at Byrnes: German-American Relations in the Merkel Era
It is an honor and a pleasure to participate in the "Talk at Byrnes" series. The legacy of Secretary of State James Byrnes has played an important role in the transatlantic strategic partnership. The postwar, the post-Cold War, and the post-9/11 world owe much to the simple and powerful idea that Secretary Byrnes presented here in Stuttgart almost 60 years ago. Despite the newly established peace, hope was a precious commodity in the fall of 1946. Hope was, however, exactly what Secretary Byrnes offered when he charted a course for peace and recovery in Germany and in Europe, based on the idea that people have a right to live in freedom. They have a right to have their human dignity respected, to be protected by the law; to choose their leaders; to pursue their own prosperity; to do the best they can to support their families and their nations.
These are the ideas upon which the United States was founded. The ideas of the Enlightenment came from Europe, and they are shared today by the United States and Europe. They are the foundation of our transatlantic partnership.
In 1996, fifty years after Secretary Byrnes' visit, another American Secretary of State visited Stuttgart. Warren Christopher described a New Atlantic Community, one that would transcend the boundaries of Cold War Europe, and provide the basis for a deeper partnership with a broader, more integrated Europe.
Now, in 2006, sixty years after the famous “speech of hope,” I believe we have crossed a threshold to a new level of U.S.-EU strategic partnership as we deal with the global threats posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, failed states, dictators and rogue states. These current challenges have required the design and implementation of new financial, law enforcement, intelligence, and military options. Working through these dramatic changes has not been easy, but as partners in freedom, transatlantic cooperation is essential. Why? Because we have come to understand -- once again -- that a positive vision of freedom, democracy, and opportunity is one of the most effective strategies to combat ideologies of extremism and violence.
That is why, after the differences of opinion over Iraq, the first order of business for President Bush in his second term of office was to re-confirm the common agenda of the transatlantic partnership. My main goal as Ambassador, as the President's "man on the ground" here in Germany is to carry out that mandate.
Both the German-American and the broader transatlantic relationship have improved considerably because of an increased emphasis on discussion and dialogue. It started with President Bush’s trip to Mainz and Brussels last February, and under Chancellor Merkel's leadership, momentum has picked up.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being present at the meetings between President Bush and Chancellor Merkel. They met for extended discussions on a wide range of subjects. The President and the Chancellor have a very good rapport and have developed a close friendship. President Bush sees Chancellor Merkel as a strong ally when it comes to uniting the world to speak with one clear voice. In terms of tactics, strategy, timing and language, the transatlantic partnership is functioning extremely well. President Bush and Chancellor Merkel are not, I can assure you, focusing on differences. They are talking – on an ongoing basis – about how the capabilities of our nations can best be utilized to address common concerns of significant importance.
Both the Chancellor and President are working together with other nations to bring about a diplomatic solution to the very serious situation in Iran. We are in total agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to come into possession of a nuclear weapon. As difficult as the situation is, maintaining our unity of purpose -- against all too obvious Iranian efforts to divide us -- gives us the best chance of resolving this problem. We must also remember that our policy is best defined by what we stand for, not what we stand against. The United States and the European Union are dedicated to supporting the democratic forces in Iranian society. The situation in Iran is part of the overall challenge of reform and democracy in the broader Middle East.
Promoting global prosperity is another important element of strategic U.S.-European partnership. Lowering trade barriers worldwide in agriculture, manufacturing and services is the best opportunity to lift millions of people out of poverty and enhance economic opportunity for all. President Bush has put forward ambitious proposals in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations of the World Trade Organization. He spoke with Chancellor Merkel about how to get the success the world needs in the Doha trade talks. They are in close agreement on the importance of success.
The economic and business interests of Germany and the United States are a good example of how open markets, a stable financial system and global economic integration have created better lives for people. More than 800,000 Americans work for German companies, and more than 750,000 Germans work for American companies. Our bilateral trade runs well over $100 billion per year, yielding benefits for both our publics in terms of jobs, availability of goods, and quality of life. President Bush and Chancellor Merkel want to make these ties even stronger.
So when Chancellor Merkel met with business leaders in New York as part of her trip, her message was simple. She told an overflow crowd that the state of U.S.-German relations is excellent and that, under her leadership, Germany is open for business.
The topic of energy security is an issue of emerging importance to both of our countries. We rely upon available and reasonably priced energy to develop our economies and sustain jobs. The President is calling for Americans to end their dependency on oil, to do more in terms of alternative fuels, and to make other changes in transportation and the ways we live. These changes including development of fuel cells, employing clean coal technology or wind energy – will also benefit the environment. 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? Chancellor Merkel and President Bush have both committed their governments to increasing research budgets for energy technology.
To sum it all up, what a difference a year can make. I predicted last fall that we would see more cooperation and more transatlantic travel on the official level. That has certainly come true. This was Chancellor Merkel’s second trip to Washington. As you all probably have heard, Chancellor Merkel has invited President Bush to visit her home state in eastern Germany. One of the things that impresses President Bush most about Chancellor Merkel is her respect for what it means to live in a free society. Having grown up in East Germany during the dark days of the Cold War, she understands the power of liberty – and the crucial role that hope plays in human hearts.
I, like President Bush, am therefore optimistic that, working together, Germany and the United States can be major drivers in building a better future for our citizens and for the whole world.
I am also optimistic because, as Sue and I have learned in the time we have been here, the strength of our relationship does not just rest on the shoulders of our leaders, or diplomats and soldiers. It depends on people-to-people ties. Through cultural and exchange programs, institutions like the Byrnes Institute, the other German-American Institutes in this state and in other parts of Germany, the Fulbright Commission, the German Marshall Fund, and many other organizations -- contribute to an understanding of our common goals and develop ideas on how America and Germany can best move forward. If there is one thing we have learned, it is how important it is to speak openly, in an honest and sincere fashion, sharing ideas, discussing differences and pursuing areas of agreement.
In conclusion, I would like to convey the personal greetings of President Bush. He asked me to thank all those who day in, day out, invest their time, energy, and commitment in the German-American partnership. Your efforts are much appreciated.
Thank you very much.
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Diplomatic Mission to Germany
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Updated: August 2006