Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney; Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics; and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 19, 2012
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney; Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics; and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes
Camp David Filing Center
Camp Round Meadow
1:12 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here at Camp David for the G8 Summit. For your briefing today I have two guests who can fill you in on the meetings thus far -- Ben Rhodes, whom you know, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; and Mike Froman, who is Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics.
I think Ben will start and give you a bit of an overview, and then Mike will give you some specifics on what the leaders have been up to. And then we'll take your questions. Thanks very much.
MR. RHODES: Thanks, Jay.
I'll just start briefly with an update, and then Mike can fill you in on this morning's session and some of the progress that's been made on economic and energy issues. We spoke last night -- you got a readout of the leaders' discussion on political and security issues at the dinner. I'm happy to take your questions on that.
This morning, in addition to the schedule, the President was able to meet informally before the first session with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom. They had a discussion about the situation in the eurozone and they continued discussions on issues such as Iran and Syria and Burma, which came up last night. The President also took Prime Minister Cameron with him to the gym at Camp David and the two leaders were able to continue their discussions while working out on treadmills. No information on the speed of the relative treadmills, but he was glad to have that chance to have some informal time with Prime Minister Cameron.
The session this morning was entirely focused on the economy and then they're into the food security lunch right now, with afternoon sessions on the transitions in the Middle East and North Africa and the economic situation in Afghanistan.
But Mike can fill you in on both the economic meeting this morning as well as some of the discussions on energy.
MR. FROMAN: Thanks, Ben. As Ben said, the discussion this morning was actually all devoted to the global economy and went over the allotted time to continue that discussion. You have seen a statement that has been put out in the last half-hour or so -- it's the global economic part of the communiqué. The communiqué will be issued at the end of the summit this afternoon. But there are a number of important things in this.
First of all, just to flag some of the language and then talk a little bit about what the leaders did. The leaders agreed that their imperative was to promote growth and jobs. They agreed to take all -- they committed to take all necessary steps to do that, recognizing that the right measures are not the same for each of us, recognizing the differentiation between countries and their situations.
They talked about the importance of implementing fiscal consolidation to be assessed on a structural basis. And that is a technical term regarding how deficits are actually calculated, whether they're calculated on a nominal bases or on bases taking into account economic cycles -- and so if a country has grown less than it has before, that it would not have the same deficit reduction goal as it might have had before.
They affirmed their interest in Greece remaining part of the eurozone, while respecting its commitments, and they agreed to resolve -- to address the strains in the eurozone in a credible and timely way. And all these are underscoring the importance of the European countries themselves making the necessary decisions about how to spur on growth, how to create stability in the eurozone, how to strengthen their institutions, and how to do so in a timely way.
And finally I'll just flag the -- they agreed to support sound and sustainable fiscal consolidation plans that take into account countries' evolving economic conditions -- so, again, a recognition that some countries are enjoying more growth than others and that affects their overall perspective on deficit reduction as well.
I'd say they had a very good discussion, really quite far-ranging, both about near-term issues, but also medium-term requirements for creating growth and -- issues about the evolution of the eurozone and the European project overall.
A lot of interaction; a good sharing of perspectives; some specific ideas batted back and forth. The Europeans, as you know, are in the process of developing a growth pact to go along with their fiscal pact. They will be having an important, extraordinary meeting next week -- I think on the 23rd -- and another European Council meeting in June, and there is a G20 also in the mix of that. So they've got several meetings coming up, during which they'll be working on developing the strategies to go in parallel on both consolidation and on growth.
Let me just add one more thing. We will be talking more about energy this afternoon, but the G8 leaders agreed to a statement on global energy markets, and we'll be making this available to you right after this briefing, but let me just read it to you:
"There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which poses substantial risk to global economic growth. In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity. Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied."
And obviously that's a -- it's a key statement, it's an unusual statement. It's a separate statement by the G8 leaders, the first time the G8 has issued a statement like this, indicating their coherence around going to the International Energy Agency if the conditions warrant it. And when we look at the disruption in supply of oil on the market over the last several months as the Iranian sanctions have been put into place, and look ahead to the end of June when both the EU sanctions and the U.S. sanctions are expected to be fully put into place, it's sending a signal that the G8 stands ready to ensure that the market is fully and adequately supplied during this critical time.
