Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok at a Press Availability

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a joint press availability with Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok in the Great Salon Room in The Hague, the Netherlands on June 3, 2019. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]




MODERATOR: (In progress) gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference. We’ll first have some statements and then there’s room for four questions. I’ll give the floor to Minister Blok.

FOREIGN MINISTER BLOK: Well, first of all, it’s a great pleasure to welcome Secretary Pompeo here in the Netherlands. In the coming days, Netherlands together with the U.S. will proudly host the Global Entrepreneurial Summit. This afternoon, Mike and I concentrated on the political cooperation between our countries in other areas.

The relationship between the United States and the Netherlands is a special one. It is the longest (inaudible) peaceful relationship between the United States and any foreign country. We are some of the most (inaudible) and entrepreneurial countries in the world. We believe in entrepreneurship; it has brought prosperity and progress to both our countries and beyond. The Netherlands is proud to be a fixture in the top five of foreign investors in the United States, and vice-versa, the U.S. is our largest investor.

We also both believe in a safer and more stable world. We are strong partners in the international arena, whether on our shared concern about the unrest in Venezuela, our joint commitment to address malign cyber activity, or our strong commitment to the transatlantic alliance. The foundation of our close security cooperation dates back almost 75 years with the contribution of American troops and other allied forces to the liberation of the Netherlands. Nearly 10,000 U.S. soldiers who lost their lives in World War II are honored at the U.S. cemetery in Margraten in the south of the Netherlands.

It was an honor to be at the yearly memorial ceremony with Ambassador Hoekstra a week ago. We will never forget the brave American men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Freedom is not free and it should never be taken for granted. Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Foreign Minister Blok, thank you. I’m truly honored to be here today. It’s my first trip here as the Secretary of State and we’re here in part for the Global Entrepreneurial Summit. You all have done a fantastic job. I think this will make the economic connections between our two countries even more special.

There was, of course, as you referred to, this long history of our relationship. It was the Dutch, in addition to being early settlers in America, that first acknowledged American independence back in 1776 by firing an 11-gun salute to one of our warships out in the Caribbean. Years later, a U.S. president who happened to be of Dutch heritage traveled to the same port to thank your country for this gesture. His name was Franklin Roosevelt. A long history, a rich history, and one that you and I have an obligation to try to continue to improve.

Today, Foreign Minister Blok and I discussed a wide range of topics to strengthen these historic bonds, especially considering our close security work and the shared concerns we have about security. We made progress on this mission just last year when Prime Minister Rutte and President Trump announced the Chapeau Agreement, which facilitates the defense cooperation between our two nations.

In recent years, our countries have partnered in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and also at NATO, the cornerstone of our defense relationship, and I’d like to thank the Netherlands for recently stepping up its involvement in Afghanistan under NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. It’s also important too that we maintain our cooperation in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission as Russia remains eager to increase its influence across Europe. In addition to its military expansionism, energy is one tool it seeks to use to accomplish that goal, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is instrumental to those efforts. We must work together to make sure that Europe has a diversified, secure energy supply.

China has inroads too on this continent demand our attention. China wants to be the dominant economic and military power of the world, spreading its authoritarian vision for society and its corrupt practices worldwide. We talked today about these shared concerns and as well as the concerns about technology – infrastructure and technology and the 5G infrastructure network. We’ve been clear. Our ask is that our allies and our partners and our friends don’t do anything that would endanger our shared security interests or restrict our ability to share sensitive information. Friends speak to each other quite honestly. We had the opportunity to do that today.

We’re not afraid of a little competition from China. I know the people of the Netherlands aren’t either. We want to compete on a free, fair, open, reciprocal basis, and I know if we do that, both the Netherlands and the United States will continue to be successful economic countries.

The great thing about it and the reason that we’re doing this entrepreneurship summit together is our two nations share a healthy culture of entrepreneurship, and it’s those ideas that bring many from around the world here today. This is the ninth such summit. We have more than a thousand entrepreneurs and investors here, policymakers from over 120 countries, and I want to thank Foreign Minister Blok and the Dutch Government for the resources you have committed to this effort. It wasn’t easy to take on, but it has been successful. I know it will be even further. It’s a testament to the strong partnership between our two countries. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Now there’s room for four questions, two for the Dutch press, two for the international press. We’ll start off with the Dutch press: Hanneke Keultjes, Algemeen Dagblad.

