Darren McCaffrey spoke to Mike Pompeo on a number of issues regarding the US and Europe. Trade tensions have risen ever since the Trump administration put tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports. The American president has been a vocal supporter of Brexit – something clearly damaging to the European Union. He’s also directed European countries to reject business from Huawei, the Chinese tech giant. On top of all this he has described Europe as a “foe” and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. as “foolishly nasty”.
Mike Pompeo has been US Secretary of State since April 2018. In that time he has played a role in organising the 2018 North-Korea United States Summit. He has lead negotiation with the country since then, including working with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Pyongyang. He has described Israel as “everything we want the entire Middle East to look like”, being supportive of Israel during its conflict with Iran in March. He announced the United States’ recognition of Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president while relations with the official president, Nicolás Maduro, worsened. Then in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s death, he disputed the CIA report which found Saudi Arabia to be the likely assassins of the late journalist.
Pompeo rejected the idea that his administration had changed their mind on talking to Iran without pre-conditions:
“President Trump said well over a year ago, that he was prepared to meet without any preconditions willing to talk to the Iranians about the full range of their malign activity, their missile program, their nuclear program. This is not new.”
And when asked if the US had diverged with Europe on relations with Iran he disagreed:
“No not at its core. Absolutely not. In fact, I saw I saw a foreign minister Foreign Secretary Hunt. He said just yesterday we share a common view of the threat from Iran. We have departed ways on the JCPOA.”
The JCPOA is the Iran nuclear deal which the US withdrew from. It was signed in 2015 by Iran and the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia. This was intended to significantly limit Iran’s nuclear arms programme until 2031 in exchange for over $100 billion worth of lifted sanctions.
“That technical piece we disagree on but the thrust, the goal, the risk, the threat… I think Europeans and Americans share very common understanding about.”
Europe and Brexit
The discussion then turned to European affairs. Pompeo was asked what he thought the state of EU-US relation was in:
“I think it’s fantastic relations. I hear folks talk about the stress and strains. I meet with my European partners constantly.”
“There’s all kinds of things where we might have a moment where we don’t share a common path forward. But it’s always the case that our shared value sets our shared understandings of the world, our perceptions of common threats to democracy and freedom and liberty around the world. Those always prevail and they will here again too.”
When questioned on Trump’s confrontational rhetoric with the EU, calling them a “foe”, Pompeo said this was a matter of the president wanting trade relations to change:
“I think what President Trump meant there was that there are places where we think the United States economy has not been treated fairly.”
“You know we can’t sell our agricultural products in most countries inside the European Union yet the European Union can sell their products into the United States. That’s not fair, that’s not reciprocal. No one would think that you would set up a trade regime that would permit that to continue to happen, to have unequal tariffs and non-tariff barriers. That’s what he’s trying to get to.”
Pompeo had little to say on Trump’s stance on Brexit other than that it was the will of the British people. When asked if his administration was supporting Britain exiting the EU because it damages Europe, he said his country wasn’t involved:
“Well Brexit was a decision made by the people of the United Kingdom, as you’ll recall. There was a referendum where the people of that sovereign nation voted. So this isn’t about some American decision. This was a fundamentally democratic decision.”
“Brexit will proceed, not because of something any third party says, but because the people of the United Kingdom have demanded it.”
Regarding whether Britain would be given priority over the EU when it came to future trade deals, Pompeo said trade was encouraged with both and that “we’ve got to see” how Brexit goes to determine who gets priority. He claimed he has “no idea what the sequence will be.”
The interview also covered the United States’ aggressive stance on Huawei. Recently Trump had placed pressure on Europe to reject doing business with the Chinese firm. But Darren asked why Europe should trust Trump when he doesn’t even trust his own intelligence agency.
Pompeo said the agency wasn’t infallible:
“Look, I used to run the Central Intelligence Agency. There’s no doubt the intelligence committee gets things wrong from time to time but their overall body of work is excellent, and to be relied upon and trusted.”
“Western countries, liberal democracies share a common value set. The Chinese don’t share that value set and so their infrastructure, their I.T. systems and in a particular case a company called Huawei, are fundamentally different.”
“The incentive if you are Huawei is to work with the Chinese government. They have three members of the Communist party that sit on their board of directors.”