With that, why don't I just open it up?
Q Mike, first of all, on the statement, on the economic statement, it seems everybody is in agreement here. Did anybody have to budge from their positions in order to get to where you are? I mean, how substantial a change is this from where Europe -- how Europe was acting before that? And then I have a quick question on the oil issue.
MR. FROMAN: Well, I think it has been -- I think there was, first of all, total consensus that there needs to be fiscal consolidation, obviously each country according to its own circumstance, but there also needs to be a major emphasis on growth. And that's a debate that has been going on for some time, and we welcome the evolution of that debate and the increasing emphasis on the importance of growth that was discussed today.
So I don't think it was an issue of budging particular leaders off particular positions as much as a reflection of the evolution of the conversation around these issues.
Q On fiscal consolidation, was there a danger before that it was too much of a cookie-cutter approach and that now it's more flexible and applies to the different demands of each country?
MR. FROMAN: Well, I think everybody is committed to doing fiscal consolidation and doing so in a way that makes sense for their own economy. And we are committed to achieving, as the President has said, medium-term fiscal sustainability, and have taken a number of bold steps in that direction. And the European countries are doing the same.
So every country agrees that fiscal consolidation is a key part of their overall economic strategy and has to be done in a way that's appropriate for the circumstance. There's also coherence around the idea that everybody needs a growth strategy. And certainly here in the U.S., where we took a number of actions coming out of the crisis to promote growth and job creation here, to clean up the banking system, to require it to be recapitalized and to put the economy on firmer footing, and we're seeing the results of that through those early actions, as we are growing, we do have job creation. And that's an important contribution to the global economy right now. The biggest thing we can do for the global economy -- the major contribution we can make to the global economy is to grow. And so that is our focus.
Q And one other -- I'm sorry -- did you set some trigger, specific triggers that would prompt you all to go to the International Energy Agency?
MR. FROMAN: No, no specific trigger was discussed. We talked about, as the statement said, monitoring the situation and looking ahead to likely further disruptions in oil supplies, and expect increased demand and being prepared to go to the IEA and to ask them to take appropriate action.
Q And so what do you hope to accomplish by issuing this, what you termed an unusual or extraordinary statement on energy policy?
MR. FROMAN: I think it's an important statement to the market, to consumers, to producers, to the Iranians, that the G8 is -- has a common position that they are ready to act, and to act through the IEA, to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied as these sanctions go fully into effect.
Q So you're trying to calm the markets --
MR. FROMAN: Well, I think it's -- yes, it's to provide assurance that we are determined to implement the sanctions fully and make sure that the markets are fully and adequately supplied.
Q This whole argument between consolidation or this give-and-take or -- the way it appears anyway -- between consolidation and growth, is the takeaway from all of this that there is now -- Europe as a whole, if it can be said to be acting as a whole, is leaning more towards a stimulus -- more of a stimulative approach?
MR. FROMAN: I don’t think they would use the word stimulus. And I think there, frankly, is no debate -- has been no debate at this meeting between consolidation and growth. Everyone sees the importance of consolidation, everybody sees the importance of growth, and all the countries are pursuing what they view to be the appropriate strategies there. And as we look to Europe, and particularly as they head into these important meetings over the next month or so, as they develop a growth pact to go along with their fiscal pact, they’ll be considering a number of steps in that direction.
Q Mike, the statement that you read out does not specifically mention releasing strategic oil reserves, and that’s something that people within the IEA or member countries seem to be a little bit divided about. How should we interpret this unity on the G8 in terms of that statement?
MR. FROMAN: Well, I think there is broad unity within the International Energy Agency, that should the conditions warrant it, should there be supply disruptions and increase in demand in a way that warrants it, they would stand ready to act. And the G8 has the major participants in the IEA. By the way, we even had Russia as part -- who is not a member of the IEA, but they, too, supporting the importance of moving ahead like this to ensure that the market is fully and adequately supplied. And that’s what the IEA does, right -- it coordinates the release of strategic preserves.