QUESTION: A question for both Secretary Pompeo and Minister Blok: At the GES, entrepreneurs are hoping to meet future investors, but at the same time, they are probably concerned about the impact of U.S. policy on international trade. Could you reflect on that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure. You want to go first? I’m happy to go first.


SECRETARY POMPEO: Happy to go first. They shouldn’t be concerned at all about U.S. policy on international trade. We want fair, reciprocal trade, no tariff barriers, no non-tariff barriers, low-cost free capital movement all across the world. We’re looking for the most wide open, entrepreneurial, rules-based system that trade can possibly engender. Those are the kind of things I think the people of the Netherlands should be excited about it. I think that’s why we’ve had such a great turnout for this entrepreneurial summit here today.

FOREIGN MINISTER BLOK: Well, both our countries thank their prosperity to be open, free-market economies. And as I just mentioned, U.S. is the largest investor in the Netherlands; we are fifth-largest in the U.S., creating over 800,000 jobs. So we don’t have to convince each other about the importance of free trade. Of course, I am well aware of the debate that is going on, and the European Union is of course negotiating on behalf of the Netherlands with our full support with the aim of, in the end, to reducing tariffs. It’s in the interest of nobody having tariffs that make trade more difficult or more expensive.

MS ORTAGUS: Ed Wong, The New York Times.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you both for taking questions. I would like to follow up on Secretary Pompeo’s mention of China in this question. I have a couple questions; the first one’s for both of you. Many of the companies at the summit and other Western partners are eager to do business with China. What policies are your governments considering, if any, to try to mitigate the compromises that these companies might be pressured to make in relation to Western values, free speech, human rights, or national security issues as they engage with the China market and the Chinese Government? And how concerned are you about these issues?

Then one question for each of you related to China. Secretary Pompeo, for many months now you’ve spoken forcefully on a new human rights issue: the detention of Muslims in the Xinjiang region. When will the Trump administration take action using the tools of targeted sanctions on Chinese officials or entity listings of Chinese companies on this issue?

And Minister Blok, what specific discussions are your government officials having among themselves and with the United States on 5G communications technology and (inaudible) Huawei?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So thanks. Your first question, we’re very concerned that Western companies, American companies and others, when they enter the Chinese market aren’t treated the same way that Chinese companies are treated when they enter those Western markets. And then in some cases, they’re required to compromise – forced technology transfer or worse. This is precisely what President Trump has been trying to negotiate with the Government of China, trying to reduce that risk dramatically by ensuring that we had a shared set of rules, a common understanding of what that investment ought to look like, and allowing Chinese companies to invest in America only on the same terms that American companies have the opportunity to invest in China without the risk that their property, their intellectual property will be expropriated, or that they would have to have a partner that had access to some of the information and technology that they had inside of their company.

We’re concerned about it, and it’s what we’re trying to work with the Chinese Government to eliminate. It’s been going on for an awfully long time, and this administration is the first that has taken this threat seriously and effort in trying to fix it.

Your second question is about the humanitarian situation in Xinjiang. I don’t get ahead of any decision with respect to sanctions or how we’re going to approach it. We’ve talked with the Chinese Government, we’ve spoken publicly about humanitarian violations that are taking place. But we will continue to do that, and we will continue to evaluate the appropriateness of taking other actions connected to that with the singular mission set to improve human rights inside of China, to protect these individuals from what’s taking place there today.

FOREIGN MINISTER BLOK: With regard to your first question, I recently published a policy paper on the Dutch and China policy where we describe actually the very broad relationship we have, ranging from engaged trade and investments to also cooperation in the field of fighting climate change, and for instance cooperating within the United Nations where China is an important contributor to peacekeeping operations.

So in this strategy paper, we described that we’d like to engage and cooperate wherever possible; the goal set would be clear and outspoken on areas of concern, like human rights – situation of Uighurs, Christian minorities – and also about the security concerns. Our security services have been clear about attempts for industrial espionage and cyber actions. So security is an important part of our China policy.

