Struggling at home, Biden is supported by G20 trip abroad


ROME – President Biden closed a long weekend of diplomacy on Sunday with a boastful proclamation of America’s renewed strength on the world stage, claiming what he called breakthroughs on climate change, tax evasion and Iran’s nuclear ambitions at the end of a group of 20 summit that some of its biggest global adversaries lacked.

With a three-day return to the interpersonal negotiations that defined his political career and still overcome emotionally by an extended Friday audience with Pope Francis, Mr Biden rocked questions about his falling poll numbers at home and projected new optimism for its wavering. domestic policy agenda.

He smiled at the contradictions and obstacles to his long-term ambitions on issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And he claimed significant progress from a summit that produced a big victory for his administration – the approval of a global pact to set minimum corporate tax rates – as well as an agreement between the United States. and Europe, which will raise tariffs, including those on European steel and aluminum.

In other areas, such as climate change and restoring a nuclear weapons deal with Iran, the summit produced little concrete action.

But the president has repeatedly told reporters that the weekend has shown the power of America’s engagement on the world stage and renewed relationships that have frayed under his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.

“They listened,” Mr. Biden said. “Everyone was looking for me. They wanted to know what our opinions were. We helped direct what happened here. The United States of America is the most critical part of this whole program and we have done it. “

During his Roman vacation, Mr Biden sought to reestablish relations with the French over a soured submarine deal, to enjoy the blessing of the tax deal that his administration rejected after years of talks and further galvanize ambitious climate commitments ahead of a world conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to which he was next.

The president has left behind the chaos and disappointments of Washington, where recent polls show voter disapproval is growing over his performance in office and Democrats remain divided over a pair of bills that would spend $ 3 trillion dollars to advance its broad national agenda. . Survey conducted by NBC News shows that seven in ten Americans and almost half of Democrats think America is going in the wrong direction.

But after days of indulging in diplomacy back to a time when bipartisan cooperation is rare at home, Mr Biden stepped out for his press conference on Sunday, professing hope that the two bills would pass through the House next week and downplaying the polls.

“The polls are going to go up and down and up and down,” Mr. Biden said. “Look at all the other presidents. The same has happened. But that’s not what I ran for.

One of the reasons Mr Biden sought the presidency, after more than four decades as a senator and deputy president, was for meetings like the Group of 20, where he is able to practice flesh politics. that he has loved for a long time.

World leaders were slow to meet in person as the pandemic stretched into its second year, but Mr Biden attended a Group of 7 meeting in England in June that was something of a diplomatic icebreaker. for rich countries. The Rome summit brought together a larger group of leaders, although some of Biden’s biggest rivals on the world stage, such as Chinese Xi Jinping and Russian Vladimir Putin, remained at home.

Mr Biden and other world leaders said the return to face-to-face talks had changed the dynamics.

Mario Draghi, the Italian Prime Minister whose country hosted the summit, told a press conference that participants were more willing than in the past to tackle climate change, inequality and other issues that would require collective action to be resolved.

“Something has changed,” Mr. Draghi said.

Mr. Biden has had hour-long summit meetings with leaders of varying influence.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong got 80 minutes. Mr Biden also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines on Sunday, emerging with a shared promise to continue to engage on a series of disagreements, largely given Turkey’s influence in several critical regions. , including Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mr Biden said there were no substitutes for “Look someone straight in the eye when you’re trying to do something. “

But in many areas, the summit produced more rhetoric than action.

A deal reached by leaders on Sunday pledged to end funding for coal-fired power plants in countries outside their own and “continue efforts” to keep the global average temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius. ‘by the end of this century.

“We remain committed to the Paris Agreement target of keeping the increase in global average temperature well below 2 ° C and continuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 ° C above levels pre-industrial, ”the executives said in a statement.

The lack of further progress has angered campaigners and foreshadows the difficulties Mr Biden could face when he attends a high-stakes climate convention in Glasgow from Monday.

Mr Biden conceded the irony in another push he made at the summit – for oil and gas-producing countries to increase production to cut driving and heating costs – at a time when he urges also the world to turn away from fossil fuels. But he said the shift from oil and gas to low-emission alternatives would not happen immediately and he was meanwhile seeking to protect consumers from price shocks.

The summit’s climate commitments drew rapid criticism from environmental activists. Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, called the deal between the leaders “weak” and said it “lacked ambition and vision”. Jörn Kalinski, senior advisor at Oxfam, said he was “dumb, unambitious and devoid of concrete plans”.

Mr Biden only proposed gradual progress on the issue of hassle-free global supply chains, which was the subject of a 14-country side meeting he hosted on Sunday afternoon. Mr Biden has announced that he is signing a defense stock order that “will allow us to react and respond more quickly to shortcomings” in supply chains.

He also unveiled an agreement to reduce tariffs on European steel and aluminum, a deal between the United States and the European Union that he said would benefit American consumers and “prove to the world that democracies tackle difficult problems and come up with sound solutions. “

There has been no resolution on a protracted dispute over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system. Mr Erdogan refused to back out of the purchase, despite sanctions and the expulsion of a US defense program to develop the F-35 stealth fighter jet. And Mr Biden did not agree to Mr Erdogan buying F-16 fighter jets to update his fleet with the money he had already spent on the F-35s.

But at the end of his press conference, the commitment Mr. Biden lingered on the longest was the one that started his journey: his meeting with Pope Francis.

Asked by a reporter about criticism from some conservative American Catholics that officials like Mr Biden, who are Catholics but support legal access to abortion, should be denied communion, Mr Biden said the issue and his meeting with the Pope were “personal”. “

The pope, Biden said on Friday, called him a “good Catholic” and said he should continue to receive communion.

On Sunday, Mr. Biden embarked on a long reflection on his relationship with Francis, and his admiration for him. He recounted how the Pope advised his family after the death of Mr Biden’s eldest son Beau, a tragedy he equated to the loss of “a real part of my soul.”

Choking at times, Mr Biden said the Pope had become “someone who brought great comfort to my family when my son passed away.”

The two men, Biden added, are staying in touch.

He left the stage without answering any further questions.

Carlotta Gall, Jason Horowitz and Somini Sengupta contributed reporting.

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