Q But is there -- sort of following up what Jim asked about a trigger -- is there agreement on what those supply disruptions would have to be?
MR. FROMAN: No, there is no conversation about a particular number. I think it’s -- you monitor the market, you see what the impact is, and then collectively we would decide whether it was appropriate to go to the IEA to take appropriate action.
MR. RHODES: And I’d just add that on the separate track of the implementation of our Iran sanctions, we have phased in the imposition of those sanctions in a way that takes Iranian oil off the market, has a significant impact on the Iranian government and its economy, but also allows for time for these to phase in and, frankly, so the markets adjust in part because we want to see the maximum impact on Iranian revenue.
Obviously, if you look to the future, you see potential for increased Iranian oil coming off the market as you have, for instance, the EU oil embargo coming into force later this summer.
So I think there is a message that we sent last night I think to Iran about the fact that they need to demonstrate concrete actions that build the confidence in the international community to their program. And we’ve also made clear to the Iranians that in the absence of those steps, they’re going to be faced with this increased pressure from sanctions, most notably with the oil embargo coming to force later this spring.
Q Can I just follow up? For those who are looking at the statement about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or energy and thinking that this is related to pricing -- and of course, prices are coming down -- can you talk about the relationship as the G8 thinks about it in terms of pricing and supply? You talked about supply.
MR. FROMAN: Well, obviously the two are related to a certain degree. And the IEA is governed mostly about a focus on supply disruptions, as our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve. So it’s not an issue of price management per se; it’s an issue of whether supply disruptions are having an adverse effect on the market in a way that adversely affects the economy or otherwise cuts again our interest.
And so I think even at $107 a barrel, or whatever it happens to be today, oil is at really quite a high price. If you recall that before the breakout of the Arab Spring, oil was about $85 a barrel. And the economic fundamentals as such haven’t changed significantly since then, or at least not in a more bullish direction, and so there has been a significant increase in prices. They remain high. And even though they’ve come down somewhat in the last couple of weeks, it’s still a situation that we’re monitoring closely.
Q Can I follow up on the economic statement? There is a discussion of education, infrastructure and private sector. Can you talk more specifically about how that was woven into the conversation?
MR. FROMAN: Well, I think all the -- many of the leaders talked about the importance of structural reforms and other reforms necessary to become more competitive and to create more potential for growth. And those are some of the areas where reforms or investments could play a particularly significant role. So education and infrastructure, as you cite, are two such areas. And we’re obviously investing in that in the United States, and so is Europe, and so are other G8 countries as well.
Q You said there were some leaders who had specific ideas, so I’m trying to tease out whether there was something that someone mentioned that might be interesting related to education, infrastructure or the private sector.
MR. FROMAN: I think a number of the leaders talked about ideas that they could pursue in the context of their structural reform or other growth-oriented agendas. For example, in Europe people have talked publicly about investing in infrastructure, having the European Investment Bank invest in infrastructure, or other institutions invest in infrastructure. That’s one such area. That’s one area that was mentioned.
Q I know there is a desire for Greece to stay in the eurozone, but how would that be accomplished? Would a bailout be necessary? And then, also, looking at Spain, people are saying that the bank yields there are going to be 7 percent on Monday, which is similar to Greece. Is that a sign that they also need a bailout?
MR. FROMAN: Well, look, I’m not going to comment -- speculate about the market, per se. I would say just on Greece, there are a lot of important choices that Greece faces in the coming weeks. They’re in the midst of an election campaign. They need to choose a government; that government needs to choose an economic strategy. And as they do that, the G8 wanted to affirm their interest if Greece stays part of the eurozone while respecting its commitments.
There was also discussion, obviously, more generally, about the eurozone and how to ensure that the eurozone countries are taking the steps necessary to manage the situation there, to minimize contagion, and to ensure that wherever there are vulnerabilities that resilience is increased.
