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Quest Means Business
Marcon Addresses France After Raising Its Retirement Age; Swedish Government Predicts Sharper Contraction In 2023; NYT: Google Concerned About Rising AI Search Competition; Nearly 100 Killed As Rival Generals Battle For Control; Travelers From Brazil, India And Mexico Face Years-Long Delays; Sudanese Military, Paramilitary Group Lock In Power Struggle. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired April 17, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: We start a new week together. Let me show you how the markets are trending as they go to the last hour of trade
before the closing bell, betwixt and between, but the movements are so small that you and me should not waste time talking too much about them.
Instead we need to look at the main events of the day.
Number one, it's time to heal the country says President Macron as he urges France to move forward after signing into law the Pension Reforms.
The Judge who delayed the start of the billion dollar defamation trial against FOX News, why? We'll talk about it.
QUEST: And if you're in some parts of the world, and you're waiting for a US visa, the very lengthy delays. Tonight, the CEO of the US Travel
Association will be with me to see what they're trying to do cut them back.
We are live in New York. It is Monday, it's April the 17th. I'm Richard Quest, and yes, I mean business.
From today, the retirement age in France is now 64. The French President said there was no alternative to his unpopular Pension Reforms as he signed
them into law, and then he addressed the French people about an hour ago, his effort to turn the page after weeks and months of political infighting,
turmoil, and discord on the streets.
It hasn't stopped. In Marseille, a few moments ago, this was the scene. The French President says he has heard the outrage from protesters and striking
workers. He wants to talk to union leaders about work conditions and pay. He says, the French people must tackle the country's economic problems
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Faced by this anger, we have to act together over and above the divisions in society as
I've always tried to do, and to try and do that independently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: In Paris at the moment, there is there's also some argy-bargy with the police. These are the pictures surrounding protesters. The protests are
relatively muted and small at the moment, but you can see the pictures.
Nada Bashir is with me. So, done deal. New law. Retire at 64.
There is not much -- I mean, they could protest all they like now, but the law is in.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: The law is in and we will continue to see protest, that is the message from the union heads. They're not giving up
despite President Emmanuel Macron wasting no time really to sign that law into force early on Saturday morning.
We've already heard from the union heads in response to President Emmanuel Macron's address to the nation. He said there, he regrets that he couldn't
reach a consensus with the union heads, but they've said regrets really don't do anything for those who have to work another two years now with the
pension age being raised.
We've already heard calls for protests this Thursday that would mark the 13th week of demonstrations. And of course, we've heard from the unions
rejecting that invitation from President Emmanuel Macron to join him at the Elysse on Tuesday to have a discussion on this pension reform. They say
they won't take part in these talks until after May 1st and that is of course, Labor Day here in France.
And it is when union heads are calling for mass demonstrations, historic demonstrations, in the words of one union head. They want to see strikes,
further protesters taking to the streets against this Pension Reform. They are not letting go, they are not stepping down from their position.
But of course, as you said that this has been signed into law. President Emmanuel Macron trying very hard to move past this.
QUEST: Okay. He's trying hard, but I'm not sure I fully understand what the protesters hope to achieve now it is the law.
BASHIR: Well, of course, it is not just an anger towards the Pension Reform, but there is anger and frustration towards the French President and
the way in which this reform was pushed in through Parliament.
President Emmanuel Macron bypassed the Lower House of Parliament where his party crucially doesn't have an outright majority. He forwent the final
vote in Parliament using executive powers that are typically reserved for budgetary loss and there is real anger.
We spoke to some of these protesters last week who told us they feel that Emmanuel Macron's actions have really undermined democratic principles here
QUEST: Nada Bashir is in Paris tonight, thank you.
These reforms come at a high cost for the French President. His approval ratings have fallen to near record lows. The strikes have crippled public
transportation and the collection of rubbish.
I spoke to the French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings last week, who said the reforms are essential, no
matter the political cost.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNO LE MAIRE, FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER: If we want to get prosperity, jobs, full employment at the end of the mandate, we need to implement some
difficult reforms. We introduced a reform on the labor market, on unemployment, these Pension Reform.
All of those reforms are a necessity to have a country that is one of the most attractive country in Europe, which is successful, which has quite a
high level of growth, and which is creating new jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Now, Roger Cohen is the Paris Bureau Chief for "The New York Times." Roger is with me now. It is always good to see you, sir.
How weakened is Macron. I mean, this was his tentpole policy, so to the extent he's got it through, fine, he goes down in the history books, but
what has it left him at?
ROGER COHEN, PARIS BUREAU CHIEF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, hi, Richard.
I think he is somewhat weakened and somewhat isolated. As you noted, opinion polls are now showing him with around 28 percent support. That's as
low as it's been since the Yellow Vest Movement four-plus years ago.
The bond between him and French people is frayed, if it's not broken. He has appeared remote, and he has appeared uninterested until very recently
in speaking to unions, and the way it was rammed through in the end through this so called 49-3 measure which avoided a vote on the law itself, and
reduced approval to a vote of confidence or not the government, and he survived that. His government survived that.
But yes, he is compared to the wunderkind who appeared on the scene in 2017. He is certainly a much weakened figure today.
QUEST: I was just looking at the -- I know, compare and despair is somewhat odious, but Britain's retirement age 66, USA 67, Germany 65.7. The closest
you get is the EU average at 64.3.
So, the sort of the gap between what Macron, adding two years and the size of protests to the rest of us seems a little extreme.
COHEN: Well, you say the French people, well, what about Italy at 67? What about Germany getting near 66. What about the Netherlands? And they will
say, yes, but we have France, we have France, it's different. We have a different social model. We're attached to it.
We have a different appreciation of the right work life balance, and we do not want to change these things. We fought hard for them in the first place
and we want to preserve them.
And of course, President Macron has a point when he says people are living much longer. You can't have fewer and fewer people working to support the
pensions of more and more people in retirement. The logic of it is inexorable, and pretty much indisputable.
But French people are attached to their way of life and arguments that others have done similar things do not work here, are ill effective, and
there is anger about a whole lot of other things, about inflation, about a lot of families struggling to get to the end outcome.
And here we are.
QUEST: And we are looking at pictures now of argy-bargy in Paris, and it is getting a little bit rowdy. Elections are some way off now, both
legislative and presidential. He is term limited.
In a sense, does he have time to restore himself or his party or his agenda in the eyes of the electorate?
COHEN: Richard, he has time. He has four years. That's a long time. The question is, can he find a message? He was trying to talk about that
tonight. He was trying to talk about a (speaking in foreign language) in his phrase for France, a new pact for life and work, some increased pay for
teachers and other measures on professional training.
He is straining, he is searching for some galvanizing message that can bring him through the next four years and avoid his nightmare. What is the
nightmare of Emmanuel Macron?
The nightmare of Emmanuel Macron, that keeps him awake at night is that he will be succeeded by Marine Le Pen, the far-right nationalist xenophobic
candidate whom Macron twice defeated in 2017 and 2022. He does not want to be remembered as the last President, before the far right, returned in
France for the first time since this year.
QUEST: Finally, as we look at these pictures, I just want to talk about this row with China, and whether the President was trying to put clear
water between himself, of France and the United States vis-a-vis, China.
Now at the IMF, Bruno Le Maire sort of said, yes, we are, but at the same time, you know, there's not this massive gap. Europe speaks with one voice,
et cetera et cetera.
Do you get the feeling they are trying to tell us, black is white, the square peg will go in the round hole, and nothing to see here. Keep moving
COHEN: Well, allied but not aligned, is a French phrase, allie mais pas aligne, that has been around for a long time. And we all know that the goal
is very soon after the United States in the allies won World War Two struck out and wanted a more independent position for France.
President Macron is a globalist in that sense. He's in that tradition, and he believes very strongly in what he calls strategic autonomy for Europe.
I was in China with the President, and Xi Jinping laid on an extraordinary reception, and spent more than six hours with President Macron. I think
France has every right, Europe has every right to have its own position on China. I don't think anyone is disputing that.
The question is, to some degree, seduced by this extraordinary reception he had in China. Did President Macron go a little too far in embracing the
language of Xi on the need for a multipolar world and all the rest? And, you know, it did. It did look at times as if he had.
QUEST: Roger, it is always good to talk to you and get your perspective. I'm grateful that you're with us.
Thank you, Roger. We will continue to just look at these pictures coming to us from Paris tonight.
There had been some disturbances elsewhere in the country, but it would appear that these larger crowds in Paris, along with some minor civil
disturbance, fires being set in the streets, large numbers of -- in fact, it's hard to really tell from these pictures, whether or not actually, the
number of protesters versus the number of gendarmerie or other law enforcement.
Well, it looks like they're being kettled in some way towards that building.
We're going to watch. We'll keep you informed, and when there is more to report, we will tell you.
It is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight live from New York.
The Chief Executive of Google's parent company is warning about the impact of AI as alarm grows within the company about the rising competition for
AI, in the space in a moment.
QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
QUEST: Sweden is growing more pessimistic about its economy. The new government now expects GDP to fall one percent this year. It's a downgrade
from December, then the government was forecasting a 0.7 percent decline.
Prices are stubbornly high and expected to remain so, and Stockholm forecasts average inflation of 5.9 percent this year.
At the IMF meetings last week, I was joined by the Sweden's Finance Minister to talk about sticky inflation.
ELISABETH SVANTESSON, SWEDISH FINANCE MINISTER: When I look at Sweden, I see that inflation is far too high. We have, and I have as my priority to
combat inflation, because that's my main priority. Inflation has to go down, but we still -- we are not there yet.
QUEST: There are two ways to do it. The ECB does this part, and then there is the fiscal side. You can contract the economy by cutting spending, but
the ECB is more concerned with the whole of Europe, and not just Sweden. So, how do you balance that?
SVANTESSON: Of course, ECB and the Swedish Riksbank are quite close to each other, but Sweden has its own currency, we are our own economy, and we
really need to see that inflation come down because otherwise, it will be bad for households, for companies, and for our finance, of course.
QUEST: Do you foresee then the Riksbank -- and this is where you're going to tell me that the Central Bank is independent and you wouldn't -- but do
you foresee higher rates?
SVANTESSON: They have already told us that that's what they see. So, I guess they will continue, and I will do my best when it comes to fiscal
policy, not to counteract them, but also try to keep our fiscal policy quite tight and not too expensive, and that is an unusual situation because
in Sweden, we have high inflation and we are going into a recession as well, so that's a bit tricky.
QUEST: Yes, I mean, it's it turns into classic stagflation, if not worse.
SVANTESSON: Yes, and that's why the fight against inflation is so important.
QUEST: When we look at NATO now, which again, is not necessarily strictly your area, but you're at the center of government. Do you believe that a
resolution can be found with Turkey?
SVANTESSON: I'm absolutely confident that we will be members of NATO. We will definitely be a member of NATO. That's not a question of if, I see it
more a question of when.
QUEST: Do you think it just relies on to some extent on the massaging of the Turkish elections? Once the elections are over, things will look
SVANTESSON: Oh, I don't want to make any forecasts. I just know that we will be a member. I'm definitely sure, and we are, but it is a question of
QUEST: As you look at the Swedish economic model, this unique scenario of economics, can that survive?
QUEST: Can you still have that very expensive social welfare at a time where AI is going to require greater expenditure on social welfare? Where
you're going to have a recession, there's going to be higher unemployment. Is it possible?
SVANTESSON: Yes, I will say yes, definitely and that is because we have a strong fundament, and we know that if we, as a new government, we will
focus on higher productivity, we will focus on make work pay, we will focus on education and taxes and entrepreneurship, and that will absolutely raise
growth in the long run.
QUEST: And as a new government, is there have a feeling of what arguably happened in the Reagan years and to some extent the Thatcher years do it
now. Get it -- get the difficult stuff, get it done because there is going to be pain doing the difficult stuff. Get it done as quickly as you can.
SVANTESSON: I see that when it comes to inflation, I mean, we have to do that because it will get worse if we don't try to get it down, but when it
comes to reforms, I want Sweden to be strong in 10 to 15 and 25 years.
QUEST: Right, but that means doing the work that you know, the dirty work now.
SVANTESSON: Everything isn't easy, of course in politics, but we need reforms and we need to fight inflation and that's what we are doing.
QUEST: Twelve EU lawmakers are calling on world leaders to hold a Summit on Artificial Intelligence. They say the technology is developing faster than
expected, and politicians need to get a grip.
The warnings aren't only from politicians. On Sunday night, Alphabet's Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai issued a similar call. Speaking to CBS' "60
Minutes," the presenter Scott Pelley asked him whether society is ready for AI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNDAR PICHAI, CEO, ALPHABET: You know, there are two ways I think about it. On one hand, I feel no, because you know, the pace at which we can
think and adapt as societal institutions compared to the pace at which the technology is evolving, there seems to be a mismatch.
On the other hand, compared to any other technology, I've seen more people worried about it earlier in its lifecycle, so I feel optimistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Clare is with me. Clare Duffy.
I don't know what they do, because you have Elon Musk et al saying we're all going over the cliff. You have another lot saying no, we're not. We're
all going okay. You've got European politicians saying, well, there needs to be some meeting on it. Nobody really knows.
CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Nobody really knows. I think that's exactly it. And you know, it is so interesting to hear Sundar Pichai issue
such as sort of stark warning, like no, we might not actually be ready for this because the technology is moving more quickly than we can advance you
know, as humans. It is so interesting to hear him.
You know, there are a number of predictions like that. He said that this is -- this kind of technology is going to impact every company, every product.
He said that it has the potential to make disinformation worse because of AI generated images and videos, and so it is really -- it is sort of
interesting, because on one hand, you have these leaders in the space issuing these warnings that are really stark, but they're also commercial
interests that are pushing these companies to want to develop this technology as quickly as possible, and get it out to consumers.
QUEST: Now, I'm not denying the macro issue, but how much of his reticence is because Google is not ready or Alphabet is not ready?
DUFFY: I think that's a huge question. I mean, Google has been in the sort of backseat position over the last couple of months compared to
competitors, like OpenAI, which put out ChatGPT compared to Microsoft which released its Bing chatbot a few weeks before Google could roll out Bard. It
is same version of the AI generated chatbot.
Google apparently, you know, initiated a Code Red internally because of these competitors. And so I do think, you know, we're hearing some of these
leaders speak out of both sides of their mouth a little bit, I think the same from Elon Musk, he has made these warnings that we need to slow down
on AI, while he's at the same time reportedly working on an AI startup.
QUEST: So how do you slow down? It strikes me that the genie is out of the bottle, and to some extent, I suppose you can regulate, but there is no way
that you would get an international convention of agreement on that. No way.
DUFFY: No. You know, I was thinking today about the fact that we have had social media for over a decade now and lawmakers are only just starting to
get a handle on how to regulate it, how to understand the harms for users, and so, you hear these commercial leaders calling on lawmakers, calling on
regulators to do something about this, to get a handle on it.
But it's just hard to believe that they'll be able to understand the technology well enough to do that. You even hear Sundar Pichai, in this
interview saying there are parts of this technology that are like a black box, that even the people in the field don't totally understand how it
And so if he isn't totally understanding how it works, it just -- it seems like it's going to be challenging for world leaders and for lawmakers to
understand it well enough to regulate it.
QUEST: We need to talk more about that in the future. Very grateful for you. Thank you.
A one-and-a-half billion dollar defamation suit against FOX News. It was rescheduled to start tomorrow. The Judge says there was nothing unusual
about the delay. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that FOX was pushing for a last minute settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.
Dominion says the network falsely knowingly accused it of helping rig the 2020 election. FOX is denying these allegations.
The Judge says the FOX Chair, Rupert Murdoch could be compelled to testify along with host like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity on the witness list
along with the FOX News Chief Executive, Susan Scott.
Marshall Cohen is in Wilmington where the trial is set to take place.
Well, if "The Wall Street Journal" says they are talking a settlement, I mean, if they don't know, then no one knows, I suppose. I mean, this is a
classic courtroom door potential settlement.
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: If it happens, Richard, if they settle, then this case is over. We won't see people like you mentioned Rupert Murdoch
and Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity walking into the courthouse right behind me here in Delaware, to put their hand on, put their hand up and
swear to tell the truth, which Richard, is something that they don't always do on their shows. That's what this case is all about.
Because in 2020, FOX News repeatedly put people on its airwaves, who lied. The Judge has already ruled that a lot of these comments were false when
they said that Dominion flipped millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
So there was a one day delay today. The Judge said that it was his decision to make that delay. The Judge did not explain that delay, but of course,
everyone is wondering about a possible settlement.
QUEST: One imagines a settlement, though, it is not the money. If I if Dominion, I would -- I mean, normally with these settlements, both sides
agree not to talk about it. NDA's, blah, blah, blah, all the usual stuff and we all wonder what really happened.
But I can't help feeling here, part of Dominion's settlement would be a mea culpa from FOX.
M. COHEN: You've got to wonder, right? I mean, it's not something that's public, they're not talking about this publicly, but you could imagine that
they might want some sort of correction, some sort of statement of, here's what we said in 2020, here is why it wasn't true and we want to give
Dominion a clear name. We'll see.
But Richard, of course, if they don't reach a deal, then we will all be right back here tomorrow morning, 9:00 AM when the trial is supposed to
kick off, so if they don't make some significant progress tonight, then it's full speed ahead tomorrow.
QUEST: The interest in this case is simply ginormous.
M. COHEN: Yes. I mean, there has been a tremendous amount of media attention here. There are networks you know, all the different networks
have descended to Delaware to cover this case.
And obviously, FOX is one of the most popular cable channels in American television. They have more viewers than most other networks, so what they
say really matters, and many people are wondering if this will be an opportunity for some accountability for those lies, so the attention is
indeed tremendous -- Richard.
QUEST: Marshall, you'll be there. You'll be watching and you will report back the moment there is something to say.
Thank you, sir.
Coming up on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, the United Nations is pleading for calm in Sudan as hospitals there are under fire for the third day. Forces loyal
to two rival Generals are battling for power. We interview the country's Military Chief, next.
QUEST: Doctors in Sudan say hospitals have come under attack during the last three days of fighting. Two rival generals are battling for control of
the country with nearly 100 people killed since the violence erupted on Saturday. The two factions were in talks to restore civilian rule until
lateral went wrong. Hope for a peaceful transfer now, well, you can tell.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the situation has gone from precarious to catastrophic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I strongly condemned the outbreak of fighting that is taking place in Sudan, and the appeal to the leaders of
the Sudanese armed forces and the rapid support forces to immediately cease hostilities restore calm and begin a dialogue to resolve the crisis. The
situation has already led to horrendous loss of life, including many civilians, and the further escalation could be devastating for the country
and the region.
