Excerpts of Secretary’s Remarks to the World Economic Forum

As you all know, we face many new threats, some of them not so new. They range from North Korea’s nuclear program, to Iran’s foreign adventurism, to China’s state-centered economic model, its belligerence toward its neighbors, and its embraces of a totalitarian state at home. Radical Islamic terrorism remains a persistent threat that we will continue to fight together.

In all of these areas we’re making progress. But none of this progress could have happened without beautiful coalitions in which America has played a central role. Collectively, we have exerted maximum pressure on North Korea, and that pressure has gotten Kim to the negotiating table. The United Nations did amazing work, acting as the center of gravity for sanctions that built out this global coalition. We’ve also assembled a global coalition of nations to confront Iran and support the aspirations of the Iranian people.

And we’re rebalancing the relationship with China, alongside partner nations in Asia and all around the world. It should not go unnoticed that we’ve also defeated the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq, alongside more than six dozen nations in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

MR BRENDE: Thank you, Secretary. We’re very pleased that you have joined us, and it does look brisk there. And you also mentioned China in your short intervention, and I know from all participants here in Davos there is huge interest in the Sino-U.S. relationship. We see that growth is slowing in China. We also know that there will be a trade delegation visiting DC later this year. So from your perspective as Secretary of State, how do you see the role of China in the world today as an emerging regional and global power, and also in relationship to the U.S.-Sino relationship?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Borge, there are those who say that conflict, superpower conflict between our two countries, is inevitable. We don’t see it that way. We want to find places where we can work together. You talked about the trade delegation coming. I am optimistic that we’ll receive them well and that we’ll have a good outcome from those conversations. But remember, the course of the relationship will be determined by the principles that America standbys – stands by: free and open seas, the capacity for nations to take their goods around the world, fair and reciprocal trade arrangements where every country has the opportunity to compete on a fair, transparent, and open basis. These principles of democracy, these things that have created so much wealth for the whole globe, will drive the relationship between the United States and China in the years ahead, and we hope that China will adopt policies that are consistent with that. If they do, I am very confident that our two nations can thrive and prosper together.

MR BRENDE: Thank you, Secretary. It’s interesting to hear that you are optimistic. I know that you are an optimistic person. Last year in Davos, the big discussion was the future of NAFTA. There you found a solution. So when you’re saying “optimistic,” you think we will say another breakthrough this year on the trade side between the U.S. and China? I think a lot of our business CEOs are very curious about that here.

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to get ahead of the conversations, the negotiations that are taking place. There’s lots of hard work to do. There are certainly issues around trade balances; those certainly matter. But the central premises of the trade arrangements, the structures at the WTO, the tariff levels that will be set, the capacity for American businesses to operate in China without risk that their trade secrets and their intellectual property will be stolen, the understandings that investments in our two countries will be reciprocal. A country – a Chinese company that want to – wants to invest here in the United States should have every opportunity to do so, so long as they’re coming here to compete fairly. In the same sense, American companies should be permitted to do that as well without having to have a mechanism by which the technology that they’re providing will be forced to be transferred.

Those aren’t fair arrangements, they’re not reciprocal agreements, they’re not the way free and fair trade ought to be conducted, and so I am hopeful that each of those issues can be dealt with constructively and that China is prepared to compete on those terms. And if they are, I am very confident that there will be a bright future not only for the United States and its people but for the Chinese people as well.

MR BRENDE: Secretary, know that you personally have shown a lot of leadership when it comes to North Korea and the DPRK. History was made last June when President Trump met with Chairman Kim Jong-un, which a lot of hope for improvements of the security situation in the Korean Peninsula was established. Expectations, as I said, were high. We know that the President will meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un late in February. I think there is a lot of curiosity. Maybe you can shed some light on the next steps you envisage when President Trump meets again with the chairman, and maybe you can also let us know where it’s going to happen.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Borge, I don’t have any news to break today on that front, but I can say this: The negotiations have been underway for some time now. There’s lots of discussions that have taken place. When Kim Yong-chol visited Washington last week, we made further progress not only in the discussions that he had with the President, but Special Representative Biegun had the opportunity to meet with his newly designated counterpart as well, where they were able to discuss some of the complicated issues towards achieving what the two leaders laid out back last June in Singapore.

And so we have a handful of weeks before the two leaders will meet together again. A set of discussions that took place in Sweden over the weekend have now wrapped up. Again, a little bit more progress. There remains an awful lot of work to do, but good things have happened already. The North Koreans aren’t conducting missile tests. The North Koreans aren’t conducting nuclear tests. There are many steps yet along the way towards achieving the denuclearization that was laid out in Singapore and in achieving the security and stability and peace on the peninsula that the two leaders agreed to as well. We’re determined to work towards achieving that. I believe at the end of February we’ll have another good marker along the way.

MR BRENDE: Thank you. When Professor Schwab and I met with you in your office in December, planning for your visit here in Davos, we also touched on a possibility for private sector to contribute, if there was a breakthrough. Any further reflections on that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We did have a good conversation about that, Borge. There’s not much role for the private sector today, but if we’re successful, if we can make a substantial step towards achieving the denuclearization and create the right conditions, it’ll be the private sector that sits there, looming in the background, that I know the North Koreans understand they need, whether that’s power for the people of the country, whether it’s to install the infrastructure that is so desperately needed in North Korea. Those things will certainly have a government component to them, but there’ll be an enormous private sector push that will be required to achieve the economic growth in North Korea that will ultimately lead to the stability that we’re all looking for.

And so the specter, the specter of private sector companies who are prepared to invest in North Korea and to assist North Korea if we’re able to achieve that full denuclearization that I know the entire world wants, the private sector will be an important player in achieving the final elements of the agreement as well.