American Chamber of Commerce Goose Dinner
As prepared for delivery.
I’d like to thank the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin for your invitation to speak at your Goose Dinner. It is always a pleasure to address the Chamber and your guests. I know I can speak for my colleagues at the Embassy in telling you how much we appreciate the chance to exchange ideas about strengthening German-American business ties. The Chamber, with its broad-based, unified membership, is a strong voice for the transatlantic business community in Germany. Over the years, your work has helped advance the cause of market deregulation, reduce barriers to trade, and promote the adoption of business-friendly policies that ultimately create jobs and economic growth, to the benefit of both nations.
The European Union and the United States together account for 60 percent of world gross domestic product and 40 percent of world trade. Three billion dollars worth of goods, services and investments cross the Atlantic every day. Fourteen million people benefit in the form of good jobs. U.S. and EU markets make up 60% of global GDP. But this economic relationship, with its enormous benefits not only for both parties but also for the wider global economic agenda, is not immune to the challenges of a world in which the economic and political order is changing very quickly. This is why the initiative to promote Transatlantic Economic Integration, established at the EU-U.S. summit in April 2007, is so important.
I commend AmCham for the proactive stance it has taken in winning support for many of the ideas that took shape in this initiative. Your conference on November 6 in Frankfurt was a great kickoff to the first official meeting of the Transatlantic Economic Council, or TEC, in Washington on the 9th of November. What makes TEC different from previous attempts to reduce transatlantic regulatory barriers? Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic have repeatedly said that the lack of mutual recognition of regulatory standards is one of the major detriments to transatlantic trade and investment. Why hasn’t it happened? Certainly not for want of commitment or ideas on the part of government agencies, or from the business community.
The vital ingredient in the TEC is the top involvement of the political leadership on both sides of the Atlantic to push and monitor change. Five members of the European Commission, plus a representative of the presidency of the European Union, attended the meetings in Washington. Germany was also at the table, represented by Jens Weidmann, Chancellor Merkel's chief economic advisor. Some of our most senior economic officials, including Treasury Secretary Paulson and USTR Ambassador Schwab, represented the United States. It is very rare that you have this many principals all in the same room.
This new TEC will need to match progress with the commitment with which it was launched by Chancellor Merkel, President Bush, and European Commission President Barroso last April. I can assure you that this was an important topic on the agenda during Chancellor Merkel’s recent visit with the President at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. There is a clear commitment to deliver concrete results within reasonable time frames – and we are delivering results.
Perhaps no other work item on the Transatlantic Economic Council’s agenda touches such a wide span of our industries. It also illustrates why TEC will succeed where other initiatives have failed. This time, specific areas, such as accounting standards, financial markets, investment, intellectual property and patents, secure trade, have been identified that are the most relevant both to our competitive posture and where we can accelerate the removal of regulatory barriers. Input from organizations such as AmCham and BDI has been much appreciated.
As we promote convergence on these issues, we also need to actively prevent regulatory divergence. Hopefully, it will one day be a distant memory that there were diverging standards that obliged American and European car manufacturers to produce two models of the same car instead of one. That is hardly a recipe for remaining competitive.
There are similar regulatory barriers to address in food and agriculture. The European Union committed to resolving the outstanding issues on U.S. poultry prior to the next TEC meeting. The issues on U.S. poultry have languished within the European Commission for almost 10 years, because little effort was placed on consultations prior to implementing new EU regulations in 1998. This is an excellent example of where work prior to implementing new standards will help avoid future market disruptions for a wide range of products and services on both sides of the Atlantic.
We should also not forget the potential in the areas of research and technological innovation. There has been intensive work with private standards organizations to facilitate market penetration of bio-based products to replace the oil-based fuels and plastics we use today. As a result at the November 9 meeting in Washington, the principals endorsed the work toward common specifications for bioethanol and biodiesel by the end of the year. This is critical in achieving energy security and tackling climate change and ensuring sufficient raw materials for food and energy needs. We believe the big test for the TEC will be the 12 month report next year. I encourage all of you in business to push for significant results.
Let me conclude by once again commending the staff and members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany. Your organization is symbolic of the engagement of the American business community in Germany. Business investments in Germany in the early days of the postwar period and, then after reunification, in the new Eastern states strengthened both Germany
and Europe. It is part of the unique history that binds Germans and Americans, particularly here in Berlin. More than that, it is an example of what we have achieved – and also where we are going. I am personally convinced that business and commerce between our two nations is so great that our citizens well being depends on a strong global partnership between Germany and the U.S. I would like to see this economic engagement continue to accelerate.
Our job today is to build on the important accomplishments of the Atlantic partnership, while ensuring that we meet the challenges of the future. The wisdom of our predecessors was confirmed through the rapid adaptation of Atlantic institutions to the new era. That was one of the main topics of discussion at both lunch and dinner in Crawford, Texas. Chancellor Merkel in particular spoke very eloquently about the individuals who worked so effectively in the postwar years to put into place the institutions that have served us so well. Both she and President Bush emphasized that, building on this foundation and remembering the high ideals of Konrad Adenauer, George Marshall, Lucius Clay or John McCloy, there are no limits for the transatlantic partnership.
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. It would have been easier to build in a less central location but we decided that the historical significance of the Embassy’s pre-war location made it essential that we return. 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. After 69 years we will be back at the Center of German government.
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.
The Embassy plans to celebrate the grand opening with a very special 4th of July party on Pariser Platz that will link to all of our consulates. And we are working with partners who will be sponsoring an Amerikafest on July 5 which we support. 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.
Have a wonderful holiday season. We have made major accomplishments in 2007. 2008 will be even better.
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Updated: June 2008