Q How vulnerable is Greece right now? I mean, how likely are they to drop out of the euro? And also, can you say anything about Spain?
MR. FROMAN: Again, I’d say it’s way premature. It’s up to the Greeks to decide. And they have a political decision and economic decision ahead of them.
Q This might be more of a question for Ben, but I wanted to see if there was anything that could be said about Chen coming back from China today.
MR. RHODES: Yes. We note that Mr. Chen and his wife and two sons are on their way to the United States. We welcome this development and the fact that he’ll be able to pursue a course of study here in the United States upon his arrival. We are pleased with the efforts that have been made within our own government by the State Department and with Chinese authorities, and with Mr. Chen to reach this resolution and, again, look forward to Mr. Chen arriving here with his family and pursuing a course of study.
Q Is he arriving in Newark?
MR. RHODES: We’re not getting into the details of his itinerary other than to say that he’s coming to the United States, he’s on his way here and he’s with his family members.
Q Any White House involvement to make this happen? Any tick-tock that you can provide?
MR. RHODES: Well, obviously, principally, the lead actor in our government on this issue was the State Department, both because of the role that our embassy played in China and also because it involved a visa issue. Many of these discussions took place when Secretary Clinton was in China for the strategic and economic dialogue. There was obviously a delegation that included White House staff on that trip and the White House provided of course support to the State Department in their efforts.
At that time, I think there was an understanding reached that Mr. Chen might want to pursue this option of coming to the United States to pursue a course of study. And in the intervening days since we put out that statement on the day that Secretary Clinton left China, I think it was a matter of working through the visa arrangements and the travel arrangements. And we obviously were able to do that in an expedited fashion and to do so cooperatively with the Chinese and Mr. Chen resolving in his being able to leave China today and to come to the United States to pursue a course of study. And we’re also pleased that his family members were able to join him -- his wife and two sons as well.
So I think there was good work done by the State Department in this instance, and the White House fully supported those efforts. And we’re pleased that this was able to reach a resolution.
Q If I could come back to Iran and the oil embargo. The talks next week -- you’ve spoken of the need for Iran to step up with confidence-building measures. Are any measures either on the table or likely that would avert the oil embargo going into effect?
MR. RHODES: Well, the first round of negotiations in Istanbul I think was dedicated to setting the environment for talks, putting forward our views of the Iranian nuclear program. And one of the things that we were heartened by is that that session very much focused on the nuclear issue. And in the past, some of these negotiations have drawn in many other issues that the Iranians wanted to talk about. But we were heartened that there was a focus on the nuclear program, and, frankly, a clear indication that the Iranians were feeling a degree of pressure from those sanctions.
I think at the next session in Baghdad, what we expect to do is to begin a discussion around concrete confidence-building measures that could build the confidence in the international community and the peaceful nature of the Iranian program, and move them in line with their international obligations.
Right now, we are certainly planning to move forward with our sanctions in coordination with our partners. That would include the EU oil embargo. If the Iranians were to fully live up to their commitments, we would obviously take that into account in reviewing our sanctions. But I think what we have said to the Iranians and publicly is that as they take steps to build confidence, we will meet that action with action, and there will be reciprocal steps taken by the international community, but it depends on how dramatic and concrete and irreversible the steps are that the Iranians take. And so right now, in the absence of that action having taken place, we’re fully intending to move forward with the oil embargo.
Q But it doesn’t sound like you're expecting anything that dramatic to happen in time to avert the oil embargo.
MR. RHODES: Well, yes, we think the discussions in Baghdad will be, again, a beginning of a negotiation around confidence-building steps. I’m sure that there will be concrete proposals that are discussed at that meeting. Just given the way that these negotiations go, we certainly don’t expect to resolve completely the issue of the Iranian nuclear program in that particular meeting. There will have to be continued discussions going forward.
So it’s important for the Iranians to understand that given the status quo, given where we are right now, they should fully expect and anticipate that oil embargo to go into place. And the onus is on them, frankly, to demonstrate through not just pledges but concrete actions that they’re moving in a different direction before we could consider that level of sanctions easing. But we are willing, as I said, to meet them with reciprocal actions if they do begin to move in the right direction. And frankly, some of these steps can build space for additional negotiation going forward as you build confidence and start to get at some of the more significant and fundamental issues that have divided the United States and the international community from Iran.
