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  • Antony Blinken, good to see you and thanks

  • for being with us at The Global Boardroom.

  • Great to join you, thank you.

  • Let's start with the pandemic.

  • The US wants to lead the global response to Covid-19.

  • We always hear that.

  • But at the same time there have been criticism that one,

  • you're not sharing patents.

  • Two, there is an effective ban on exports

  • of some raw materials that are needed for vaccines production

  • elsewhere.

  • And there's also been criticism of Washington's response

  • to the horrendous situation right now in India,

  • where China, Russia, others, have really been ahead at least

  • in speaking out and in trying to help.

  • So, my question to you is are you leading in the way

  • that you would want?

  • And is China winning in vaccine diplomacy?

  • Well, I think we are leading.

  • And I think we're going to be leading increasingly

  • effectively because let's step back for one second

  • to look at what we've done, but also,

  • critically where we're going.

  • On day one of this administration,

  • President Biden put us back into the World Health Organization,

  • which is critical.

  • And of course we are now the leading contributor

  • in the world to COVAX, the facility that makes vaccines

  • available particularly to low and middle income countries.

  • $2bn invested.

  • Another $2bn between now and the end of 2022 as other countries

  • step up.

  • And, of course, that's not as obvious in some ways

  • or not as a direct, it doesn't seem

  • to have an American flag on it.

  • But it is a critical vehicle for making available vaccines.

  • There have been some challenges with COVAX.

  • It's been underfunded to date.

  • And, of course, India had been a primary supplier

  • and for obvious reasons that's been pulled back.

  • But COVAX remains an important facility.

  • In addition, besides that, we've worked

  • closely with partners in the so-called quad, with Australia,

  • with Japan, and India, to find other ways

  • to increase vaccine production and access over time.

  • We made some initial contributions, loans,

  • to our closest land neighbours, Canada and Mexico.

  • And now that our population has full access to vaccines,

  • we are in a place where with some of the vaccines that we've

  • contracted for, including the AstraZeneca

  • vaccines, of which there are about 60m,

  • we'll be able to move out and make those available.

  • We share this conviction, no one in the world

  • will be fully safe until, in effect, everyone is.

  • And as long as the virus is replicating somewhere

  • it could be mutating.

  • And as long as it's mutating it could come back to bite anyone,

  • including the United States.

  • So, we're really leaning into this.

  • So, you are starting to lean into this now.

  • But would it have made sense, months ago, for the US

  • and for other countries, including the UK,

  • to say we're going to vaccinate our populations, all of those

  • let's say over 40.

  • And then we're going to start sharing

  • with the rest of the world.

  • Rather than we're going to vaccinate

  • as much as possible, as quickly as possible,

  • and then, if we've got leftovers,

  • we'll give them away.

  • Well, you know, I think everyone has an obligation

  • and feels an obligation to vaccinate

  • their own populations.

  • But beyond that, just as it's necessary for our own security

  • and well-being, to see the rest of the world vaccinated,

  • so is it important for the security and well-being

  • of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.

  • This works in both directions.

  • And I think we've had to do both.

  • Now, we're in a position where I believe we can.

  • So, we're putting in place a process

  • for the vaccines we've contracted

  • for that can be made available.

  • But also, critically, looking at ways

  • that we can ramp up production with other countries

  • around the world so that there is

  • a constant and growing supply.

  • We also don't know what some of the contingencies

  • are going to be, going forward.

  • Are people going to need booster shots at some point?

  • As younger people are able to get the vaccine,

  • we have to provide for them.

  • All of that's being factored in.

  • And then maybe a word about India

  • because it's so, so important.

  • This has touched Americans profoundly because we have,

  • as does the UK, such deep connections to India,

  • to the Indian people, and we've seen the images,

  • we've talked to colleagues and friends.

  • We've made a very significant effort, very quickly,

  • to try to get to India as much as we could

  • of what it needs most critically in this moment, oxygen

  • supplies, the various things that go into to holding

  • and distributing oxygen, PPE, therapeutics,

  • precursors to the extent that they're needed for vaccines.

  • All of that has started to flow.

  • We're in direct regular contact with our counterparts

  • from India.

  • Beyond that, what I've seen is an amazing mobilisation,

  • not just of the United States government,

  • but of our private sector and of Indian-Americans as well.

  • I was on a call a week ago with virtually every leading CEO,

  • it was a who's who, all wanting to help.

  • And the government, our government,

  • is co-ordinating those efforts.

  • So, we are doing everything we can.

  • India came to our assistance early

  • on, in our hour of need when we were having

  • real struggles with Covid-19, providing

  • millions and millions, for example, of protective masks.

  • We remember that and we're determined to do everything

  • we can to help now.

  • Let me ask you, President Biden said in his speech

  • to Congress last month that he hears from other world leaders

  • that they're happy to see the US back

  • but they often ask for how long.

  • How are you dealing with such concerns

  • and what are you hearing from your counterparts?

  • Well, you know I've heard some of the same thing.

  • I've heard a profound satisfaction

  • that we are back, that we are engaged, that we're working

  • closely with allies, and partners, and others, both

  • on a direct bilateral basis but also through institutions.

  • Multilateralism, as it's called in the lingo of foreign policy.

  • And sure, there's a question about the durability.

  • I understand that.

  • But I think that the more we can show success,

  • the more we can show especially to our own people

  • that this kind of engagement, this kind of work

  • with other countries, is actually

  • delivering results for them.

  • The more we're going to be able to sustain that going forward.

  • That really is the, I think, the challenge.

  • If we demonstrate that our kind of engaged foreign policy

  • is making a real difference in the lives

  • of our fellow citizens, they're going to support that

  • and they're going to support that going forward,

  • irrespective of who's president.

  • Let's talk about China, the biggest strategic challenge

  • that the US now faces.

  • You laid out your positions, both you

  • and the Chinese in Alaska, and the US

  • said it's going to stand up to its values,

  • the Chinese weren't too happy with that

  • and said they wouldn't accept interference

  • in the core issues, whether it's Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang.

  • What did you learn in Alaska about the Chinese approach

  • that you may not have known?

  • I'm not sure we learned anything new about their approach

  • and we did after the public fireworks have

  • about eight or 10 hours of very direct conversation

  • covering a whole series of issues.

  • The adversarial, the competitive,

  • and the co-operative, because all three

  • are features of our relationship.

  • But we wanted to have an opportunity

  • to speak directly and clearly to our Chinese counterparts

  • just so that there are no misunderstandings

  • and no miscommunication especially

  • about what we're all about.

  • And the case that we made to them is as follows.

  • We are not about trying to contain China

  • or to hold China down.

  • What we are about is upholding the international rules-based

  • order, that we've invested so much in over many decades, that

  • has served us well, but not just us.

  • We think for all its imperfections,

  • it's served the world pretty well,

  • including, by the way, China.

  • And anyone who takes action that would disrupt that order, that

  • would challenge that order, that would seek to undermine it,

  • we're going to stand up and protect it.

  • So, to your points, when China says to us things

  • that we complain about whether it's Xinjiang and the egregious

  • treatment of uighurs, or whether it's Taiwan,

  • or whether it's Tibet, or whether it's

  • Hong Kong, that these are internal matters,

  • they don't regard us.

  • That's simply not true.

  • When it comes to Xinjiang, for example,

  • China signed on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • at the United Nations.

  • When it is not...

  • Well a lot of countries signed up to the Declaration of Human

  • Rights and you know...

  • Well, that's the point.

  • But our point is we take this seriously.

  • And this is part of the rules-based order.

  • And if you're not going to abide by your commitments,

  • we're going to say something about it

  • and we have the right to.

  • I'm interested in what happens next?

  • And what are you hoping to accomplish this year,

  • for example?

  • Look, we're engaged with China in a whole variety of places

  • on a variety of issues as part of the normal course

  • of doing business.

  • We're engaged with them right now on Iran and the effort

  • to return to compliance with the JCPOA.

  • There are going to be no doubt discussions about North Korea

  • and its nuclear programme going forward.

  • We're talking about climate.

  • President Xi has participated in President Biden's climate

  • summit.

  • There are a whole series of areas where we have clearly

  • overlapping interests.

  • And we're engaged.

  • But beyond that, we want the engagement

  • that we have with China to be results oriented

  • and practically focused on getting things done,

  • not just talk for the sake of talk.

  • That's what we're focused on.

  • One thing that you have said is that the US

  • wants to rebuild to demonstrate the resilience

  • of its own democracy and then approach China

  • from a position of strength.

  • I'm still trying to figure out what the end goal is.

  • You said, it's not to contain China.

  • But do you think that you can convince China to actually

  • change its behaviour?

  • I think in some areas, particularly when it's not just

  • the United States, it is countries around the world that

  • feel aggrieved by some practise that China is engaged

  • in, coming together, that stands a much better chance.

  • Let's just take economic and commercial issues, for example.

  • When it's the United States alone complaining about them,

  • we're 25 per cent of world GDP.

  • If we're working closely with other similarly aggrieved

  • countries, mostly democracies, that might well be 40 per cent,

  • 50 per cent, 60 per cent of world GDP.

  • That's a lot harder for China to ignore.

  • And we've seen in the past when countries

  • that have been unhappy about the conduct of the government

  • in Beijing on a particular issue actually engage in it together,

  • we're more likely to get China to make changes.

  • I don't want to exaggerate the prospects but, at the very

  • least, countries should be standing up in defence

  • of a rules-based order that has served all of us very well.

  • You've talked about alliances and the fact

  • that you want to work with allies

  • and to co-ordinate sanctions and other measures.

  • China can wield a lot of economic pressure.

  • And we've seen that play out, where countries

  • that feel that they are trapped between the US and China,