Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Joe Kernen, Andrew Sorkin, and Rebecca Quick of CNBC’s Squawk Box

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

QUESTION:  Joining us now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  Mr. Secretary, it’s great to have you on, especially today.  And we’re going to get very quickly to some of your recent comments, but the lead story in the Journal, Mr. Secretary, the virus is widening the rift between the U.S. and China.  And just for argument’s sake, I just want to go back to something you said recently, “Today we’re finally realizing the degree to which the Chinese Communist Party is truly hostile to the United States and our values.”  Do you remember saying that?  Because it wasn’t yesterday or last week.  That was October.  That was pre-virus.  So, we were already there, and I assume in your view things have deteriorated from there.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, Joe, good morning.  President Trump in his campaign singled out China as a challenge, a threat to the United States, something that we had to deal with.  It’s not political.  It’s not partisan.  Republican administrations, Democrat administrations all ignored this rising challenge.  The President has taken it on in multiple ways.  We’ve seen it most publicly with respect to the trade deals that he’s been trying to get – fairness, reciprocity, making sure they don’t steal our intellectual property, all the things that matter an enormous amount to the economic well-being of the United States.

And then we’ve seen now recently with this virus, we’ve seen precisely – this is a symptom, right?  Authoritarian regimes go to ground.  They cover.  They deceive.  They put out disinformation.  They deny their people individual liberties.  All the things that we’ve known for so long.  We’ve dealt with communist regimes before.  We’re seeing it now again.  And President Trump is working diligently to make sure we secure freedom for the American people and do the things we need to do with respect to China to make sure that this next century is one where America can continue to thrive.

QUESTION:  The origin of the virus has been in the news for a while, in fact.  We had Senator Tom Cotton on weeks ago, probably months I would even say, and we had him on again recently, and said that the evidence has increased, as you have said, that maybe it originated not perhaps designed by the Chinese, but in a lab that wasn’t maintained at the highest level of safety standards that you would hope in a P4 lab and that maybe it escaped.  But Senator Cotton emphasizes that the evidence right now is circumstantial and probably will never be anything more than circumstantial.  So I’m just wondering whether you have something that’s not circumstantial or whether it’s helpful when all China is going to do is say that that’s disinformation from you, and then we say, well, when you say the U.S. military introduced it, that’s disinformation from the Communist Party, and we’re almost left with a he said/he said, or however you want to phrase it.  Is it productive if you don’t have direct evidence to say that there is a lot of it?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Joe, look, you know this; one man’s direct is another man’s circumstantial.  Here’s what we know for sure.  We know for sure that this virus originated in Wuhan, China and that the disease emanated around the world and the Chinese Communist Party covered this up.  We have been working diligently and are working diligently today to get the Chinese Communist Party to help us identify patient zero, where this began, how this came to be.  And this isn’t about politics.  This isn’t about partisanship.  This is about protecting Americans’ tomorrow.  This is an ongoing crisis.  The world’s epidemiologists still don’t know the origins of this virus.  The reason that we continue to ask for transparency and for a reliable partner in China is because it matters going forward.

Joe, not only do we have this current pandemic that’s taking place that we still have to figure out how to get therapeutics and get vaccines to market, all the things that we need this information that only the Chinese Communist Party has in its possession.  They are the only ones that can help the world resolve this today and for our American security.  But we got to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

You made a reference to the absence of high-quality standards inside of these labs.  The Chinese Communist Party runs a bunch of labs inside of China.  This is not the first time there has been a risk.  The SARS virus when it broke out, there were leaks from their labs.  We got to make sure that we get our arms around this, not only for today, but to protect the world going forward.

This is serious business.  I think the world can see the enormous economic pain that has been inflicted on the globe and now a quarter million lives, as reported.  I would argue the Chinese number’s not worth a darn, as you suggested.  A quarter million lives destroyed as a result of what happened in Wuhan, and the Chinese Government has an obligation to help us figure out how to make sure there aren’t increased lives lost as we move forward.

QUESTION:  Andrew has a question, Mr. Secretary.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Joe.  Mr. Secretary —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good morning.