Q Ben, this is probably for you -- it’s kind of a touchy-feely question, but when you --
MR. FROMAN: That would definitely be Ben. (Laughter.)
MR. RHODES: Thank you for that, Christi.
Q When you guys moved this out here, you said that you wanted it to be more informal, the President wanted people to quit just reading their statements to each other and actually talk. I was just wondering if you could open the door a little bit and tell us anything about what it’s like in the room, and if that’s had -- if it’s been more atmospheric, or if that has resulted in anything that you're telling us about today.
MR. RHODES: Yes, I’ll make a few comments and then Mike may want to join as well.
First of all, I think you saw that there was a pretty intimate setting here. You have the 10 leaders seated around a round table, having an informal discussion that, in this morning’s instance and last night, actually -- went on for more than two hours about these issues. In that context, last night they were able to also celebrate Prime Minister Noda’s birthday.
I will say that last night there were additional discussions after the meeting in which the President was able to have kind of informal conversations with different leaders, including some of the eurozone leaders, about these issues. So even beyond the formal dinner and meeting last night, we were able to have continued discussions kind of one the margins.
The President has been able to take some walks with his fellow leaders. This morning, he was able to, again, take Prime Minister Cameron for a workout. And then I’d say in the session this morning -- and Mike may want to comment on this -- the leaders actually had this statement, this communiqué, in front of them and were negotiating language themselves with pen and paper instead of just putting it all on Mike to have to do with his fellow sherpas.
So I think there is an atmosphere of not just having an informal and very small setting for the meetings, which, I think, stands as a stark contrast to the kind of cavernous convention center and motorcade movements that we usually have in these summits, but even when these meetings break up, the President has been able to pull aside various leaders and continue those discussions. And that included some of the leading members of the eurozone. That included Prime Minister Cameron, that included Prime Minister Noda, and I think he’s looking to be able to have that opportunity with each of the leaders.
So, again, I think it has made a big difference in terms of them being able to have very extended conversations instead of structured, kind of talking-points exchanges. And it’s also enabled these types of additional conversations to take place.
I don’t know, Mike, if you --
MR. FROMAN: No, I think that’s really it. And if you walk around the Camp up there, you’ll find leaders just walking through, walking down paths or sitting on patios, and having informal, unscripted, unplanned, spontaneous meetings. And I think that’s exactly what the President had in mind when he chose it. I think also Camp David has just got a very special atmosphere to it, and the leaders really appreciate being invited there. As Ben has told you before, it’s the first time the President has had any foreign leaders up there and it’s the largest collection of foreign leaders that have every convened there.
So it’s a really nice atmosphere, and whether it’s in the room or outside, just exactly the sort of informal, intimate interaction that you would want out of a summit of this size.
Q Is there anything about the communiqué -- because the leaders worked it out themselves as opposed to having you write it -- or is that more of a --
MR. FROMAN: It’s much better, of course. (Laughter.) No, they did change some of the language, and they negotiated over the table itself, and the President took out his pen and marked it up and was talking with other leaders about what language they would find acceptable and reached a solution on it.
Q Was it a substantive difference or --
MR. FROMAN: Yes, it was substantive.
Q Can I follow on Christi’s point? You guys are talking about walking down paths and sitting on patios with President Obama and Mr. Cameron and Mr. Noda. Was there any one-on-one time between President Obama and Chancellor Merkel? I mean, she’s sort of the one-against-the-world here. Did he take any personal time with her? Did the two of them connect on any of this? And I have another one after that.
MR. FROMAN: Yes, he has had opportunities to talk with her since the arrival yesterday. They were walking together from one thing to another last night. They had some time last night together. As Ben said, the President has had some opportunity to just have informal meetings outside the formal room as part of this. And again, this morning, actually, before they went into the session, they had a chance to talk on the back patio as well.
Q On his back patio?
