Senior State Department Official on Economic Diplomacy


(November 22, 2019) - - Today, the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Spokesperson published the following Special Briefing information:

MODERATOR: So if anyone’s got a question, just let me know. Daphne.

QUESTION: I’m not sure if you’re the right person to ask this, but I have a – a general question on sanctions. The State Department, along with Treasury, has taken many sanctions actions recently on Iran, Venezuela, and others. On Iran, some analysts have said the sanctions were vague, and it led to confusion in some industries, especially shipping. What do you say to that? And do you think the rollout of the sanctions has been implemented in a successful way?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, so, one of the things that my team tries to do along with the Treasury Department is make sure that our private sector understands sanctions policy. So there is – of course, there is an initial rollout of sanctions, and we meet with the private sector fairly regularly so that if they do have questions or specific things that they were not clear on with regard to their particular situations, we will answer questions. And I know that at OFAC, the team at Treasury’s OFAC department is – always tries to be available to answer questions as well. So I would say to the extent that there is confusion, please come see us, come talk to us. We will help clarify.

MODERATOR: Shaun.

QUESTION: Thanks for speaking to us. Can I follow up? You mentioned on Brexit – the potential for Brexit, that there’s a U.S.-UK open skies agreement ready to go. Was that something on your recent trip or is it something that’s longstanding? And maybe could you talk a little bit more broadly about what Brexit would mean for things in your portfolio? There’s, of course, been lots of talk on the Hill in particular of having some sort of free trade deal between the U.S. and the UK if Brexit happens – if and when Brexit happens.

But more immediately, what would be the effects – until that happens, what would be the effects for U.S. and for U.S. business with Brexit?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. Well, as we – the U.S. position on Brexit has been we would like to see – we consider this to be friends separating, and after the separation, we would like to have a strong relationship with the EU and a strong relationship with the UK. My transportation team has been negotiating a U.S.-UK open skies agreement, a framework which of course can’t be signed until Brexit happens because that’s when the UK officially becomes no longer a part of the EU.

But we’ve been working on this for the last year or so, talking to the UK negotiators. And our industry has been in the room. Both our passenger and cargo carriers have been a party to these negotiations, so they understand the results, they’ve provided input, and we think that there’s a very good agreement. Industry has indicated to us that they’re comfortable with the framework agreement that is there. And upon Brexit, it’s one of the agreements that would be signed and put into place. So we’ll see if and when that happens.

And on your question on the trade agreement, of course the President has made it a priority to have a U.S.-UK trade agreement. United States trade representative is the lead on that, but that’s a priority for us as well. I think that those conversations have been very initial. I don’t think that the trade agreement talks will happen more concretely until Brexit actually happens. But the UK, to the extent that they have been able to tell us, they are interested as well. On my recent visit, I did meet with the ministry of transportation since the open skies falls directly under me, and they were comfortable with the agreement as it stands, but they have a lot going on, as you know, with their own parliament and government.

So we try to consider the fact that they have so many internal issues going on that we keep our questions limited so they don’t feel like, “Well, we can’t answer that yet,” or “We don’t know that yet.” The goal is just to have a solid, strong commercial relationship with the UK so it doesn’t disrupt the business of our companies, whether it’s airlines, retail, any of the many services industries that do business there.

MODERATOR: Okay. Nick.

QUESTION: Hey. On 5G, the Secretary had rolled out this big push to talk about getting countries like the UK and Germany not to integrate Huawei into their networks, but it seems like they’re proceeding with that. Is that something you’re worried about, that a lot of countries seem to be pushing ahead with cooperation with Huawei even though there are pretty obvious security risks?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it does remain a concern of ours. I think we continue to have those conversations with both the government and the private sector. We know a lot about Huawei. For us, there’s no doubt that the information on Huawei networks will go to the Chinese Government, and we keep trying to emphasize this point to our allies and trading partners, and we hope that it will resonate with them. At the end of the day, it’s their decision, but it remains a very strong concern for us, and it remains something that – as you’ll have seen – that the Secretary has focused on, the President talks about. So we will continue to tell them and hope that they will understand what it means for their own security.