And with regard to the upcoming 5G option, of course we share our worries with the U.S. and other countries, and as you probably know, there is a specialist committee working now to decide on what criteria to add to the 5G option and somewhere this summer those criteria will be published.

MODERATOR: Second question for the Dutch press. Eva Wiesing, NOS.

QUESTION: Thank you. You identified concerns about China, about Russia, but the Netherlands has a really open economy and we do business with China and with Russia. How can the GES help to improve this open relationship with open trade? And did you have some specific conversation now about how to engage in that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well – is that directed to me?


SECRETARY POMPEO: The United States is a very open economy, too, and we have connections to Chinese businesses and Russians’ businesses, long held. We have – we brought no ill will towards those economies growing. Indeed, we’re more than fine with their work, but it has to be on a fair, reciprocal, open basis. It has to be engaged in in a way that’s consistent with where those nations sit and the trade rules that are established. It is – it’s not open trade when one country can invest in another one basically just fundamentally different. It’s not open trade when a country can come invest here in the Netherlands, but if a Netherlands company wants to invest in their country, they’ve got to submit their data to the Chinese Communist Party and hand over that information in ways that put real risk on that business and the protection of that business’ intellectual property.

So we hope this summit will create real opportunities for all the folks who have come here today, mostly companies that are looking to grow, a lot of truly global international players, but small or medium businesses as – medium-sized businesses as well. We hope they’ll find real opportunities, but it is imperative that government take actions to ensure that those markets are open to them so that we can sell American agriculture products into those places, so that we can sell American goods on terms that are fair and equal, reciprocal. Those are fundamental rules of how trade and international markets must work, and we’re determined to achieve that.

QUESTION: But aren’t you afraid that this could escalate the – all this trade – extra barriers?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re afraid that this unfair trade practice has been going on for decades, and no one resolved to fix it, and President Trump has resolved to fix it. I’ve heard folks talk about a trade war that’s been engaged in. If you look at the rules of trade between the United States and China over the past decades, the Chinese had a very unfair set of rules, and they have been after American markets in ways that are deeply inequitable. And their government is involved in their businesses in ways that America – American companies never will be and shouldn’t be. We’re simply trying to level this playing field, and when we do that, I’m confident that both nations will be successful and grow.

MODERATOR: Then the last question for the international press.

MS ORTAGUS: AFP, Francesco.

QUESTION: Thank you. To both of you, do you share President Trump’s view that the UK should leave the EU without a deal and without paying the divorce deal? And Secretary Pompeo, aren’t you concerned that in case of a no-deal Brexit, London might end up striking deals, trade deals that could present a risk, a security risk to the Western allies? And Mr. Blok, do you find President Trump’s comments on Brexit helpful for this complex European negotiation?

FOREIGN MINISTER BLOK: Well, you’re presently sitting in the Johan de Witthuis House. Johan de Witthuis was the strategist behind the first Dutch-English War, which consisted from a very successful raid for the English fleet that was moored on the River Medway, so it’s a very fitful place to ask this question. In spite of four Dutch-English wars, we still don’t agree about who has won how many of them. The UK is one of our closest allies, and has since those wars always been this, and we very much value our cooperation within Europe, within NATO. And we very much regret to see them go. It’s a divorce we didn’t ask for. And of course, we respect the outcome of their referendum, but we would rather not see them go. We are also one of their largest trading partners. The Port of Rotterdam is the main point of entry from Europe to the UK (inaudible).

So now the outcome of this referendum is there, our aim is to negotiate a withdrawal agreement and a political agreement, laying the basis for our future relationship, always are still very much engaged in an outcome involving both those agreements. And a hard Brexit I’m convinced will be negative for both the Netherlands as a large trading partner, but also for the UK itself.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Foreign Minister Blok, you all fought Britain several times. We only fought them once; I believe we’re 1 and 0. The sovereign nation of the United Kingdom will make its decision. The people voted; they voted to leave. And we will leave to them to decide the terms, the timing, and the sequence.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your time today. (Inaudible) final handshake, gentlemen.