MR. FROMAN: It was the patio at Laurel, which is where the meeting was.
MR. RHODES: I’d just add two things just on Christi’s question about the touchy-feely of these things -- it’s also worth noting that this is the first G8 where you’ve had Prime Minister Monti and President Hollande and Prime Minister Noda, so in some respects, these leaders are having their first substantive interaction with each other. So to do so in this type of setting I think makes it easier for them to get to know one another further and helps, again, set up and build some common ground as they lead into these additional summits, these euro summits next week.
On Helene’s question, I should have given the scheduling update. In addition -- Chancellor Merkel was one of the leaders the President was able to talk to last night after the session, and as Mike said, this morning, but he’s also going to have a bilateral meeting with Chancellor Merkel after the conclusion of the G8. So the President will conclude the G8; he will have a statement to the press, and then he’ll have a formal bilateral meeting here actually at Camp David with Chancellor Merkel. That was an addition so that they could even continue these discussions further on.
Q Okay, you guys keep talking about the next tranche of summits that the European leaders are going to be having. Do you feel that this meeting -- this G8 meeting has led you -- are you more hopeful because of what’s happened this weekend that you’re going to get stronger pro-growth sort of package out of these next tranche of summits?
MR. FROMAN: Well, as Ben said, I think this meeting was useful in that it’s the first time, for example, President Hollande, Prime Minister Monti, Prime Minister Cameron and the Chancellor all met together and since President Hollande’s election. And so I think it’s given an opportunity for them to share their perspectives, to have a common approach, and to prepare as they head into these European council meetings going forward.
So, yes, I think that this does give it momentum. And meeting with, and being convened by President Obama and meeting with the other leaders -- Japan, Canada and Russia -- it also gives a sense of how important it is that what they’re working on in terms of addressing the eurozone issues are to the rest of the global economy.
It’s given the President a chance to share perspectives on his own experience and our own experience in dealing with problems in the U.S. economy coming out of the crisis in ’08, ’09, and giving momentum to them in that regard as well.
Q How would you qualify the relationship at this moment between President Obama President Hollande?
MR. FROMAN: I think it’s very good. They had a very good meeting yesterday in Washington, in the Oval Office. Obviously they’ve been spending time here, together, since last evening. And I think they’re having very good, open, frank and honest conversations.
Q Can I ask -- I came a little late, but I just wanted to -- did you guys talk about why the morning session on the economy went so long? And can you give us any details on ideas that were thrown around in terms of the eurozone?
MR. FROMAN: You did come late. (Laughter.) It went long because the leaders were deeply engaged in it. And one of the nice things about these summits is that you don’t have to stick by strict schedules, and if the conversation is going well, it just continues on. And so they decided they would just continue talking about the global economy given its importance, and particularly the issues around the eurozone. And that’s what they did.
They talked about a range of issues including sharing some ideas around specific actions that could be taken, and those are the sort of things that will feed into the discussions that the Europeans are having amongst themselves going forward.
Q Can we expect to see -- just following on Carol’s question on Greece and Spain -- can we expect to see more concrete action in the communiqué tonight, or is that something that’s going to happen this week, do you think, at the Euro leaders meeting this Wednesday?
MR. FROMAN: Well, I wouldn’t expect more on the global economy than what you’ve seen that’s been released already. I think it’s more that the discussion feeds into this ongoing process in Europe. Obviously these are decisions for the Europeans themselves to make in terms of how they want to proceed, and these are issues and ideas that will be taken into that process.
Q Still along the lines of what I was going to ask -- obviously the emergency situation in Greece and how fast they are able to react -- and do you expect more concrete items to come up next week?
MR. FROMAN: I think you’ll have to ask the Europeans about that, but certainly they are seized with the importance and the timeliness of addressing the issues that they face.
Q Mike, you said that they don’t want to call it stimulus. One, is it because the structure of the growth that you’re talking about is significantly different than what we tried here in the United States?
