ROME — President Biden capped off a long weekend of diplomacy on Sunday with a boastful proclamation of America’s renewed vigor on the global stage, taking credit for what he touted as breakthroughs on climate change, tax evasion and Iran’s nuclear ambitions at the end. from a group of top 20 that missed out on some of its biggest global opponents.
Bolstered by a three-day return to the interpersonal negotiations that shaped his political career and continue to be emotionally overcome by an extended Friday audience with Pope Francis, Mr. Biden shook off questions about his sagging poll numbers at home and projected new optimism for his shaky domestic policy agenda.
With a smile, he acknowledged contradictions and stumbling blocks to his long-term ambitions in areas such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And he claimed to have made significant progress at a summit that marked a major victory for his administration — the approval of a global pact to set minimum corporate tax rates — along with a deal between the United States and Europe that would lift the tariffs, including those on European steel and aluminum.
In other areas, such as climate change and restoring a nuclear deal with Iran, the summit has yielded few concrete actions.
But the president repeatedly told reporters that the weekend had demonstrated the strength of American engagement on the global stage, reviving relations that had frayed under his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.
“They listened,” said Mr. Biden. “Everyone came to see me. They wanted to know what our views were. We helped direct what happened here. The United States of America is the most crucial part of this whole agenda and we did it.”
Over the course of his Roman holiday, Mr. Biden sought to revive relations with the French over a soured submarine deal, bask in the blessing of the tax deal that clinched his government after years of negotiations, and advance more ambitious climate pledges. to a worldwide conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which he traveled to.
The president left behind the chaos and disappointment of Washington, where recent polls show voters’ disapproval of his performance in office is mounting and Democrats remain divided over a few bills that would collectively spend $3 trillion to advance his broad domestic agenda. to assist . NBC News polls show that seven in ten Americans and nearly half of Democrats believe America is heading in the wrong direction.
But after days of indulging in diplomacy at a time when bipartisan cooperation is scarce at home, Mr. Biden came forward for his Sunday press conference, proclaiming hopes that both bills would pass the House within the next week and the polls would be trivial.
“The polls are going up and down and up and down,” Biden said. “Look at every other president. The same thing happened. But that’s not why I ran.”
One of the reasons Biden sought the presidency, after more than four decades as a senator and vice president, was for meetings like the Group of 20, where he is able to practice the flesh-pressing politics he has long enjoyed.
World leaders have been slow to reconvene in person as the pandemic has spread into its second year, but Mr Biden attended a Group of 7 meeting in England in June, which served as a sort of diplomatic icebreaker for rich countries. The Rome summit brought together a larger group of leaders, although some of Biden’s biggest rivals on the world stage, such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, stayed at home.
Mr Biden and other world leaders said the return to face-to-face conversations has changed the dynamic.
Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister whose country hosted the summit, said at a news conference that those in attendance were more willing than in the past to tackle climate change, inequality and other issues that required collective action.
“Something has changed,” Mr Draghi said.
Mr Biden had hour-long meetings with leaders of varying influence at the summit.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was given 80 minutes. On Sunday, Mr. Biden also met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines, with a shared pledge to continue a series of disagreements, largely in view of Turkey’s influence in several critical regions, including Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Mr Biden said there were no substitutes for: “looking someone straight in the eye when you’re trying to get something done.”
But in many areas the summit delivered more rhetoric than action.
An agreement reached by leaders on Sunday promised to cut funding for coal-fired power plants in countries outside their own countries and to “continue efforts” to keep the average global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
“We remain committed to the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and work to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” it said. the leaders in a statement.
The lack of further progress angered activists and predicted the difficulties Biden could face if he attends a high-stakes climate convention in Glasgow on Monday.
Biden admitted the irony in another effort he made at the summit — for oil and gas-producing countries to ramp up production to cut driving and heating costs — at a time when he is also urging the world to turn away from fossil fuels. fuels. But he said the transition from oil and gas to lower-emission alternatives would not happen immediately, and in the meantime he was trying to protect consumers from price shocks.
The summit’s climate commitments quickly drew criticism from environmentalists. Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, called the agreement between the leaders “weak” and said it “lacked ambition and vision.” Jörn Kalinski, senior adviser at Oxfam, said it was “muted, unambitious and without concrete plans”.
Mr Biden offered only step-by-step progress on the issue of unraveling global supply chains, which was the subject of a 14-nation side meeting he hosted Sunday afternoon. Mr Biden announced that he is signing an executive order on defense supplies that will “enable us to respond more quickly and respond to shortcomings” in supply chains.
He also unveiled a deal to roll back tariffs on European steel and aluminum, an agreement between the United States and the European Union that he said would benefit American consumers and “prove to the world that democracies are tackling hard problems.” and provide solid solutions.”
There were no resolutions over a protracted dispute over Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system. Erdogan has refused to relinquish the purchase, despite sanctions and removal from a US defense program to develop the F-35 stealth fighter jet. And Mr Biden did not agree to Mr Erdogan buying F-16 fighter jets to update his fleet with money it had already spent on the F-35s.
But as his press conference drew to a close, the engagement Biden cherished the longest was the one that started his journey: his meeting with Pope Francis.
Asked by a reporter about criticism from some conservative American Catholics that officials like Biden, who is Catholic but supports legal access to abortion, should be denied Communion, Mr. Biden said the issue and his meeting with the Pope “were personal. ”
The Pope, Mr Biden had said Friday, called him a “good Catholic” and said he should continue to receive Communion.
On Sunday, Mr. Biden began to think long and hard about his relationship with Francis and his admiration for him. He told how the Pope advised his family after the death of Mr Biden’s eldest son Beau, a tragedy he equated with the loss of “a real part of my soul.”
At times, Biden choked, saying the Pope had “become someone who has brought great comfort to my family when my son died”.
The two men, Mr Biden added, are keeping in touch.
He walked off the stage without asking any further questions.
Carlotta Gall, Jason Horowitz and Somini Sengupta reported.