QUESTION: Secretary of State, thank you very much indeed for joining us. First of all, I wanted to —
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: — talk about the Middle East, this much-talked-about plan. You’ve been recorded saying that yes, it’s going to be detailed, but that it may be rejected, and rejected because you say people think it’s going to be a deal that only the Israelis could love. Haven’t in some ways you’ve hit the nail on the head that America’s perceived bias towards Israel means that this deal is just never going to succeed?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness, absolutely not. No, what I was referring to there is there is a perception; the perception’s wrong. The perception’s fundamentally incorrect. That’s what I was actually speaking to there. I understand that something – that when the plan is unfolded and when the world can see what we’re proposing, I think it will be very clear that each party – indeed, every person – will be better off if this deal is struck, that this vision will provide a basis that will improve the lives of Israeli citizens, Palestinians – not only Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but Palestinians living all across the world. We think that that perception is fundamentally flawed.
And so yeah, I saw the report you’re referring to. This is what you get when you rely on American newspapers sometimes; they don’t capture the full story quite properly.
QUESTION: And let’s move on to European affairs, because you’re in The Hague here in the Netherlands. Given I think the somewhat tense relationship between the EU and the U.S. at the moment, what would you give it as a score out of 10, in terms of EU-U.S. relations?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, I think it’s fantastic relations. I hear folks talk about the stress and strain. I meet with my European partners constantly. There are always in American history and European history, there’s always disagreements. There’s spats. There’s trade disputes. There’s issues of national security that we disagree on. There are all kinds of things where we might have a moment where we don’t share a common path forward. But it’s always the case that our shared value sets, our shared understanding of the world, our perceptions of common threats to democracy and freedom and liberty around the world – those always prevail. And they will here again, too.
QUESTION: Do you think President Trump then was wrong to refer to Europe as a thug, as an enemy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think what President Trump meant there was there’s places where we think the United States economy has not been treated fairly. We can’t sell our agriculture products in most countries inside the European Union, and yet the European Union can sell their products into the United States. This isn’t fair. It’s not reciprocal. No one would think that you would set up a trade regime that would prevent that to continue to happen, to have unequal tariffs and non-tariff barriers. That’s what we strive to get to. We strive to get a fair, reciprocal, even playing field for America and for Europe. And when that happens we’ll compete, and both countries will be better off.
QUESTION: Now, the Trump administration is one of the biggest kind of proponents of Brexit in some regards. Brexit is getting damaging to the European Union. Is it in some ways that you’re supporting Brexit because it does damage to the EU?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Brexit was a decision made by the people of the United Kingdom. As you’ll recall, there was a referendum where the people of that sovereign nation voted. So this isn’t about some American decision; this was a fundamentally democratic decision.
QUESTION: So in no circumstances is – because President Trump is a supporter of Brexit and indeed to Nigel Farage —
SECRETARY POMPEO: The people of the United Kingdom are the biggest supporters, right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They voted for it. This is what actually matters. This is why Brexit will proceed. It’s not because of something any third party says, but because the people of the United Kingdom have demanded it.
QUESTION: Well, but President Trump has talked about trade deals and wanted to sign a trade deal as quickly as possible with the UK.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh yes, absolutely.
QUESTION: Is a trade deal now with the UK a greater priority than one with the EU?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we’ve got to see how Brexit proceeds and how that timing goes, but yes, it’s a priority for us. We have a deep, long relationship with the United Kingdom. We have important trade relationships. I’m here in the Netherlands today. They’re huge investors in the United States. The United States are huge investors inside of the Netherlands. We’re having a Global Entrepreneurial Summit because of the two deep commitments to rule of law, trade, openness, entrepreneurship, as the center of what we do.
We want to do that with the United Kingdom. Yes, we will. When Brexit is completed, as the people of the United Kingdom have demanded, we do intend to work on a free trade agreement with them – one that’s fair, reciprocal, based on mutual trust, and then we will both get after it and grow both of our economies.
QUESTION: But you could see that happening before one with the EU —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I have no idea what the sequence will be.
QUESTION: And just in regards to Huawei – because again, your administration has been quite vocal in terms of trying to place pressure, I think, on European countries to reject Huawei – why should European governments listen to your administration’s, the Trump administration’s warnings about Huawei when President Trump doesn’t seem to trust the American intelligence agencies? I mean, for example, on Iran he says they’re wrong and they should “go back to school.” So if they’re wrong about Iran, why are they right about China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I used to run the Central Intelligence Agency. There’s no doubt the Intelligence Community gets things wrong from time to time, but their overall body of work is excellent and to be relied upon and trusted. That’s certainly the case.
Here, this is pretty straightforward. We share a common concern. Western countries, liberal democracies share a common value set. The Chinese don’t share that value set, and so their infrastructure, their IT systems, and in a particular case a company called Huawei, are fundamentally different.
The incentive, if you’re Huawei, is to work with the Chinese Government. They have three members of the Communist Party sitting on their board of directors. This is deeply inconsistent with how we protect security of the people of Netherlands and the people of Europe and the people of the United States. And we have made very clear that there’s real risk.
Europeans care deeply about privacy; I know that very well. One can’t have private information flowing across a network that has access and control from the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: I think it’s fair to say, though, that some relations are tense on certain issues. Do you think if the administration, the Trump administration, had been kind of – had listened to its allies in Europe a little more that they might be receptive to these warnings? Given the fact that even today, President Trump has sent a tweet out about the mayor of London. That doesn’t help these relations, does it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the mayor of London has treated President Trump horribly. And I’ll speak for myself; I’ve been the Secretary of State now for a year and a handful of months. We listen to our European partners every day. We place close attention to the things they care about and their interests, and we work closely alongside them. There’s a long history of the United States and Europe having places where we disagree. I’m sure that will continue. But the overall relationship, I must say, I think it is excellent.
QUESTION: And just one question which is on Iran. It does seem that you are now willing to meet and talk with Iran without preconditions, which is not what you’d said before.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s not true.
QUESTION: So your policy hasn’t changed on this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump said well over a year ago that he was prepared to meet without any preconditions, willing to talk to the Iranians about the full range of their malign activity, their missile program, their nuclear program. This is not a new statement.
QUESTION: But you – you accept there is a divergence on Iran between Europe – some European countries, the major European countries, and yourselves?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, not at its core. Absolutely not. In fact, I saw foreign minister – Foreign Secretary Hunt, right? He said just yesterday, he said we share a common view on the threat from Iran. We’ve departed ways on the JCPOA. We had a different analytical analysis of the best way to prevent Iran from having a pathway to a nuclear weapon system. Yeah, that technical piece we disagree on. But the thrust, the goal, the risk, the threat, I think Europeans and Americans share a very common understanding about.
QUESTION: Okay. Secretary of State, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir.