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Quest Means Business
Ready To Accept Neutral Status; In-Person Peace Talks Resume Tomorrow In Istanbul; Joe Biden Takes Questions After Unveiling 2023 Budget Proposal; Biden: Make Billion Dollars, But Pay Your Fair Share; Ukraine Sparks Fear Of Fertilizer, Food Shortages; Controversial Oscars Draws Bumper T.V. Ratings. 3-4p ET
Aired March 28, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: We have an hour left to trade and a fairly mixed sort of day. Look at the big board, and you'll see exactly
what I mean, the way the market has traded all over. We were down sharply, but we've come back quite a lot. And actually, the losses were not that
significant even when they were all the way down.
So the market is holding its nerve, and we might even be positive before the end of the session. I wouldn't put money on it. Those are the markets
and the main events of the day.
Ahead of new talks with Russia, Ukraine's President says he'd accept neutrality in exchange for peace.
The White House proposes a new minimum tax on the rich, how minimum is minimum?
And a surge in ratings for the Oscars. Millions of people tuned in for that slap heard around the world. Question is, what happens next?
We are live tonight at EXPO 2020 Live from Dubai. It is Monday, it is March 28th. I'm Richard question, and yes, I mean business.
We begin tonight with Ukraine, of course, and a warning from the country that Russia is trying to cut off the capital and divide Ukraine into two.
Now, there are going to be in-person peace talks being held in Istanbul, so this warning comes at the last moment before them.
Ukraine's head of Military Intelligence have suggested that Russia is trying to create an occupied zone in the south. You can see it clearly on
the map here between where you have Crimea, which of course has already been annexed, and you have the disputed area, which is now of course
Donetsk and Luhansk and that would create the land bridge that Russia is trying to seek linking the Russian border to Crimea.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. It's only been able to reach it by the Kerch Straits, which you can see there. There is no land bridge per se.
The mayor of Mariupol in southeast Ukraine is calling for the city's complete evacuation as he says it is now in the hands of Russian occupiers
after nearly a month long siege.
Ben Wedeman joins me now. Ben, we will deal with the political stuff in just a moment. Let's just first of all, look at Mariupol, the
inevitability. I mean, Good Lord, who on Earth could withstand that much bombardment at that level and hope to survive?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a city, Richard, that has been under what can only be described as a medieval
siege. For weeks, no gas, no electricity, no water, dwindling food supplies, and therefore, the mayor has basically said that he is calling
for mass evacuations of the city's population because they simply cannot survive.
Now, the problem is that a pro-Russian separatist leader today said that daily, 1,700 people are being bussed out of the city to Russian-controlled
areas. The Ukrainian government says that this is forced deportation.
So the feeling is that despite the efforts of the defenders, despite the efforts of volunteers and the Ukrainian Army that this city may not be able
to hold out much longer. In fact, President Zelenskyy said in an interview yesterday with four Russian journalists online that he had spoken to the
mayor of Mariupol and said, if you must evacuate the city, the soldiers should evacuate the city.
The soldiers apparently he says said that no, they will continue to fight and die for this city that they want to leave at least with the dead, their
dead and their wounded, but the situation is so desperate. It's hard to imagine that whatever is left of the city in Ukrainian hands can hold out
for much longer -- Richard.
QUEST: Ben, the talks that are going to take place and this idea of Zelenskyy saying he would accept neutrality as the price for peace. Now
obviously, there's a long way to go between those statements in any agreement.
QUEST: But in your view, is this the start of something that could end up being a workable peace?
WEDEMAN: Well, this is one point that Vladimir Putin has demanded: Ukraine's neutrality. But what sort of neutrality? There has been
discussion, for instance, that the Russians want the Ukrainian Army to be limited to 50,000 soldiers. It is currently five times that number, and
certainly, for Ukraine to agree to something like that, many people would consider it suicide, given what's happened to this country in the last
So, for instance, we heard the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying last week that four out of six points had been agreed to between the
two sides, and we don't know precisely what that is, but perhaps those remaining two points are things that they simply cannot agree to.
So we've seen multiple negotiations between the two sides. But until now, nothing has really come out of them. And there is, I have to tell you,
having spoken to so many people here, there is a profoundly deep mistrust of Russian intentions, regardless of the words that are coming out of
But people look around, you just look around this city and see the destruction that has happened here. And people will tell you, actions have
spoken much louder than words -- Richard.
QUEST: Ben, thank you. Ben is in Ukraine tonight.
And as the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are set to resume their peace talks face-to-face, those talks taking place in Istanbul, President
Zelenskyy says that he is trying and ready to discuss Ukraine's official neutrality as part of the talks. He also says that any potential deal would
have to be approved by a referendum.