QUESTION:  — in terms of the strategy of – good morning to you – of raising the rhetoric and perhaps the tensions with China, one of the things – and we’ve talked about it on the show over the past two days – that some health care professionals, even people within the diplomatic community, have mentioned is that right now, at least in this very moment, we are still very reliant on China for access to PPE and certain supplies that will be necessary for tests that we need right now and also for some of the drug development later in terms of supply chain.  And so what do you think the risk is towards raising some of these issues and raising some of the tension in terms of whether that’s going to put any of those supplies at risk or in jeopardy?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We have an obligation to be truthful to the American people.  This is what democracies do.  We’re not raising the rhetoric.  We’re simply trying to protect the world from a global pandemic by sharing what we know and asking the Chinese Communist Party to do what they say they want to do.  They say they want to be a nation that participates in the global economy.  They say they want to be cooperative.  They say they love the World Health Organization.  Well, then do the right thing.  Share the information that you’re required to under international health regulations with the World Health Organization.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  This isn’t about rhetoric.  We’re not raising the rhetoric.  We’re trying to get the data set to save lives.

QUESTION:  The – what we did initially with the first phase of the trade negotiations, it was taken positively because of the prospect for much more progress being made in subsequent negotiations, Mr. Secretary.  Would you say that we still should be optimistic that anything can happen between these two countries with the way the rift is widening at this point based on the pandemic?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We’re prepared to go work on these matters in good faith, just as the Trump administration has done for three years now, Joe.  So, the answer to that will turn on the decisions that the Chinese Communist Party leadership makes.  If they want to engage in the world, if they want to protect property rights, if they want to conduct fair and reciprocal trade, if they’re interested in that – which they tell us they are – then yeah, I think there’s a path forward to do that.

If they choose a different path, if they choose a path where they continue to operate in the way they’ve operated for the last 25 years, President Trump is just going to say “nope, that doesn’t work for the American people and the American worker,” and we’re going to head down a different path.  It will be – it will ultimately be up to them about whether they want to conduct trade in a way that is consistent with global practices.


QUESTION:  Secretary Pompeo, do you worry about the impact on tariffs, what that impact could potentially mean for businesses and consumers here in the United States, at a time when we’re facing unprecedented losses of jobs?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’m most concerned that China do what’s right for America’s workers and employers.  We’ve seen unfair trade relationship for an awfully long time.  President Trump has made a hallmark of this administration fixing that, so we can get our economy going, growing, doing the things that he promised he would do all along.  It’s what the trade team – Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Mnuchin – have been working on for a long time.  I hope we can get it done in a way – the President has said he’s happy to have no tariffs, no barriers, no nontariff barriers, free trade, reciprocal trade.  That’s what we’re shooting for.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, just getting back quickly to the origin of the virus there, I was under the impression, and Dr. Fauci has made some comments, that it has been determined that maybe it escaped from a lab perhaps, but that the notion that it was designed or weaponized or created by the Chinese has been taken off the table.  But some recent comments you had are that even that you’re not completely convinced that this wasn’t actually made in a lab by the Chinese.  What can you add to that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’ve seen some suggest that that’s what I said.  They were aiming to confuse and try and create friction inside the United States Government.  The fact is that the Intelligence Community has conducted its analysis with the information that it has available.  It has said that this was not a manmade virus.  I see no reason to dispute that.

The question that the Chinese Communist Party has to help the world answer is:  How did this come to be?  Where did it come from?  How did it get in the wild?  Where is patient zero?  All the things that free, freedom-loving nations that want to protect life around the world would share information on.  We still don’t have the virus sample in spite of repeated requests for it, and we need it.

QUESTION:  The action of the Chinese when this happened in terms of certain doctors not being able to speak out and – I mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t from the wet markets, I guess, but some of the actions would certainly raise questions for how transparent everything was.

I think we’ve got to go.  Andrew, do you have a quick one for Mr. Secretary?

QUESTION:  I have a very quick one, Mr. Secretary, which is this.


QUESTION:  In terms of sharing information, but in this instance also sharing drugs, remdesivir, which we’re all thrilled and hope is going to help so many people, is going to be taken control of by the federal government in terms of its distribution.  And the question becomes how that’s going to be prioritized.  We all imagine it’s going to be prioritized within the United States, but what the implications of that may be internationally as we become or are reliant on other countries in part to help us with supply chains of the drugs in the future.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, Andrew, look, I hope when we get to each of these opportunities, whether it’s for therapeutics, things like remdesivir, all of the opportunities that I am confident we will generate, we’re going to work hard to make sure that we get this every place that is needed, whether that’s here in the United States or elsewhere.

As the President said, we don’t care who figures out how to solve this problem from an epidemiological standpoint; we want the whole world to resolve this crisis, this health crisis.

QUESTION:  Okay.  We second that, echo that sentiment.  Mr. Secretary, thanks once again.  Thanks for being with us.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Joe, Andrew, thank you all.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thanks.


* This article was originally published here


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