MR. FROMAN: No, I think they -- everybody around the table is looking for ways to promote growth and job creation in the context of the fiscal environment in which we’re in. And so I think on the European side, they are -- they have a serious debt and deficit issues that they’re trying to address as some of them in the near term. And as a result, they’re looking for mechanisms for growth that are consistent with their fiscal consolidation strategies.
Q So those are credit-leveraging private money? Is that basically what --
MR. FROMAN: They’re talking about all sorts of things -- in the communiqué, they talk about structural reforms, public/private partnerships, investments in infrastructure, et cetera.
Q On a matter of -- shifting gears kind of quickly, Representative Bartlett sent a letter to the White House seeking compensation for the cost of moving this summit to Thurmont, to this area. Chicago was going to get $40 million from the federal government for NATO expenses. Could you address that.
MR. RHODES: The only thing I’d say about that actually -- Chicago has actually gone above and beyond what is often the center practice in hosting summits by raising a substantial amount of private contributions to help support the NATO summit in Chicago. So I think in that regard, the cost of hosting these two summits has already been reduced in terms the burden on the taxpayer.
In terms of here at the Camp David site, this is obviously a standing facility for the President's use, and it's very much in the national interest of the United States to host these types of meetings and gatherings. So we've done so in complete accordance with the kind of standard practice for the United States government hosting these types of summits. We're confident that we've done so in a cost-effective way. And again, I think we've gone above what has been the practice in the past by seeing Chicago be able to raise a significant amount of private contributions to support the additional infrastructure devoted to the summit at NATO.
Q Two questions on the eurozone again. Was there any sort of discussion or proposal by the Europeans about bank insurance deposits? And, secondly, can you give us a flavor of how -- your impressions of how Merkel and Hollande get along, and whether the Europeans were acting in a unified way or whether they weren't?
MR. FROMAN: I think it really a very good atmosphere. I mean, Helene earlier talked about the Chancellor being the odd man out, so to speak. It didn’t feel that way at all in the room. I think there was a very good interaction between leaders, both European leaders among themselves and between each of them and the other leaders. Nobody was put on the defensive, nobody felt offensive. People were really quite constructive, and they were completely constructive in their comments about how to deal with it.
So in terms of the precise relationship between Merkel and Hollande, I think you'd probably have to ask people closer to each of them, but it looked like it was off to a very good start. And they were clearly committed to working together to try and address these issues.
Q And bank deposit insurance?
MR. FROMAN: -- a whole series of issues, there wasn't any specific proposal necessarily on that one. But there were a number of issues talked about with regards to stabilizing the situation in Europe, including situations in the financial system.
Q So that was discussed, then?
MR. FROMAN: I would just say they discussed more generally the issues around the financial system.
Q Sorry, quick question on the oil market. And forgive me, because I don’t normally cover this. What kinds of things would you be looking to the IAEA to do if it came to that?
MR. FROMAN: Well this is the IEA, the International Energy Agency. And it reflects mostly the consumers, the major consumers of oil; the importers of oil -- not all of them, but mostly from the OECD countries. And it has processes underway for coordinating releases of strategic reserves.
Q So President Putin wasn't here. Is there anything you can add about how the Prime Minister represented him?
MR. FROMAN: I think the premise of Mevedev reflected the position of the Russian government, reflected it well, certainly articulated the positions that Russia has had on these issues, and I think it was all very smooth. So I think he was a very active participant in the discussion, and they have a very constructive relationship.
And just to say, just to build on it -- and maybe Ben wants to say more -- but it's very good interaction -- the President had very good interaction with President Putin since he became President again, as did Tom Donilon when he was in Russia recently and spent some significant time with him, and feel like there's a very good dialogue going on.
MR. RHODES: Yes. And the only thing I'd add to that is in President Obama's first conversations with then President-elect Putin, President Putin made clear that Prime Minister Medvedev would continue to be engaged in this relationship -- the relationship with the United States and the relationship with the G8 countries, given the very good progress that’s been made between the United States and Russia and the G7 -- other G8 countries in Russia over the course of the last several years.