And he told the independent Russian journalists that he is responding to Russia's stated reasons for invading.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Security guarantees and neutrality, the non-nuclear status of our state: We are
ready to pursue this. This is the most important point. This was the first point of principle for the Russian Federation, as I recall.
And as far as I remember, they started the war because of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: So Peter Westmacott is with us, former British Ambassador to the U.S., France and Turkey, and of course author of the excellent book, "They
Call it Diplomacy: 40 Years of Representing Britain Abroad."
You described Vladimir Putin, in three words, Peter, what were they?
PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S., FRANCE, AND TURKEY: I think I said he was dishonest, reckless, and thuggish. Well,
that was about seven or eight years ago.
QUEST: Have your view changed?
WESTMACOTT: Frankly, no.
At the time, Richard, he was busy trying to fabricate evidence to suggest that it wasn't Russians or Russian weapons that shot down the Malaysian
Airlines aircraft over Ukraine with the loss of almost 300 lives and was busy also trying to fabricate other bits of disinformation justifying
Russia's presence in eastern Ukraine.
And I'm afraid that what's happened since then has not really led me to change my opinion. The Russian Embassy complained what I'd said because I
was then a British diplomat, but I didn't get any dressing down from London and I suspect if I used the same language today, not many people would
QUEST: So this idea of talks over neutrality, and Zelenskyy is pretty much in agreement that neutrality per se could be part of the deal. But as Ben
Wedeman says, there are a raft of other requirements from Putin and Zelenskyy that really make the neutrality the red herring.
WESTMACOTT: Well, I think there is a lot in that. What I hear from the old oligarch that I've spoken to, is that Crimea remains in Putin's mind non-
negotiable. But there's a lot of the Russian speakers who are in eastern Ukraine in the Donbas region who feel so betrayed and let down by what
Russia has done to them, what Putin has done to them that they've got no desire to be under Russian control, and that they will be perfectly happy,
more than that to remain part of Ukraine.
Conclusion: If there is a negotiated deal, it doesn't necessarily have to include the Donbas, but it probably does have to include Crimea, and those
are the things that I think really matter as far as I can understand it with President Putin, as well as this nonsense about de-Nazification and
QUEST: So the way it is being put forward, though, this idea of a deal to be done. I mean, how much of this brings back memories of 1930s to do a
deal to get peace now, but it's not really peace in our time?
WESTMACOTT: I think a lot of it does. It is, frankly, pretty monstrous when you think about it --
REPORTER: ... trying to walk that back. Did your words complicate matters?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you asked three different questions, and I'll answer them all.
Number one, I'm not walking anything back. The fact of the matter is I was expressing the moral outrage I felt ...
QUEST: We have the President who is answering questions in the White House.
BIDEN: ... toward the way Putin is dealing, and the actions of this man - - just -- just the brutality of it. Half the children in Ukraine. I had just come from being with those families.
And so -- but I want to make it clear: I wasn't then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I
feel, and I make no apologies for it.
REPORTER: Your personal feelings, sir? Your personal feelings?
BIDEN: Personal. My personal feelings.
Secondly, you asked me about -- what was the second part?
REPORTER: Does it complicate the diplomacy of this moment?
BIDEN: No, I don't think it does. You know, the fact is that we're in a situation where -- what complicates the situation at the moment is the
escalatory efforts of Putin to continue to engage in carnage, the kind of behavior that makes the whole world say, my God, what is this man doing?
That's what complicates things a great deal. And -- but I don't think it complicates it at all.
Let me go to Steve Holland, Reuters.
STEVE HOLLAND, REUTERS: Mr. President, thank you. When you say that you're not walking anything back, you do feel that Vladimir Putin should be
remained from -- removed from power. Is that what you're saying? And --
BIDEN: No, what I was -- I was expressing just what I said. I was expressing the moral outrage I felt towards this man. I wasn't articulating
a policy change.
And I think that, you know, if he continues on this course that he is on, he is going to become a pariah worldwide. And who knows what he'd becomes
at home in terms of support.
HOLLAND: Are you concerned this remark might escalate the conflict?
BIDEN: No, I'm not. I'm not at all.
Look -- you know, look, the other thing is that a couple people have asked me, as well -- might as well speak to it, unless you want to ask the
question - but, you know, that other governments have suggested that this is a problem, I'm escalating things. No. And has it weakened NATO? No, it
NATO has never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been as strong as it is today. Never.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, if saying he cannot remain in power does not mean regime change, what does it mean in
BIDEN: It means that I would hope -- I just was expressing my outrage. He shouldn't remain in power. Just like, you know, bad people shouldn't
continue to do bad things.
