A trip to Rome re-energized Biden, whose domestic poll ratings are slipping, but the president expressed confidence in his foreign and domestic agendas.
President Biden billed a long weekend of diplomacy on Sunday with a bold proclamation of America’s resurgent global power, claiming credit for what he termed as breakthroughs on climate change, tax avoidance, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions at the conclusion of a G20 summit that lacked some of his most powerful global adversaries.
Mr. Biden shrugged off concerns about his dwindling poll numbers at home and projected confidence for his reeling domestic policy agenda, buoyed by a three-day return to the interpersonal negotiations that have defined his political career and still overcome affectively by an extended Friday audience with Pope Francis.
With a smile, he acknowledged paradoxes and roadblocks to his long-term aspirations on problems such as greenhouse gas emissions reduction. And he contended significant progress following a summit that yielded one major triumph for his administration — the affirmation of a global agreement setting minimum corporate tax rates — as well as a deal between the US and Europe that will remove tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Europe.
The summit achieved little concrete outcomes in other domains, namely climate change and reviving the Iran nuclear deal.
However, the president readily told reporters that the weekend underlined the power of American leadership on the world stage and rekindled ties that had soured under his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Biden stated that the global leaders took notice, and he was sought after by everyone. They were interested in American perspectives. They played a role in the events that transpired there. The president said that America is the most pivotal pillar of the entire agenda, and they did it.
Biden mends the United States-France ties.
Mr. Biden used his Roman vacation to patch up ties with the French over a sour submarine deal, to bask in the boon of the tax deal that his administration pushed through after years of negotiations, and to rile up support for more ambitious climate commitments ahead of a global climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to which he was traveling afterward.
The president set sail from Washington amidst chaos and disappointments. Recent polls indicate that public discontent of his performance in office is growing, and Democrats remain divided over a pair of bills that would spend a combined $3 trillion advancing his expansive domestic agenda. According to NBC News polling, seven in ten Americans and nearly half of Democrats believe America is heading in the wrong way.
However, after days of backslapping diplomacy at a time when bipartisan synergy is scarce at home, Mr. Biden came for his Sunday news conference expressing optimism that both bills will clear the House next week and downplaying poll ratings.
Mr. Biden remarked that the polls would continue to rise and fall. He observed the same happens to any other president; however, that is not why he ran.
Mr. Biden pursued the presidency, following more than four decades as a senator and vice president, in part to participate in meetings such as the Group of 20, where he can engage in the flesh-pressing politics he has always favored.
Biden: “The return of in-person sessions changed the dynamic.”
While world leaders have been reluctant to convene in person as the pandemic has into its second year, Mr. Biden attended a G-7 meeting in England in June, which worked as a diplomatic icebreaker for rich nations.
The Rome summit brought together a larger gathering of leaders. At the same time, some of Mr. Biden’s most prominent international adversaries, such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, remained at home.
Mr. Biden and other world leaders asserted that the return to face-to-face deliberation shifted the dynamic.
During a news conference, Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister whose country hosted the summit, stated that attendees were more eager than in the past to address climate change, inequality, and other issues requiring collective action.
Mr. Draghi noted some things had shifted.
Mr. Biden convened hour-long sessions with leaders with diverse degrees of influence during the summit.
Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, had 80 minutes. Mr. Biden also met on the sidelines with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday. The two agreed to continue working on several issues, partly due to Turkey’s involvement in various strategic regions, including Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Mr. Biden stated that there are no substitutions for “looking someone straight in the eye while seeking to pursue something.”
However, the summit yielded more rhetoric than action in a host of issues.
The leaders agreed on Sunday to discontinue financing coal power stations in other nations and “pursue efforts” to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
The leaders noted in a statement they remain committed to the Paris Agreement’s aim of keeping global average temperature increases well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to keep them at 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.
The absence of further progress infuriated environmentalists and foreshadowed the difficulties Mr. Biden may confront when traveling to Glasgow on Monday for a high-stakes climate meeting.
Climate commitments made during the summit sparked reaction.
Mr. Biden acknowledged the irony in another call he made at the summit — for oil- and gas-producing nations to increase output to reduce the cost of driving and heating — at the same time, he is imploring the world to shun fossil fuels. He stated, however, that the move from oil and gas to lower-emission alternatives would take time and that he was working to shield customers from price shocks in the meanwhile.
Climate commitments made at the summit prompted immediate condemnation from environmental campaigners. Greenpeace International’s executive director, Jennifer Morgan, described the leaders’ accord as “weak” and lacking in “ambition and vision.” Oxfam senior adviser Jörn Kalinski depicted it as “muted, unambitious, and devoid of tangible plans.”
Mr. Biden made only minimal progress toward unraveling global supply chains, the focus of a side meeting he hosted Sunday afternoon with 14 countries. Mr. Biden indicated that he would sign an executive order on the defense stockpile, which will enable the world to react and respond more promptly to supply chain disruptions.
He also announced a deal to drop tariffs on European steel and aluminum, which he said will help American consumers demonstrate to the world that democracies can confront difficult problems and provide sound solutions.
There has been no closure to Turkey’s protracted discord over purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense system. Mr. Erdogan has maintained his commitment to the acquisition despite sanctions and banishment from a US defense program developing the F-35 stealth fighter jet. And Mr. Biden declined to authorize Mr. Erdogan to purchase F-16 combat jets to replace the F-35s he had already purchased.
President Biden meets with Pope Francis.
Still, as his news conference drew to a close, Mr. Biden remained focused on the engagement that had kicked off his trip: the audience with Pope Francis.
When a reporter pressed Mr. Biden about censure from some conservative American Catholics that public leaders like Mr. Biden, who is Catholic but advocate legal abortion, ought to be denied communion, Mr. Biden responded that the issue and the audience with the pope were “personal.”
Mr. Biden stated on Friday that the pope regarded him as a good Catholic and urged him to continue receiving communion.
Mr. Biden tended a lengthy contemplation on his friendship with Francis and his respect for him on Sunday. He described how the pope counseled his family following the loss of Mr. Biden’s eldest son, Beau, a tragedy he likened to losing a real part of his soul.
Mr. Biden, who struggled at times, hailed the pope as someone who had brought immense peace for his family since their son died.
Mr. Biden noted that both Pope Francis and himself maintain contact.
He exited the platform without taking any further questions.