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The State of the U.S.-German Relationship
Ambassador William R. Timken, Jr.
Chicago, German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest
November 19, 2007


As prepared for delivery.

It is a great pleasure for me to meet with you today here in Chicago. As many of you know, I spent most of my career in business. In August 2005, I took on an exciting new job – that of Ambassador of the United States to the Federal Republic of Germany. It is a great honor and privilege to serve my country in this way. My main goal as Ambassador is simple. As the President's "man on the ground," it is to build on and improve the bilateral relationship between our two great nations.

I think it does great credit to what you, as members of the German-American Chamber of Commerce, contribute to this partnership that the President chose a business man, like me, to take on this important job. I have always been a strong believer that policy is not just a matter for government. Based on my experience of the past two years, I can also say that foreign policy is not just the work of governments. The business community has played an invaluable role in building the world’s most successful partnership.

A central column of the German-American partnership is our two-way trade and investment. The United States is Germany’s second largest trading partner. The United States is not only the top investment destination for German companies but also the largest foreign investor in Germany. More than 2,000 American companies are located in Germany with almost double that number of German companies located here in the United States. Together, these firms provide close to 1.5 million jobs in both our countries.

Considering Germany’s leadership role in the European Union, the dimensions of our partnership are even more impressive. The U.S. and the EU represent the world’s two largest economies. More than three billion dollars a day in trade, services and investment cross the Atlantic every single day. Fourteen million jobs depend directly on trans-Atlantic trade. That record in trade and investment between the U.S. and Europe has significance beyond our borders. Our cooperation is a model for other regions and helps unleash the potential of open markets. One of the best ways to help developing countries is to encourage them to open up to the world economy. The research on this is clear – more integration with the world economy brings about more opportunity.

I arrived in Berlin just before the last federal elections in Germany. I had the chance to observe the election and the negotiations to form a coalition government. I think it was significant that in the final coalition agreement, there was a strong focus on the transatlantic relationship. The transatlantic relationship was described in this document as a strong partnership -- not a strategic counterweight. That certainly set the tone for the German-American and the transatlantic partnership – and for my assignment as Ambassador. There was a time when some thought that the U.S. wanted a divided and weak Europe – and that Europe saw its purpose to be a counterweight to the U.S. That time has passed. I think much of the credit can be given to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Bush.

Chancellor Merkel took office in November 2005 promising a foreign policy anchored in a revitalized transatlantic partnership. She has certainly made good on that commitment. She is a key ally for the United States. Her goal is to establish Germany as a partner on the forefront of multilateral efforts to address global security threats. During Germany’s six-month presidency of the European Union in the first half of this year and its corresponding G8 presidency, she has distinguished herself both as an advocate for strong U.S.-European relations and as an internationally respected leader within Europe. The Merkel government has sought to increase transatlantic cooperation in areas ranging from economic and trade relations, climate change policy and global counterterrorism and non-proliferation policy, to peacekeeping, reconstruction and stabilization in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

Recognizing the importance of our economic relationship, Chancellor Merkel initiated the Transatlantic Economic Initiative to reduce and remove these barriers. At the U.S.-EU Summit in Washington last April, the United States and the EU agreed to a Framework for Advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration. The German Federation of Industries estimates that by reducing regulatory barriers on both sides of the Atlantic, we could gain up to 3 percent growth in GDP. When you consider that the U.S and the EU account for roughly 60% of global GDP and 40% of global trade, 3 percent growth represents very significant potential gains. As a former businessman, I am sure the Chancellor is right on the mark.

All in all, cooperation has increased, that doesn’t mean that differences do not remain. This will always be the case for independent nations. The fact, however, that Chancellor Merkel and President Bush have an open and constructive relationship makes it easier to deal with disagreements in a proactive way. I was at their meeting at the President’s ranch in Crawford last week. The conversation last week, was as always – and I have had the great honor of sitting in on all of their meetings – was a meeting between two friends who agree on core concepts and strategies.