But it doesn't mean we have a fundamental policy to do anything to take Putin down in any way.
COLLINS: What made you add that? Because that wasn't in your prepared remarks, we were told. So what made you add that at the end, Mr. President?
BIDEN: Because I was talking about -- I was talking to the Russian people. The last part of the speech, I was talking to the Russian people, telling
them what we thought. And I was communicating this to not only the Russian people, but the whole world.
This is -- this is just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable -- totally unacceptable -- and the way to deal with it
is to strengthen and -- and put -- keep NATO completely united and to help Ukraine where we can.
Cleve, you had a question? Where is he?
REPORTER: Thanks, Mr. President.
On your -- on your budget, you've said repeatedly at the State of the Union that you are not for defunding the police. I do wonder how much emphasis
you think should be put on alternative forms of crime prevention -- not just defunding the police, but, you know, crime reduction in communities.
BIDEN: Oh, a significant amount. I've laid that out in detail in the budget.
For example, we do know that intervention programs work. We do know that what police need, they need psychologists in the department as much as they
need extra rifles. They need people who are in the department who can deal with the crisis that the police are going through as well -dealing with
their crises, dealing with their mental state and how they're handling things.
BIDEN: They need out -- they need social workers engaged with them. I lay it all out. There's a -- and it all works. If you see these community
intervention programs, they work. They actually reduce crime. They significantly reduce crime. So, that's a big piece of it.
REPORTER: Just a follow-up. Is any -- is any of it related to political pressure from Republicans saying that Democrats are soft on crime; that --
you know, that you guys are careening to the left?
BIDEN: Isn't it kind of fascinating? When I first got elected, I was being beat up because I supported the police too much for the previous 30 years.
No, it's what I think.
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President.
Are you -- are you willing to try to meet with Vladimir Putin?
And I have a quick follow-up to that. When you last met with him face- to- fact in Geneva, you described that as a productive conversation; you said that he did not want a Cold War. And do you feel -- given the actions,
though, that have happened over the last few months, I guess I'm asking: What has changed, in his mind?
BIDEN: I don't know if it's changed his mind, his behavior has changed. When we met, remember what we were talking about. We were talking about
setting up a strategic dialogue and talking about the relationship of NATO and Russia and facing off in the regions and how we could have more
transparency and all the rest.
It was a normal discussion I had, going all the way back to Kosygin and others, back in -- a hundred years ago, when I was a young senator. And so,
what changed was: nothing -- nothing remotely approaching that.
Remember when he first met with me, he said, I have two objectives. This is the second or third time I met with him. He said, "I have two objectives."
One is to make sure that they never become part of NATO. And two, to make sure there are no long-range missiles in there -- in Ukraine.
I said, we can deal with the second one easily, but we can't close the door on the first. Because when we talk about missiles, we want to talk about
what's also on the Russian border heading towards Europe. Do both.
And then, if you noticed, that demand list of his -- not with me, with others -- have escalated significantly in terms of what he thinks is
Thank you --
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, thank you. Thank you very much.
BIDEN: I know you're going to ask a really nice question.
DOOCY: Well, it's -- it's an important question, I think.
BIDEN: No, I'm kidding.
DOOCY: Are you worried that other leaders in the world are going to start to doubt that America is back if some of these big things that you say on
the world stage keep getting walked back?
BIDEN: What's getting walked back?
DOOCY: It -- made it sound like, just in the last couple of days -- it sounded like you told U.S. troops they were going to Ukraine. It sounded
like you said it was possible the U.S. would use a chemical weapon. And it sounded like you were calling for regime change in Russia. And we know --
BIDEN: None of the three occurred.
DOOCY: None of the three occurred?
BIDEN: None of the three.
REPORTER: Mr. President --
BIDEN: You interpret the language that way. I was talking to the troops. We were talking about helping train the troops in -- that are -- the
Ukrainian troops that are in Poland. That's what the context.
I sat there with those guys for a couple of hours. That's what we talked about.
DOOCY: So when you said, you're going to see when you're there, you were not intending to send U.S. --
BIDEN: I was referring to with -- being with and talking with the Ukrainian troops who are in Poland.
DOOCY: And when you said a chemical weapon use by Russia would trigger a response in kind?
BIDEN: It will trigger a significant response.
DOOCY: What does that mean?
BIDEN: I'm not going to tell you. Why would I tell you? You've got to be silly.
DOOCY: The world wants to know.
BIDEN: The world wants to know a lot of things. I'm not telling them what the response would be; then Russia knows the response.
All right, I'm going to -- I'm going to take two more questions. One, two.
REPORTER: Mr. President, thank you. I still want to get back to your original words that he cannot remain in power. Can you help us understand?
You have more foreign policy experience than any President who has ever held this office. Whether those are your personal feelings or your feelings
as President, do you understand why people would believe you, as someone commanding one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, saying someone
cannot remain in power is a statement of U.S. policy?
And also, are you concerned about propaganda use of those remarks by the Russians?
BIDEN: No and no.
REPORTER: Tell me why. You have so much experience. You are the leader of this country.
BIDEN: Because it's ridiculous. Nobody believes we're going to take down - - I was going to -- I was talking about taking down Putin. Nobody believes that. Number one.
Number two, what have I been talking about all -- since this all began? The only war that's worse than one intended is one that's unintended. The last
thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia.
BIDEN: That's not part of it.
I was expressing my outrage at the behavior of this man. It's outrageous. It's outrageous. And it's more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn't be
There's no -- I mean, people like this shouldn't be ruling countries, but they do. The fact they do -- but it doesn't mean I can't express my outrage
REPORTER: Mr. President, thank you. You've said that you're confident that your comment won't undermine diplomatic efforts, but just to be clear, are
you confident that Vladimir Putin sees it that way -- that he will not use this as an escalatory --
BIDEN: I don't care what he thinks.
Look, here's the deal: He's going to do what he's going to do. Putin -- look --
REPORTER: But you're not concerned that he may see your language and view that as a sign of a reason for escalation -- use that as an excuse to
escalate, given --
REPORTER: -- his recent behavior?
BIDEN: Given his recent behavior, you should -- excuse me, I shouldn't say that to you -- given his recent behavior, people should understand that he
is going to do what he thinks he should do. Period. He is not affected by anybody else, including, unfortunately, apparently his own advisers.
This is a guy who goes to the beat of his own drummer, and the idea that he is going to do something outrageous because I called him for what he was
and what he's doing, I think is just not rational.
COLLINS: You didn't say whether you'd meet him again. Would you meet with President Putin ever again?
BIDEN: It depend -- no, it's not a question of -- the question is: Is there something to meet on that would justify him being able to end this
war and being able to rebuild Ukraine. That's the issue.
COLLINS: So there is a chance you would meet with him?
REPORTER: Can I ask you about the Supreme Court --
COLLINS: Sorry, can you just say yes or no, Mr. President, whether or not you would be willing to meet with President Putin again?
BIDEN: It depends on what he wants to talk about.
REPORTER: Thank you.
WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Okay. Last question.
ED O'KEEFE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: What if he wanted to talk about negotiations though? What if he wanted to --
BIDEN: Now, look, you said Supreme Court. Now, don't play games, okay?
O'KEEFE: Well, you can't leave that hanging.
Just real quick -- two matters on the Supreme Court. There -- while you were away, there were reports about the wife of Justice Thomas and texts
that she had with former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. Should Justice Thomas recuse himself from any cases involving the January 6th
insurrection or former President Trump at this point?
BIDEN: I'd leave that to two entities.
O'KEEFE: And on -- okay, go ahead.
BIDEN: No, go ahead. Ask your second question.
O'KEEFE: No, two entities. Go ahead. Sorry.
BIDEN: One, the January 6th Committee and, two, the Justice Department. That's their judgment, not mine to make.
O'KEEFE: So, on Justice Thomas recusing, you don't think he should? Or --
BIDEN: I'm not -- I said that -- I told you: Those things get into legal issues; that, in fact, I told you I would not tell the Justice Department
what position to take or not take. And I'm not going to instruct the Congress either.
O'KEEFE: And did you get any chance to watch much of the Judiciary Committee hearings last week?
BIDEN: I didn't get a chance to see any of it, but -- unfortunately.
O'KEEFE: The fact that Republicans were questioning Judge Jackson on matters like former sentences related to child pornography cases or the
definition of a "woman" -- does that, as the former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, make sense to you?
BIDEN: Look, this is one of the most qualified nominees ever nominated for the Supreme Court in every respect, in terms of her disposition, her
intellectual capacity, her experience, and background, and serving on two - - three additional courts.
A woman who is totally, thoroughly qualified -- totally, thoroughly qualified, and will be a great addition to the Court, in my view.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, sir.
QUEST: Well, the President's fiery exchange with the press, Kevin Liptak is at the White House. Peter -- Sir Peter Westmacott is still with me.
Kevin, I'll let you have to first go at this. He can't get rid of this, Kevin. He cannot get rid of this off the cuff comment and I'm wondering
from your perspective, does it seem like the press is hounding a dog that won't bite?
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think that it's -- the press raised some fair questions here, and the President is clearly trying
to draw a distinction between his personal view of Vladimir Putin and the U.S. government view of Vladimir Putin, and whether there can actually be a
difference between those two things when you're the President of the United States, I think, remains an open question here.
And he is saying that what he was talking about when he said Putin cannot remain in power was his personal view, and it was derived from this emotion
after having met these refugees at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
Clearly, he was touched by that and moved by that. It was at that stadium that he called Vladimir Putin, a butcher, and then he came out to give this
speech and those nine words at the end were sort of tacked on because of what he was feeling.
But he was saying that he was not articulating any new policy that the U.S. is not actively trying to remove Putin from power, whether or not that is
actually a distinction that can exist when you're the President of the United States, when people look to you for articulating American policy, I
think that's an open question.
QUEST: Sir Peter, does it matter. I mean, he said he didn't mean to say what he said and it's not policy, and so forth. With your experience of
foreign policy and leaders speaking off the cuff, has he made the situation worse for himself?
WESTMACOTT: Clearly what he has done, Richard, is made an expression of hope in using such language as it looks like it's a change of American
policy. And what he has said very firmly is no, it's not. This is my sense of outrage. I don't think the guy should be there. But of course, United
States government is not into regime change. That's in essence, what he is saying.
I personally think it's something of a distraction from what really matters, which is to try to stop the slaughter and the suffering, and to
show that if somebody will illegally invades the next door country, he is not going to be rewarded for it. But it is a bit of a distraction for the
Does it -- is it escalatory? No. I actually rather agree with the President's view that President Putin is going to do what he wants to do,
irrespective of what President Macron, President Putin, Boris Johnson, or anybody, sorry, President Biden or Boris Johnson actually say about it.
He's worked out what he wants to do. He worked out how he wishes to behave. He will use language used by other heads of government as a means to kind
of justify what he is doing when he thinks he can, but I don't think it orders a sub --
QUEST: Kevin in Washington, Peter in London, thank you both. I appreciate it. Thank you.
QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight coming from Dubai Expo 2020. What the President was actually doing there was a press conference about his new
budget. We didn't hear too much about it. We will after the break.
That new budget includes a new billionaire income tax that is supposed to apply to unrealized investment income.
You know the rules, it's when you haven't actually sold anything, but you still get taxed on it. We'll talk about it after the break.
QUEST: QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. Good evening. Tonight, Italy's largest utility company says it's preparing to leave Russia. Enel CEO calls the situation
there unpalatable and impossible. His company join shell and B.P. They've already said they will no longer invest in Russia. Now Enel's Russian
operations include several wind farms, and three gas-fired heat and power plants.
Enel's operations in Russia represent about one percent of its overall business. And Francesco Starace is the chief executive of the company. He
joins me from Rome. Sir, thank you, and thank you for waiting with us this evening. I understand that the actual amount is not that significant in
terms of the productive capacity. But it's the message, isn't it? It's actually making the decision that Russia is not a place where your company
wishes to be now or in the near future.
FRANCESCO STARACE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ENEL SPA: I say it's regretfully so and I have to say that with some sadness because we had a
very good experience in Russia so far. But clearly the situation is difficult to manage. And remember, we have not a small shop that we have to
shut down and walk away. This is a large operation with three large power plants that feed energy to the Russia network and heat to three large
So, we have a responsibility to keep them running. It will be very difficult to do so under the present embargo, we cannot import spare parts,
it's going to be difficult to run these plants efficiently and going forward. So, we don't have much of a choice at this point.
QUEST: What would you do, will you transfer them to a local entity? Will you sell them off? Will you somehow find a way to trust them into some
third entity? What would you do?
STARACE: Well, actually, the three alternatives are exactly the ones that you have just listed. And they're all up in the air at this moment. So, we
were -- we are going to find the best way, hoping that, you know, the situation in Russia will evolve in a more positive way. And it will be
possible for us to come back and do business in that country in the present situation. And this is clearly impossible.
QUEST: So, and if we talk about Europe now and the European drive to wean itself off Russian oil and gas, how realistic -- I mean, of course, it can
be done at a cost to countries like Germany, Austria and those and Hungary where there are large takers. But how realistic is it to do this in a short
period of time?
STARACE: I think it's more realistic that it looks and I would like to say that this was already the intent of Europe. Europe has a view that the
dependence on fossil fuels in general, not just the Russian ones, in general, needed to be reduced because Europe is importing. This fossil
fuels at a high cost from all parts of the world. So, economically, it was a good idea to get and to minimize the use of fossil fuels in general.
Coal, gas and oil coming from different parts of the world. And the Green Revolution, the Green Deal that Europe started with a president commission
was in that direction. So, is it possible to accelerate? I think, under the present circumstances in the urgency that this comes about, I think yes, it
is possible. It will take a period of three to five years, but it is possible.
QUEST: Right. You say three to five years because they're hoping to do it quicker. But what I'm interested in is, how did we miss the signals? I
mean, after 2014 and Crimea, we continue to Europe continued with Nord Stream 2 when clearly that was only going to make the reliance worse. It's
almost as if Europe slept walk towards this problem.
STARACE: I think there is a tendency on systems to try and find the path of least resistance and that was what happened in 2014. So, I think this is a
lesson that we all have to learn for the future. Let's not forget, there was another incident before that, that was the Libyan disaster and not, you
know, Europe is important gas from Libya, in a large -- was important gas from Libya to a large extent.
STARACE: And now that gas is basically almost nothing because of the war that raged in that country. So, we have not one but two opportunities to
really think hard, how much we want to depend on fossil fuels coming from different sources. And let's say special situations. And I think that
lesson learned this time should be taken for serious.
QUEST: Grateful to you, sir, tonight for joining us. I appreciate it. Thank you, sir. It's questions business. We are at EXPO 2020 in Dubai. More after
QUEST: World Bank economist says farms can help sustain international trade through the challenges that have come up over the last few years. Vicky
Chemutai spoke to Zain Asher on the DP World Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020.
ZAIN ASHER CNN ANCHOR: So, the past few years we've seen a setback in trade, in global trade. Everything from the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain
issues, the U.S.-China trade war as well, more recently higher oil prices. What can governments around the world do to ensure that their economies
become much more resilient to external shocks?
VICKY CHEMUTAI, ECONOMIST, WORLD BANK: One sort of easy getaway is probably to increase the resilience and adaptability of funds in this global trading
ASHER: And it's important to have a multi-pronged approach with all of this because of course, yes, the goal is to increase global trade and
investment. But at the same time, you also have to think about sustainability and inclusivity as well. How do you do both?
CHEMUTAI: I think there are two ways to look at it. There's the role for the policymakers. There's a role for international organizations, and then
there's a role for the private sector in itself. Now, when you look at the role for the international organizations in trying to negotiate sort of
these trade and sustainability rules, they need to amp up and increase the amount of ambition that they currently have.
In today's trading landscape operates, when you think about all of the different initiatives, both from the private sector and the public sector.
When you think about carbon mitigation targets by different multinational corporations, or different schemes such as the E.U. carbon border
adjustment mechanism, you see that all consumers are pushing, you know, the governments to act upon the sustainability agenda by putting in place some
of these policies.
CHEMUTAI: And how are farmers going to trade. They really need to show that they have low carbon intensities in their production processes. But once
you have that good enforced carbon traceability infrastructure, farms are able to trade much better in a more sustainable way, and be able to
showcase that they indeed actually have a carbon competitive advantage. And there's also the role of developing countries, right?
Oftentimes, we always think that the developing countries probably do not have such a huge role to play. But what we're increasingly seeing, if you
look at the growth rates of carbon emissions over the past 10 years, or so, you'll see that actually the smaller countries have carbonizing at a much
faster rate than the developed world. Adaptation is critical for smaller countries but so is mitigation and decarbonization.
Because that sort of gives you that good base for a green growth, that creates good jobs for the future and creates, you know, competitiveness
that is useful for trading in today's trading landscape.
QUEST: President Biden has unveiled his new budget, it weighs in to $5.8 trillion. And it comes with a billionaire tax. The millionaire minimum
income tax would require households with net worth over $100 million to pay at least 20 percent f their full income in taxes. Now, that would include
unrealized investment income. Half of the revenues expected to come from billionaire households.
President Biden explained why the billionaire tax was necessary as he introduced his budget today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, billionaires pay an average rate of eight percent on their total income. Eight percent. That's
the average they pay. Now, I'm a capitalist. But just-- I want -- if you make a billion bucks, great. Just pay your fair share, pay a little bit. A
firefighter and a teacher pay more than double, double the tax rate that a billionaire pays. That's not right. That's not fair. And my budget contains
a billionaire minimum tax because of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: The White House budget announced include a fresh warning that the war in Ukraine is going to hit food supplies. The president's top economic
adviser said the conflict is driving up prices. Just last week, President Biden warned of global shortages. Before the invasion, Ukraine and Russia
produced 30 percent of the world's wheat. Both nations are also an important source of fertilizer used on farms worldwide.
Soren Bjorn is the president of Driscoll's. His company controls around a third of the U.S. berry market. He joins me now. And it's a long way from
your California fields, if you will, to the -- to the war in Ukraine, to the supply chains problems of China. But what you're exhibiting is the
difficulties and the unmatched global market. How's it hitting you?
SOREN BJORN, PRESIDENT, DRISCOLL'S: Yes. I mean, on the farm, we are definitely feeling it, right? I mean, fertilizer and oil input (INAUDIBLE)
40 to 100 percent. And that's if you can get everything, a lot of these specialty inputs, like organic production is actually quite difficult to
get these days.
QUEST: If we take fertilizer, for example, where Ukraine is a large producer of the necessary components, and you look at just the simple
logistics of getting exports out and around the world, what do you need most from government now?
BJORN: Yes. I mean, I think we need to make sure we have alternative sources of supply, right? And anything we can do to ease up supply chain
constraints. I mean, that was a -- has been a major issue throughout the pandemic. It looks like it's getting a little better, right? But I think
government, we need to look at all those places in the world where things are getting stuck, and what can they do to help keep things moving. That's
probably the single biggest thing they can do in the short term.
QUEST: You see, what's interesting is we were -- for so many years people like you, business leaders were told just in time supply chain. Don't hold
too much inventory. Watch the costs and hedge as -- I see you smiling in a sense. It's, you know, because that -- what you're now learning is that
that's actually cost you dare.
BJORN: Yes. I think that's right. And it sort of comes at an interesting time, right? Because the cost of holding inventory has been relatively
cheap because interest rates have been so low. And now interest rates are going up. And there's no doubt about the businesses like ours need to keep
more inventory. And so, you see that throughout the world. And I also think that's creating some additional pressures in the short term, right?
You know, as people are sort of out there, making sure they have enough inventory, they want to call it hoarding, you know, then that puts more
pressure on the entire supply chain, and everything else going on. That's - - that makes it really challenging in the short term.
QUEST: What do you believe is the price elasticity of your various berries and fruits, which is a sort of a posh way of saying, how much inflation
price rises can you shove on before people stop buying?
BJORN: Well, you know, I mean, if you're in a category like berries, it was highly, highly perishable. You know, we do not have the luxury of putting
our berries into inventory for a while or send out a price list and say, hey, we're going to take the price up. I mean, that's not how our business
works, right? That there's a total amount of supply. That's the total amount of demand out there this week.
And that ends up with a certain price. And so, in the short term, there's not much we can do, we will sell every single berry we produce every week.
What we publish today, is probably sold tomorrow. And so, in the short term, there's not that much we can do. The most important thing we can do
and in our category is to keep the demand high. And so, berries is not something where you can take a little bit of quality and lower the cost,
then the demand will really fall off. So, our strategy is the opposite. Is keep pushing equality up and demand will stay good.
QUEST: So, and related to that. I mean, I'm just thinking, you know, you've got an issue with migrant workers and getting people to pick the stuff.
You've got now an issue with supply chain, and you've got fertilizer problems. You've also got this potentially six or seven interest rate
rises. So, you've got to get your balance sheet and your medium and long- term debt sorted out. It's amazing. You sleep at night.
QUEST: Well, I mean, in some ways, the pandemic was really good for demand on -- in our business, right? So, we are actually coming out of the
business, out of the pandemic really, really strong. But we will have to make the investments in technology and other things to make sure that we
can continue to grow our business. And that's what we committed to. We are producing more berries this year than last year.
We want to produce more berries next year than this year. And that's what we committed to. But investments in technology is going to be a critical
component to make that happen.
QUEST: All right. Soren, thank you. I think I've said before to you on this program, your blueberries, grace my breakfast table on a regular basis.
Delicious out of the freezer. Thank you, sir. I'm grateful.
BJORN: Thank you, Richard.
QUEST: As we continue tonight, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. It is the slap heard around the world. Will Smith's controversial Oscar's moment and has now put
the academy to its best ratings in years.
QUEST: The Will Smith's slap propelled the Oscars to its best numbers, viewing numbers for years. You know what happened. Chris Rock made the
joke. Smith took against it. And then there was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS ROCK, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it. All right? That was a nice one. OK. Uh-oh. Richard. Oh wow. Wow.
QUEST: Now a source says the academy considered removing Smith from the ceremony, but couldn't make the decision fast enough. It's now condemned
his actions and is exploring further consequences for the actor. The slap actually overshadowed Smith's Oscar win but the best actor as well and as a
historic first at the Academy Awards. The Academy Awards CODA, a film from Apple T.V. plus won the Best Picture which is the first time a streaming
service has earned the top prize.
Brian Stelter is with me, Brian. I know you wish to talk about Apple but some streaming and getting terribly excited about that. I need to talk -- I
want to talk about Will Smith slap. What are they going to do?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That is -- that's the -- that's the human being's brain in a nutshell right there. That's right. The
business story is Apple. Apple is celebrating. We know that. But Will Smith and Chris Rock, this isn't over. This is not over because Chris Rock has
not really commented on what happened or how he felt. Will Smith apologized to the academy but didn't apologize to Chris Rock.
There's still something between these two men, and it has the whole world talking. And I do think it seeks to double standards for celebrities,
Richard, if anybody -- somebody slapped you or I smacked us on the street like that, there probably be a police activity involved. But not in this
case. And the Academy's excuses are really weak. They're saying, well, we were all sitting in different places in the room so we couldn't get our
plan together about how to deal with this before he won for Best Actor.
And there's a lot of tensions here, including the fact that a lot of celebrities in the room were cheering for Will Smith, they were excited to
see him win the award. But it was all in the aftermath of that smack.
QUEST: By the way, I was talking to a lawyer in on the West Coast who says that even though Rock hasn't made a complaint, the prosecutors, the D.A.
and the local prosecutors could go against him on public policy grants, but they don't want anything to do with it. Nobody wants to touch this with a
STELTER: Because celebrities really are not just like us. Even though, you know, that famous Us Weekly Magazine feature from years ago, celebrities,
they're just like us. The truth is actually more about what Donald Trump said a decade ago on that Access Hollywood tape, actually, two decades ago.
He said if they're-- if you're a celebrity, they'll let you do it. And this is another version of that.
You know, the academy now says they're going to explore further action. But what kind of further action could that mean? It's been almost 24 hours and
their action, their lack of action is what speaks volume.
QUEST: So, I'm British. We always root for the underdog. I felt sorry for Netflix. They did the hard work of getting streaming services up, running,
moving on the -- on the agenda and Apple Plus late comer swoops in and takes it.
STELTER: This is another historic moment, Richard. The words Netflix and underdog were just using a sentence together for the first time. The idea
that Netflix is the underdog, you know, I know exactly we're getting that. They were behind the Power of the Dog. That was the other front runner for
Best Picture, but it was CODA that swept in and did win Best Picture. So, after years of streaming, moving toward this climactic moment, where the
biggest, most, you know, most awarded film in Hollywood is going to extremely film and it's going to Apple.
STELTER: Netflix has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in these ad campaigns last few years but they're not going to stop trying. And I bet
this time next year they'll end up winning the top prize because they're making so many movies, Richard.
QUEST: Where do you stand, Brian Stelter on this? Are you with Spielberg that believes that they should get awards and they're called Emmys? Or do
you believe that they should get Oscars?
STELTER: I think I still know what a movie is. And I think I still know what a T.V show is. And yes, they're getting blurry and yes, you can watch
them in different places at different times and we all have more control over the distribution, the schedule but I think I still know a good movie
when I see it. And it is still a different form than television and even though T.V. is it -- has all the wind in its sails right now, this was a
night that reminds us, still is amazing movies being made.
QUEST: Right. Brian, it would be remiss of me talking of T.V. Good luck. Reliable Sources daily launches on CNN plus in the next 24 hours. I wish
you well and Godspeed, man, for an excellent many, many of years of--
STELTER: Hey, thanks. We're all streaming in the future. Streaming everything. That's right.
QUEST: Well, you may be streaming ahead. Thank you. I will stream the profitable moment after the break.
QUEST: (INAUDIBLE) tonight's profitable moment. Should Chris -- should Will Smith, I should say be prosecuted for hitting Chris Smith? Well, yes, it's
probably the-- Chris Rock, yes, it's probably the answer. But he won't be because as Brian Stelter said, there's a rule for celebrities and one for
everybody else. I guarantee you if it was you on a Saturday night at the Dog and Bone, you would probably be prosecuted if you smacked somebody.
But he won't because the L.A. prosecutors don't want anything to do with it. Whether it's celebrity that I want the first, that I want the other, I
don't really know. But it is a fairly dreadful moment when you think of what happened. One person got up and hit another person live on television.
And it seems to me there'll be no criminal repercussions as a result. Have a think about that before the night is out.
And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest in Dubai. Whatever you're in the hours ahead-- oh, thank you very much. I hope it's
QUEST: The closing bell is ringing on the Wall Street.