The White House has defended President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the UK in June when he attends the G7 summit, as travel restrictions remain for other Americans amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Press secretary Jen Psaki fielded criticism on Friday towards the US leader after details were announced of his first overseas trip, despite advising citizens not to travel abroad.
It will be the first face-to-face meeting for the global leaders since the outbreak of the pandemic, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron.
When questioned about his travel plans, Ms Psaki told the White House press room that a diplomatic trip for the president was “slightly different” than travel for the ordinary citizen, as captured in a video posted on Twitter by Vox.com.
She said: “Well, I would say I think most Americans would see it as slightly different from the president of the United States – I’m not suggesting you’re saying otherwise – but as a president of the United States making a diplomatic trip, abiding by Covid protocols and flying on Air Force One, than whether it is safe for mass numbers to fly internationally.”
Ms Psaki added: “Obviously, everybody wants that to be reopened. Europeans, we do, American people who would like to travel. But, you know those conversations are really happening between health and medical experts and they [will] make an evaluation based on what they think is safe for the American public.”
In a statement announcing the trip this morning, the White House said: “This trip will highlight [President Biden’s] commitment to restoring our alliances, revitalising the transatlantic relationship, and working in close cooperation with our allies and multilateral partners to address global challenges and better secure America’s interests.
“President Biden will attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall, UK, which is happening from 11-13 June, where he will reinforce our commitment to multilateralism, work to advance key U.S. policy priorities on public health, economic recovery, and climate change, and demonstrate solidarity and shared values among major democracies. He will also hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders, including British prime minister Boris Johnson.”
The summit will be held in Carbis Bay in Cornwall, described by Johnson as “the perfect location”.
Leaders from Australia, South Korea, the EU and India will also attend as guests.
Last year’s 46th meeting, which included the core members the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan, was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Following the summit the president will travel to Brussels, in Belgium, where he will participate in the NATO Summit on 14 June and “affirm the United States’ commitment to NATO, transatlantic security, and collective defence.”
During that visit he will also take part in a US-EU summit.
“The leaders will discuss a common agenda to ensure global health security, stimulate [a] global economic recovery, tackle climate change, enhance digital and trade cooperation, strengthen democracy, and address mutual foreign policy concerns,” the statement added.
The group first met, with six members, in 1975 to discuss solutions to global economic crises, before Canada joined a year later.
Each year the meeting is held in the country of a different member state, tackling issues including climate change, global security, trade and health.
The UK will be the first foreign nation visited by President Biden in his capacity as leader of the United States.
Last month he spoke to the UK’s prime minister over the phone and the White House said in a statement that “the two leaders underscored their continued commitment to combating Covid-19 and ensuring global health security.”
It added: “They discussed the importance of developing ambitious climate goals, noting the opportunities provided by the Leaders Summit on Climate and the UK’s G7 presidency. They agreed to work closely together on shared foreign policy priorities, including China and Iran. The leaders also affirmed the importance of preserving political stability in Northern Ireland.”