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German-American Relations
Speech by Ambassador William R. Timken, Jr.
Jena University, June 19, 2006


It is a pleasure to be here today. Since its re-establishment in 1992, our Consulate in Leipzig has engaged with institutions and individuals in the region in a variety of activities ranging from lectures and workshops to book donations and exchanges. Jena is no exception. The Consulate has made a real effort to make up for the gap in the German-American partnership that the Cold War created.

Consul General Scheland told me as we arrived at the University that he was here just last month to brief a group of students from Jena before they left for the United States on Fulbright grants. For those of you who have not been to the United States, consider my visit with you today an invitation, at least an invitation to seriously consider an exchange opportunity at an American institution of higher learning. By the same token, we are also interested in attracting Americans to German universities and colleges, especially in this region. Professor Miller, a Fulbright professor from my home state of Ohio, is here with us today and she can tell you more about that. She was also, by the way, instrumental in setting up this meeting. In fact, this university is just one of seven in Thuringia that run 52 collaborative programs with U.S. colleges.

My interest in exchanges goes back to when I was in the private sector. I learned then that developing multiple points of positive connection between people is a sure strategy to ensure that partners not lose sight of common goals. One of the best ways to solidify common goals is through people-to-people dialogue and exchange. You yourselves may be too young to have many personal memories of the time before German reunification but Chancellor Merkel has very eloquently described what life was like in the GDR to our President. Although they have very different life stories, they have become personal friends. It is a friendship based on their commitment to freedom, democracy and liberty. That kind of personal exchange of views is essential to any viable partnership.

That’s why my wife and I have made it a priority to get out and visit as many parts of Germany as possible. I would like to thank everybody here for their hospitality, especially the people from the History Department who gave us a fascinating tour of the historic old city earlier today. Professor Miller, I guess we both have to admit that Jena sure isn’t Ohio.

I also had the opportunity to visit one of Jena’s most well-known companies, Jenoptik, and hear not just about Jena’s history but also about some exciting plans for the future.
Jenoptik has been one of the economic reform success stories of eastern Germany. It’s success in innovation and in global markets is important not just for the region but for Germany as a whole. It is a great example – and there are others – of a German company going ahead with some of the reforms that are being discussed nationally and internationally to adapt to the challenges of globalization.

Economic issues are certainly one of the areas where the United States and Germany are partners. The bilateral economic relationship between the United States and Germany is one of the largest such relationships in the world — and it is growing. 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. In Thuringia, the U.S. is the largest foreign investor, with over 45 U.S. industrial firms and several more service providers and retail chains operating here. U.S. companies have made investments creating more than 9000 jobs.

It is a hard fact, as I know from my home state of Ohio, that by participating in and helping shape the global economy some sectors or firms will “lose out” -- just as many others will benefit from the increased competition and change. Greater economic integration may also challenge notions our publics may have long held of “sovereignty.” Regional groupings such as the EU or international organizations such as the World Trade Organization can directly affect consumers, workers, farmers, and business people, These bodies, made up of and carrying out decisions made by any number of governments, bring foreign policy home to the people. Policymakers in Germany and the U.S. face the task of managing an increasingly complex bilateral economic relationship in a broader transatlantic and global context to maximize the benefits and keep frictions to a minimum. It is not just a job for governments, but for the individuals in all our countries as well.

Given the size of our economies, the United States and Germany also have a special capacity and responsibility to contribute to global prosperity. Transatlantic trade and investment helps drive and shape the world's economy. I saw this at Jenaoptik today, but I could also have seen it at GE or at so many of the small and medium enterprises that are engines for new products, new ideas, and new jobs in our two countries.

Global challenges in areas other than economics also require a level of leadership that only a true European-American partnership can provide. A strong German-American partnership, standing at the center of a strong European-American partnership, is critical to face global threats and seize global opportunities to enhance our prosperity and security. Over the last five months, our two leaders and their key ministers have been speaking more often and more candidly on key issues. Chancellor Merkel’s government has taken important steps to bring back the tradition and spirit of German-American and trans-Atlantic cooperation. She has brought new momentum to a process that started some 18 months ago with President Bush’s trip to Brussels and Mainz in February 2005.

A year and a half ago we could have defined common objectives. But now we have much more – common strategies, joint policies, and joint actions. There is good trans-Atlantic cooperation on specific issues such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions; the promotion of democracy in the broader Middle East, Belarus, Burma, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and elsewhere; energy security, particularly in the wake of the New Year’s energy cut-offs in Ukraine and the Caucasus; on counter-terrorism and nonproliferation efforts; on international environmental issues, and on bilateral and global trade initiatives including finalizing a successful WTO trade round in the next year..

The scope of that trans-Atlantic agenda shows that today’s partnership between the U.S. and the European Union is as strong and robust as it has ever been. These are the topics that will be on the agenda at the US-EU Summit in Vienna later this week and will be taken up in the broader G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg in mid-July.

The biggest challenge is how to present this agenda in a way that captures all of the concrete actions we are undertaking in a way that is understandable to a wide public.

I would like to take the time to touch on a few of those issues and then I would like to hear from you and take your questions.

The issue of Iran is one that is on all of our minds. The United States and countries in the EU and around the world agree that Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons. We are committed to working with our partners in the EU –3 (Germany, France, and the UK) to resolve this issue. The United States is prepared to join our European partners in direct talks with the Iranians, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities. Iran has been presented with a clear choice; the time has come for the Iranian regime to benefit from behaving like a responsible member of the international community or face increasing isolation.

In Iraq, we are look forward to greater cooperation with Germany as we engage with the new Iraqi government to help them realize their vision of a vibrant, market-based economy and a strong democratic system. Iraq's leaders warrant our strong support in their efforts to develop sound, credible institutions and construct the infrastructure necessary to ensure the realization of their enormous economic potential.

The U.S. is grateful for the strong leadership role Germany has played in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, including hosting the landmark Bonn Conference in 2002. The international conference on Afghanistan in London in February laid out an ambitious set of policy commitments by Afghanistan, backed by pledges from the international community, including Germany. A strong German role, including through NATO, is key to enhancing domestic security and promoting economic development in Afghanistan.

In conclusion, let me tell you what a State Department official told me when I was in Washington a week or so. The good news, he told me, is that the United States and Europe are cooperating. The bad news is that we face unprecedented global challenges. The years ahead will be difficult in many respects. I am, however, confident that the renewed sense of purpose in the German-American and trans-Atlantic relationship will help us find solutions to those problems.

(As prepared for delivery)


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Updated: August 2006