Initiative. We’re demonstrating that we have —
QUESTION: There’s also —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — a positive alternative vision in the – for the future and bringing countries along.
QUESTION: There’s also the continuing controversy over the origins of COVID. I know the President has ordered this 90-day review of U.S. intelligence on what we know, but one assumes if we knew anything, we’d already know it. And I guess the more important question is what is the President prepared to do unilaterally – not through the WHO, which has already been stiffed by the Chinese – what is he prepared to do unilaterally to press China to provide, to share more evidence, more information, especially from the Wuhan lab?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Chris, your – the premise of your question is entirely correct, which is we need to get to the bottom of what happened. We need accountability, but we also need to understand what happened, why it happened, how it happened if we’re going to be able to put in place the necessary measures to prevent it from happening again, or at least to be in a better place to mitigate the next pandemic if we can’t fully prevent one. And so we need this transparency; we need this information.
The WHO, you’re right – the first study that they put out was highly deficient. The leaders of the G7 have come together insisting that China cooperate with the so-called Phase 2 study by the WHO to really get to the bottom of what happened, but that is – that’s not enough. The President ordered this 90-day sprint. We looked at this very hard. He ordered back in March that we try to determine for ourselves the origins of the – of COVID-19, and we came up with two plausible explanations. One is the so-called natural occurrence, going from animal to human; the other was a lab leak. But we couldn’t determine with any degree of certainty which one it was. What the President’s ordered now is to – with the Intelligence Community, bringing all of the different agencies of government and also our national labs, other experts, bringing all of that expertise to bear to look at every piece of information we have to see if we can make a determination.
Going forward, the thing that is most critical besides accountability is, again, making sure that every country, including China, cooperates with the international community in making sure we have the transparency, we have access for experts in real time, we have information sharing so that if something starts to percolate again, we’re on top of it.
QUESTION: Finally, your immediate predecessor, Secretary Pompeo, is waiting on the wings. He’s going to be coming up in the next segment. Briefly, what would you tell him is the biggest difference between Biden foreign policy and Trump foreign policy?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Chris, I’m resolutely looking forward, not backward. Please say hello to Mike. We’ve had a lot of good conversations and I look forward to the next one, but we’re focused on the future, moving forward. We’ve had a very good couple of days with the G7 in actually demonstrating that democracies can come together and deliver for people in real ways, real outcomes – a billion shots in arms, that’s remarkable – dealing more effectively with climate change, prohibiting financing of coal-fired plants, which is the biggest single contributor to emissions; this Build back Better for the World that I talked about; the 15 percent global corporate minimum tax that’s going to give countries around the world a stronger tax base, stronger markets for us, ultimately. So that’s what we’re focused on, as well as strengthening NATO and working with the EU and dealing with Mr. Putin. So please say hi to Mike.
QUESTION: That is a very diplomatic answer for the Secretary of State. Secretary Blinken, thank you. Thanks for your time in the midst of the President’s trip, and please come back, sir.