I urge all those with influence over the situation to use it in the cause of peace, to support efforts to end the violence, restore order and return
to the past of transition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: And an interview with CNN, Sudan's military chief has accused his arrival of an attempted coup. It was Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's first
interview since the last state is fighting. He said, Mohamed Hemedti (ph) Dagalo, the leader of the Rapid Support Forces, the RSF has mutinied
against the state. He gave the interview to our chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elbagir. She's with me from London.
This is just terrific. I mean, these are fight -- they're fighting for what? Control of one of the poorest countries in the world with the most
dreadful conditions for most ordinary people. And still, they are killing each other.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: A country whose exploitation they facilitated, they oversaw the exploitation
of Sudan's gold resources by Russia. And now Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo who has been trained and equipped and has been the key recipient of Russian support
is using much of that training to fight Sudan's own army. I spoke to General Burhan inside the army H.Q. and I could hear, Richard, the sounds
of explosions and fighting, bearing down on him.
It's very clear that that up until now, there is really no way forward. We were able to speak to doctors who had been forcibly evacuated after their
hospitals came under attack. And what they described was horrifying that at some point, they were forced to evacuate patients. One doctor said to me,
we began praying for salvation. And by the time we were evacuated, we were actually praying for a painless death.
It's so hard to get that information. But what we're hearing is just awful.
QUEST: So, what can the international community do? It -- I mean, short of going anywhere, what options does anybody have?
ELBAGIR: Well, this is an existential battle for dominance. And so, the international community has to send the message. The unalloyed message,
that there will be consequences. Targeting hospitals constitutes a war crime. These are violations of international. Fighting with heavy weaponry
and built-up civilian areas. Nobody so far is threatening either with consequences that could include sanctions or possibly ending up at The
And if you want to rule, it's not very easy to do that when you have a criminal indictment globally enforced against you. The world moves too
slow, Richard. We saw that with Putin in Ukraine. And we're seeing it now again and the leverage is slipping.
QUEST: Right? But Nima, for those of us who are not as close to this as so yourself, who are the -- who are the power brokers, in a sense of China,
Russia, if you want to call it the U.S./E.U. Who has no leverage there?
ELBAGIR: The regional Gulf powerhouses are supported both men separately. Hemedti, Commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the militia, the paramilitary
force leader, he was very close to the United Arab Emirates. That relationship was slightly distance because of U.S. pressure. But a
relationship maintains and he has assets in the United Arab Emirates. We haven't really heard the UAE speaking up that strongly.
Saudi Arabia has offered to mediate. But we haven't really heard much in response. Egypt is deeply concerned because their soldiers have been taken
hostage by Dagalo. This is one of those situations which you actually really see the new world order. And the new kind of spheres of influence,
really thrown sharply into relief. This is no longer really about the U.S. or Europe or the U.K. This is about those regional powerhouses.
This is about the, you know, the Gulf states with the money to back some kind of promises stepping again.
QUEST: Let's see if they actually step up to their responsibilities. Nima, you watch closely and you'll report back to us when there's more to say.
Thank you very much indeed.
Moving on. The -- if you're traveling to the United States, for travelers who -- from countries who must apply -- if you need a visa, it cannot take
more than two years to be granted permission to arrive. Here's a few examples. If you're an Indian Capital, Delhi, your average weight is 333
days, on average. Getting a tourist visa in Brazil or Brasilia, 479 days. The approval process average is 714 days in Mexico and a whopping 752 from
The cost of all these delays, 2-1/2 million visitors and billions of dollars in spending. The reality of course, is many people, E.U. and
others, Asia come on the visa waiver scheme. So, they don't need to. But you only have to fall foul on one or two things. And you're in the visa
system. And therefore, the queues.
Geoff Freeman is with me. CEO of U.S. Travel Association. You are going to tell me that these waiting times are unacceptable. And I'm going to ask
you, so what can you do about them?