This is what people on both sides of the Atlantic want. Recent polls by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank with offices on both sides of the Atlantic, shows that Europeans want cooperation, not competition with the U.S. The poll also shows that the majority of people in almost all the countries surveyed want to see America and Europe working together to solve the major problems of the world. This confirms findings earlier this year by the German Bertelsmann Foundation. Threat perceptions are converging. The Marshall Fund poll showed a significant jump in the number of Americans who see climate change and the Europeans who saw terrorism and extremism as a threat.

In the last two plus years, my wife and I have spent more than 200 days on the road in all parts of Germany talking to every sort of people. One thing every German says to me. We should not confuse German’s loudly expressed concerns about America’s current dominance in world policy making with anti-Americanism. They really do like us! You can see it by their desire to get their kids to America!

At the Embassy in Berlin and our Consulates around the country, we have a lot to show off. We are heavily engaged in public diplomacy. We have designed and more important put into practice some very creative ways to engage with multicultural publics. Some of the initiatives we have come up with have been copied by German organizations, and their government.

We are in close contact with the governmental and research agencies that deal with environmental issues, not to mention the German and American companies that are implementing new technologies in this area.

We talk frequently with the German media about U.S. policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, the areas where there is the most public skepticism. I myself recently took part in a trip to Afghanistan organized by NATO General Craddock so that I could speak from first hand knowledge about the commitment of the United States and other nations engaged there to a "successful government that can provide for the needs of its people."

When I came back from Afghanistan, I sat down with the media to talk about my impressions. I must admit that I cannot put my business background behind me completely. This is how I explained the situation. I recalled an advertising campaign you might also remember. A company selling filters made the point that you could spend $20 on their filter today or $2,000 later on to fix a broken engine. You, as business people also know, that $100 spent today can save $500 later. I think that analogy holds true for our engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are succeeding and will succeed. How much we invest in resources, over what period of time will determine how long it takes and how sure we can be that we will succeed. We certainly saw our commitment in Germany during the difficult period of reconstruction after World War II – not to mention the long years of the Cold War – pay off.

On that note, let me emphasize that the significance of the German-American partnership can simply not be overstated. It is the foundation of a transatlantic alliance that has produced an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Our joint commitment to liberty and opportunity holds out the promise of greater freedom and prosperity to the wider community of nations. We have seen that these values help nations live in peace, turning military confrontation into economic competition and spurring innovation, growth and opportunity.

In the past year, we have made considerable progress in re-defining and strengthening the goals of the transatlantic partnership for the 21st century. It is in that spirit that, next year, we will open the new U.S. Embassy on its historic pre-war location beside the Brandenburg Gate – just yards away from where President Ronald Reagan called upon the Soviet Union to tear down the infamous wall that divided Berlin, Germany, Europe and the world. The site is also next door to where John Quincy Adams, the first American diplomat posted to Berlin and the sixth President of the United States, resided.

Our new Embassy will symbolize both the past and the future of our partnership – from the early days of our young country through the confrontations and success stories of the 20th century, up to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st. It will represent all that the United States and Germany have accomplished together – and all that is yet to come.

We plan to celebrate the grand opening with a very special 4th of July party beside the Brandenburg Gate that will link to all of our consulates. We are working with partners who will be sponsoring a public festival on the 5th. These will be celebrations not just of the new building but also the ongoing commitment of the United States to the bilateral partnership. We hope to see you there.

It’s my job to promote America in Germany. By the same token, let me put in a good word for Germany here. It’s a beautiful country with great people.

While I think trade and investment statistics – and dollars or Euros – are one way a chamber of commerce or a business can measure the success of a partnership, remember that people and places are behind those statistics. Go over to Germany and re-connect with some of those people and places. You won’t regret it. I have visited Germany for the last 47 years. Never did I realize what a great tourist destination it really can be. There is great history and amazing things to see in every part of the country. They all speak English, unlike some other European countries and they are welcoming hosts. I recommend to everyone: visit Germany as soon as possible.

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Updated: June 2008