So even before the decision was made by President Putin to deal with his government formation at home, he had already indicated to us that Prime Minister Medvedev would remain engaged in this account. And again, we have a very good working relationship with him so we expect that not only does he -- and I should also add President Putin made it very clear that Prime Minister Medvedev speaks for him when it comes to these meetings.
So not only did we have a good exchange here, but we expect to -- at different times, that Prime Minister Medvedev will be engaged in this, as well, of course, President Putin. And we expect to have a bilateral meeting with President Putin on the margins of the G20 in June.
Q When the President greeted Chancellor Merkel yesterday, she sort of shrugged at him and he said, "you have a few things on your mind." What is he talking about?
MR. RHODES: Well, I can't get specifically in the President's head, but clearly there have been -- the situation ongoing in the eurozone that the leaders are dealing with. And Chancellor Merkel had actually just had her first meeting with President Hollande, within the last day or so, and she had also had a very big public meeting in Germany, earlier in the day, too. So this was a very -- in addition to just the ongoing issues she's managing as Chancellor, the President was mindful that yesterday was a very long day for the leaders, like Chancellor Merkel, from Europe. And frankly, the discussions went well into the night, to include the dinner wrapping up after 10:00 p.m. and some additional, informal discussions after that.
But again, I think he was referring to just how busy the Chancellor has been given the challenges in the eurozone, but also given her initial meeting with President Hollande and her public meeting that she'd had earlier in the day in Germany.
Q On Syria -- the President said that the agreement on political transition in the country -- but I'm wondering was there any discussion on how to achieve that, what additional leverage you have given that Assad has not abided by the Annan plan. And was there -- and was that a place of disagreement among the various -- particularly with Medvedev?
MR. RHODES: Well, I think the Annan plan has several different components, and over the course of the last several weeks, much of the focus -- understandably and rightfully -- has been on what can be done to reduce the violence, to get U.N. monitors in the country as a means of reducing the violence. However, the Annan plan also speaks to the need for a political process within the country. And it was our objective at this G8 to lift up the political transition component of the Annan plan, because it's our assessment that you're not going to be able to solve this problem just with monitors and ceasefires; that you need to have a political transition underway that is responsive to the Syrian people, because otherwise you're not going to actually solve the problem.
So these are interconnected issues -- stopping the violence depends on a political transition. And they were able to share different ideas as to how a political transition could take place. We, for instance, identified the example of Yemen, for instance, where you had a leader leave power, do so peacefully, lead into a democratic political process that is underway that includes changes to the constitution of the country and an inclusive political process. Obviously every country is different, so you can't replicate exactly what happens in one country in another. But our point was that we need to see a political transition underway that brings real change to Syria. We believe that change has to include Bashir* al Assad leaving power. And unless you begin a process of a political transition of some sort, you're not going to be able to deal with reducing the violence and addressing the grievances of the people who came out in the street to start with.
And I think it was a constructive discussion and, frankly -- and this will be reflected in the communiqué -- but Prime Minister Medvedev, who did not -- certainly did not dispute the fact that there needs to be a process of political transition in the country. I think the question is, just how does that manifest itself? What can Kofi Annan, as the representative of the United Nations and the Arab League, do to initiate that process? And how can we achieve the goal we all share, which is averting a wider spiral into some type of civil war, but rather stabilize the situation?
So I think it was -- it achieved the objective we had for this summit, which was lifting up the political transition element of the Annan plan, coupled with the effort to reduce violence. And hopefully we'll take that forward. Kofi Annan is going to have to be reporting back to the Security Council on a regular basis, and we want to continue to send a message that all elements of the Kofi Annan plan need to be addressed for there to be progress in Syria.
MR. CARNEY: Mike has to get back, and Ben, so just one more if we could -- if there is one more. And there is not, so thank you very much. Oh, wait.
Q Can I ask -- did the President give -- because it's so informal, following on what Christi said -- is there anything that he gave them as a token of being at Camp David -- a gift or --
MR. FROMAN: They will be getting something.
MR. RHODES: I don't know what it is.
MR. CARNEY: We'll let you know.
MR. FROMAN: We'll let you know. (Laughter.)
END 1:58 P.M. EDT
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