QUESTION: You mentioned tourism was part of your portfolio. Have you seen any negative impact of this U.S.-China trade war as far as U.S. tourism – Chinese tourists coming to the U.S.?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know that I’ve looked at that question specifically, but I do know that the travel and tourism numbers are – I think in 2018 we had a record number of foreign tourists broadly come to the U.S., and I can get you those numbers. In fact, when [Senior State Department Official] was in London just a few weeks ago, [Senior State Department Official] did the ribbon cutting at the U.S. Pavilion at the World Travel Market, and that’s where I have these statistics from, when I said in 2018 a record number of international visitors that came here. And not only did the U.S.A. have a pavilion, but localities did. New York had a pavilion. My home state of Florida had a pavilion, which I visited.

So we’re doing a lot of strong marketing for people to come to the U.S. And this was the World Travel Market. Although it was in London, everybody was there. Every single country was there. So we continue to encourage people to come here, engage in the economy. We know that tourists come and they spend money, they learn things about us. For us it’s not just the economic benefits, but it’s the benefit of having people come who may not know that much of the United States – about the United States, and they come here and they learn more about us, which is the mission of the State Department: global diplomacy.

QUESTION: You haven’t heard from, like, any state travel offices, like, they’ve seen any kind of negative impact or anything?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ve not directly heard.

MODERATOR: Abbie.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for coming down to speak with us. I wondered if you could speak to some of these reports that the U.S. is considering pulling out of the Open Skies agreement with Russia, and just sort of the status of that and why the U.S. would make that decision.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So that’s a defense agreement. That’s – it’s a little confusing because —

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So my bureau works on the civil aviation Open Skies agreements. I think they – maybe we should have two different names. What we are talking about would be under the – I think under the T family.

MODERATOR: Correct. Open Skies treaty versus Open Skies agreements.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Then I’ll – can I go on a different question instead?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure.

QUESTION: You talked a lot about the importance of innovation and making sure – being on top of technology, and I wondered if there’s any look at sustainability and sort of trying to take advantage of the green economy and work in that vein that’s being undertaken within the bureau.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There – we are looking at all different sectors of the economy, and I think the innovation economy should consider the green parts of the economy as well. I don’t know that I have any specific points on that. I can get you things. But more broadly, we work with our colleagues in the OES sphere, the Oceans, Environment and Science Bureau, and there is a big movement on clean technology and what we can do to further clean technology – to help technology as part of the green economy. And in fact, that might be a good topic for one of my next innovation roundtables, because we’re doing very specific topics, so maybe green technology can be our next one. That’s a great idea; thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks. Jennifer.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for being here. I know there’s been some lingering questions on the Hill, even within the last couple months, about the delayed CBW sanctions and why it took so long to impose that second tranche on Russia. I was wondering if you could speak at all up to that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think as soon as we had the relevant information, it’s just a whole – like, sanctions go through a whole process. It’s difficult for me to comment on how specific sanctions were developed in particularly, because that’s something I think we’re not supposed to publicly speak about. But I think I can say more broadly, more generally, to the extent that we get information when we get it, a lot of it is getting the right information and carefully and thoughtfully imposing sanctions. It was done as soon as we had the correct information.

QUESTION: Can I ask another?

MODERATOR: Sure, go ahead, Daphne.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the status of the Open Skies dispute where Delta, American, and United argue that Gulf rivals are being unfairly subsidized by their governments.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So that went to the highest levels, and there was a meeting at the White House, and the President had a conversation with all of the CEOs together. And the result of that was it was determined that there was a DOT procedure – and I’m going to get the acronym wrong, it’s [inaudible]. There is – it’s a Department of Transportation proceeding where the companies felt – the legacy carriers felt that the airlines, foreign airlines, were being subsidized unfairly. There’s a procedure that can be followed, and it was determined that that would be the right procedure to follow at the White House.

QUESTION: So no updates beyond that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I haven’t – I don’t have an update on that particular procedure, but that was something where they thought that that would be the right remedy.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MODERATOR: All right, time for one more? No? All right. Well thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you.