GEOFF FREEMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, U.S. TRAVEL ASSOCIATION: Richard, not only are they unacceptable, they're completely counterproductive. I mean,
these wait times are telling these travelers to avoid the United States. Let's face it, nobody in their right mind is going to wait 700 days for the
right to do an interview to come to the United States, when they've got plenty of other markets around the world that are competing for their
And in terms of what do we do about it? That's the key. We got to compete for their business. We've got to find a way to attract these travelers to
the United States. India, that wait time you mentioned of 300-some days, it was nearly 700 days just two months ago. So, we have it in our arsenal to
figure out what needs to be done to reduce these wait times. It's absolutely critical. We do that. If we want to attract these travelers and
the billions of dollars they spend.
QUEST: I wonder if there's any evidence. I mean, I've seen statements from the State Department and others who say they're working on this and
bringing in people on that and all sorts of stuff being done or proposed to be done. But this is just tackling the problem.
FREEMAN: Global travel is a competition. So, we may be doing stuff, we're not doing enough stuff. Other markets are beating us right now. They're
competing for these travelers in way that we're not. They're reducing the visa wait times. They're eliminating visas in some instances. They're
creating fast paths for frequent visitors. They're putting steps in place to attract these travelers. We're not as ingenious right now. We're not
being as creative right now.
These are the types of steps that are necessary if you're serious about welcoming the visitors. And just to put a finer point on it. Our spending
last year of international travelers was only a little over 50 percent of what it was in 2019. That's how big this cost is.
QUEST: The realities of that, there is a feeling that the U.S. doesn't really want or welcome. It's very difficult, if you -- in many cases. And,
you know, I've spoken to friends and others who say why would I willingly spend the money going to the U.S. to be abused by an official when I get
there in the airport, to be paid overpriced to have tipping that's out of control, yet great place to visit. Lovely things to see and do but frankly,
who needs the hassle?
FREEMAN: Well, you made the endpoint. A lovely place to do things.
A great place to see, right. We've got destinations that are the envy of the world from coast to coast here. We've got a great product to sell. You
just can't put frictions in the way of the traveler. You do that and they have to acknowledge. The traveler has alternatives. They're taking
advantage of those alternatives. Today, we need a federal government that understands its role in making the U.S. industry competitive. Right now,
it's contributing to making the U.S. less attractive.
QUEST: Geoff, who is the U.S. -- for the federal level, who is the tourism Minister of the United States?
FREEMAN: I think you know the answer to this question. The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world that doesn't have a tourism minister. I've
sat there with tourism ministers where they talk about how they wake up every day to make their destination more competitive. How they're going to
do X, Y, and Z to fight for travelers. We don't have anybody like that here in the United States. We don't prioritize these issues like they do in
That's OK but we're going to have to get serious in a lot of other ways if we're going to be attractive. And we're just not attractive. today. We're
trying to wake up the U.S. government to the need to fight for these travelers. There was a time where we have this confidence. Where else would
people want to go? Well, maybe that was true. But today, they got plenty of other options. If we're serious, we got to get serious.
QUEST: And do you think that the U.S. should join the UNWTO? Admittedly, you know, not being a member of it. There's lots of others like the U.K.
that aren't and it goes back with deep, historical, political reasons. But do you think the U.S. should reconsider that decision?
FREEMAN: If the U.S. needs to be laser focused on bringing more travelers to the United States, when we do that, it reduces our trade imbalance. When
we do that, it strengthens local communities. Let's have a 10-point plan to bring travelers into the United States. I think that needs to be our top
QUEST: Geoff, I'm grateful. Thank you very much indeed. We'll talk more about it because you know, it's a subject close to my heart. And you and I
will discuss this on many occasions. I need to show you what the markets are doing. The final markets are -- look at that. It's barely worth you and
I spending too long talking about it. Just up the best part of 50 points. The NASDAQ is -- they're all the same.
They are -- that shows you the markets. We're just waiting on watching, if you will. And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest.
Good Lord. I forgot the bell. Could you believe that? Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead. Oh. I hope it's profitable. Living Golf is next.