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President Biden seeks to reaffirm his leadership at G20 summit


As President Biden continued his efforts today to reach a deal with Democrats on his proposed $1.75 trillion economic and environmental bill, he's bound for Saturday's G-20 summit in Rome. That's a gathering of leaders from the world's most powerful nations. This will be the first in-person G-20 meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. Items on the agenda will include high energy prices, supply chain problems and a global minimum tax rate.

Daleep Singh is White House economic and national security adviser, and he will be with the president in Rome. We spoke with him yesterday afternoon about what President Biden hopes to accomplish at this summit. I started the conversation by asking him whether European allies are skeptical of President Biden as they've watched him struggle with divisions in his own party, with the Afghanistan withdrawal and with France over submarine technology.

DALEEP SINGH: With respect to Europe, I think we're going into these meetings with quite a bit of convergence with our partners and allies in the region. You may recall from last month, we jointly took major action on COVID-19. We've launched a global methane pledge and made a number of climate commitments together. We are hosting meetings on the Trade and Technology Council together to set rules and standards for the economy and for technology in the 21st century. And we're working to coordinate policies across a range of other issues - supply chains, infrastructure, Iran. So we're actually feeling as though the momentum we have with our European partners is giving us a tailwind going into the G-20 discussions so we can raise ambition from others.

MCCAMMON: One issue I'd like to ask you about is the global minimum tax rate. A hundred thirty-six countries have agreed to align their rates to keep companies from moving operations overseas. Will finance ministers from the G-20 formally endorse this deal?

SINGH: Yeah, leaders are ready to endorse this deal. We already have agreement from more than 90% of the global economy. And this is historic. I mean, we've been reforming - making attempts to reform our tax code at home, to make sure everyone pays their fair share, and this is an attempt to produce fairness in the international tax code as well. It's important because it's going to help level the playing field for American companies. It's going to give each of the countries that sign up more resources to invest in their own domestic renewal. So we're excited to cement the progress that's been made over the past few months, and it's really a testament to President Biden's leadership, Secretary Yellen's leadership, that we've managed to get to agreement on a challenge that's been dogging us for decades and decades and caused a really destructive race to the bottom on corporate taxes.

MCCAMMON: As we speak, many Americans are listening to us on their car radios. Gas prices are high. This is, of course, a global issue with many economic ripple effects. How will the president address this issue with his counterparts?

SINGH: Well, look. We've said before and the president will say again, global energy supplies have not kept pace with global energy demand, and that is a threat to the durability and the strength of the global economic recovery. So energy producers that have spare capacity to produce more - they can and should make greater effort to keep these markets balanced. That's the message we've been sending. That's the message that we think is shared by other major energy consumers, and it's the message we'll take to energy producers.

MCCAMMON: One person who will not be at the G-20 in Rome is the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. It often seems like the main purpose of these summits is really for leaders to talk face to face on the sidelines. Of course, at this time, China and the U.S. are locked in stiff competition. The U.S., at the same time, is deeply dependent on Chinese imports, of course. How much of a problem is it that Xi will be absent?

SINGH: Well, look. We are - you're right. We're in an era of intense competition with China. So diplomacy at the highest level, face-to-face diplomacy really matters. So I can't speak for the Chinese leadership as to why President Xi won't be joining. But I will say that when Jake Sullivan met with his counterpart in Zurich a couple weeks ago, they agreed that President Biden and President Xi would have at least a virtual meeting before the end of the year.

MCCAMMON: And what will be the priority for that meeting?

SINGH: Well, we have a range of issues. Certainly with respect to the global economy, there are a number of unfair and distortive practices that we wish to address - subsidies, SOE policies, discriminatory regulatory treatment, market access. So we want to see action on behalf of the Chinese to change the way in which our economic relationship has been conducted over the past couple of decades now. And that's going to be a major thrust of our conversation. And certainly, all of the other economic dimensions of the relationship outside of trade - capital markets, technology, currency - these are all elements of what we need to discuss to make sure we have a healthier relationship going forward.

MCCAMMON: Daleep Singh is an economic and national security adviser to President Biden.

Thanks for your time.

SINGH: Thanks, Sarah.

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Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.
Amy Isackson