Biden meets with Pope and Macron ahead of G20 summit

By Kara Fox, Aditi Sangal, Kathryn Snowdon, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 4:31 p.m. ET, October 29, 2021
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10:53 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

National security adviser notes neither Russia nor China's leaders attending G20 in person, citing Covid-19 

From CNN's Betsy Klein

National security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a briefing at the White House on October 26.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a briefing at the White House on October 26. (Susan Walsh/AP)

National security adviser Jake Sullivan singled out Russia and China Tuesday ahead of the G20 summit, noting that neither country’s leader will attend the summit in person as he touted unity between the US and Europe. 

“I would point out that neither China nor Russia will be attending the summit in person at the leader level, largely, it seems, due to Covid-19,” Sullivan told reporters Tuesday ahead of Biden’s trip to Rome for the summit. 

He continued, “The US and Europe will be there. They’ll be there energized and united at both the G20 and COP26, driving the agenda, shaping the agenda as it relates to these significant international issues.” 

In an allusion to a diplomatic spat with France regarding nuclear submarines last month, which he referred to as “a lot of commentary in recent weeks about the state of the transatlantic relationship,” Sullivan said the US and Europe were coming to this week’s summit “aligned and united on the major elements of the global agenda,” citing cooperation on Covid-19, climate initiatives, and trade and technology.

Biden, Sullivan said, will be meeting with “key European partners” at both summits to “coordinate policies on Iran, on supply chains, on global infrastructure efforts, and so much else.”

The President will use both summits to advance his priorities.

“You’re going to see firsthand in living color what foreign policy for the middle class is all about,” he said, citing the global minimum tax, a focus on supply chains and energy prices, and his “Build Back Better World” climate initiative.

4:33 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Biden's meeting with Pope will focus on personal relationship, climate, migration, income inequality

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Pope Francis arrives to hold a general audience at the Vatican on October 27.
Pope Francis arrives to hold a general audience at the Vatican on October 27. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden’s audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican will touch on their personal relationship as Catholics and other key world issues, national security adviser Jake Sullivan previewed Tuesday.

“The main focus of the meeting with the Pope – first, there'll be the obvious personal dimension. The President and the Pope have met three times before. This will be their fourth meeting, they've exchanged letters, and they will have a chance just to reflect, each of them, on their view of what's happening in the world, policy issues,” Sullivan said.

He added, “Of course, in the international realm, they’ll be talking about climate and migration and income inequality and other issues that are very top of mind for both of them.”

Sullivan declined to field a question on a pending court case regarding abortion and restrictive state laws on the matter.

4:29 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Here's a look at Biden's schedule in Europe

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The White House laid out President Biden's foreign schedule in Europe ahead of his departure on Thursday.

  • Today, he will have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican before bilateral meetings with Italy's prime minister and president. He'll also meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, their first face-to-face since Biden's agreement to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines shook the alliance.
  • On Saturday and Sunday, Biden attends meetings of the G20 focused on the global economy and international affairs. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden would also engage individual leaders on the margins on global supply chain issues and energy prices.
  • He'll travel onward to Scotland for the COP26 climate summit. There, Biden will deliver a "major address," Sullivan said, along with other individual meetings with fellow leaders.

4:25 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Biden arrives in Europe with his presidency hanging in the balance back home

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Rome-Fiumicino International Airport on October 29.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Rome-Fiumicino International Airport on October 29. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Joe Biden is in Europe for his sophomore trip abroad, but it’s a markedly different trip than his first.

In June, Biden was riding high on his election victory, where he sought to assure the world that “America is back.” But now he’s arrived in Europe with that initial glow having worn off and as a massive domestic agenda -- and his entire presidency -- hangs in the balance.

Biden’s first stop is Rome, where he’s meeting leaders of the world’s richest nations at the annual G20 summit. There, he’ll attempt to unify US partners against the world’s most pressing challenges. But he’s struggled to effectively referee back at home, having left Washington on Thursday after House Democrats again delayed a major vote on a sweeping infrastructure and spending bill amid party divisions.

Since the last time he went abroad, Biden's political fortunes have suffered as Americans grow weary of the coronavirus pandemic and economic side-effects begin having an effect on everyday life. The President's approval ratings have fallen below 50% for the first time.

Officials said the principal objective of the G20 was to cement support for a global minimum tax, another key element of Biden's domestic economic agenda. Biden also plans to focus intently on supply chain issues and energy prices with leaders at the G20.

The stalled infrastructure and spending vote however, remains a significant setback for Biden's trip, as he had hoped the package, filled with social programs and climate protections investments, would have passed before arriving at the UN Climate Conference in the UK. The framework includes $555 billion in measures to combat climate change.

Biden was hoping to use that package as leverage to push other nations to make significant cuts to carbon emissions at the climate summit.

But now, it looks like he’ll be showing up to COP26 in Glasgow next week empty handed.

Still, the White House believes that Biden's foreign counterparts are astute enough to recognize that the president is trying to secure new climate action, even if he doesn't do so by the time he arrives in Scotland.