Chamber of Commerce in Germany-Annual General Meeting
Thank you very much for inviting me. 103 years is a great achievement. It certainly confirms the value of all you do for U.S. and German economic interests. On behalf of President Bush I extend a very personal thank you.
Last week at this time, Chancellor Merkel went to New York to meet with business leaders and address a luncheon of many more business people. Her message was simple. It was to remind people that the state of U.S. – German relations is excellent and to say that under her leadership, Germany is open for business.
The reception was rousing and exciting. 400 people crammed into the lunch and more than 100 were turned away. As the young people like to say “she’s hot.” And that’s good for business!
Its good for business because both the administrations in Washington and Berlin recognize that stronger economies, where business can flourish, are the key to solving many of our national ills. Economic growth is the name of the game, sweet music for the private sector’s ears.
AmCham’s New Year’s event this past January, I spoke of “what a difference a year
makes.” We have come a long way from a time when disagreements dominated the headlines.
I am sure most of you have seen the interviews with President Bush in the Bild
and by Sabine Christiansen. I was with the Chancellor again last week at the White
House and in New York.
President Bush and Chancellor Merkel are not, I can assure you, focused on differences. They are speaking about how the great capabilities of our nations can best be utilized to address common concerns of significant importance.
I think it is fortunate for instance that both the Chancellor and President are working together with other nations to bring about a diplomatic solution to the very serious Iranian situation.
The advantage of improved relationships not only benefits the common security issues but most importantly the economic and business interests of Germany and the United States.
As a former private sector investor, I am impressed with our economic inter-relationship. We are huge investors in each other’s economies. The capital flows seem to increase every day.
More than 800,000 Americans work for German companies and more than 700,000 Germans work for American companies. Our bilateral trade runs well over $100 billion per year and one can only guess at how many jobs trade supports.
President Bush and Chancellor Merkel want to make those ties even stronger to promote more investment. They are pushing for a successful conclusion of the Doha trade round.
The topic of energy security is also crucial to both countries. As the largest industrialized countries, we rely upon available and reasonably priced energy to develop our economies and sustain jobs.
Chancellor Merkel and President Bush have committed their governments to increase research budgets for energy technology. Here I should point out that the U.S. government has invested over $10 billion in developing cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy sources since 2001.
If people are going to invent and find new ways to solve our energy issues, who is more likely to do it than Americans and Germans? The rest of the world needs us desperately. The prosperity for those who find solutions has started a race. We will all be winners as the inventors laugh their way to the bank.
February of 2005, Chancellor Schroeder and President Bush signed the Mainz Declaration. A declaration to cooperate on a variety of projects to improve energy security, reduce pollution and curtail greenhouse gas emissions. It outlines a course for how we can deal, step-by-step with energy challenges in the 21st century. Over 20 specific areas were covered. I hope we see our governments turn up commitments like this.
In the United States and Germany approximately 66 % of the R&D expenditures are made by the private sector. I would like to see AmCham continue to step up its efforts to see that collaborative work is pursued in the private sector.
A second area where business can reinforce the positive direction of U.S.-German relations is through outreach. The young people and students of today are the next generation of business and science leaders. Unfortunately, however, we have not made much headway in countering anti-business ideas or other ill-informed views of our economic system.
By investing a modest amount of time and effort in opening the doors of business to school groups or sponsoring student events, you can open minds -- and make a difference. Last week I participated in a competition judging business plans submitted by high school students. It was a thrilling and personally rewarding event to watch and share in their achievements.
In the recent past, the Embassy has invited school groups to tour U.S. pavilions at trade shows and learn first-hand by talking with exporters about how we do business with each other. Embassy staff members regularly go into schools, not to talk politics, but simply to have an exchange of views on the American way of life and work.
I know many of you have participated to some degree in similar programs but I encourage you to redouble such efforts either individually or through AmCham sponsored programs.
I would like to thank you for your support of a new Eastern German exchange initiative. Over 50 teachers from the new federal states have visited the United States as a direct result of the sponsorship of AmCham members of this. I have met with participants in this program and am convinced of the multiplier effects of the exchange initiative. You are helping us to build bridges to the future.
Third, I strongly encourage you to promote the exchange of business leaders. Earlier I stressed the great advantages of combining U.S. and German technologies to address common challenges. Similarly, the exchange of business leaders promotes the transfer of managerial innovation as well as stronger trans-Atlantic understandings that benefit businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.
We don’t have to go far within the top ranks of corporations in our two countries to identify business leaders who have benefited from such business exchanges.
Lastly, I believe that we have a great story to tell as Germany and the United States work together to improve standards of living, provide jobs, and make our lives safer.
From the recent meetings between the Chancellor and the President, to the strong work of AmCham, and the many untold stories of enduring ties between the United States and Germany - we have a wealth of achievements to publicize. However, too often the media tend to focus on bad news stories.
I encourage you to make your many corporate citizenship events, or community-based activities as well as the successes of your trans-Atlantic ties known as widely as possible. While your reports may not reach the evening news, your community of employees and families will know what your company stands for and the values you promote. That is an excellent start.
Once again, to Fred and all AmCham members, thank you for what you do for your companies and your countries. I am honored to be working with you to make tomorrow better for everyone.
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Diplomatic Mission to Germany
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Updated: August 2006