AmCham Germany Recognition Dinner

Berlin, May 7, 2015
Ambassador John B. Emerson

Vielen Dank, Bernhard.

Jan Bayer, vielen Dank für Ihre Gastfreundschaft.

Congressman Pittenger, special guests, welcome to Berlin.

Andreas Povel, Fred Irwin,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very happy to have this opportunity to recognize the work of the friends and supporters of AmCham Germany towards meeting the broader goals of our transatlantic relationship.  As honorary chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, I thank our event partners and speakers, regional and policy chairs, representatives and honorary members, and the board of directors –past and present – for your dedication.  It is a privilege and a joy to know and work with you.

Soon after I arrived in Germany, I spoke with many of you here tonight about how we, as trans-Atlantic partners, can make a difference in the world around us.  And in that respect, business plays an enormous role – and not just for the obvious reasons.  Call it corporate social responsibility, corporate social innovation or social entrepreneurship, the idea of giving back grows out of some of the most important values that define American culture.  These values are a deeply engrained part of America’s history and they are also a part of the shared German-American story – both through the chronology of German immigration to the United States, and the unique development of our relationship since the end of World War II.

Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.  V-E Day marked the birth of a new international system of norms and ideals, conceived to ensure peace, security and prosperity for all nations.  After one of the most destructive and inhumane periods in all of human history, former adversaries learned to be friends and to work together.  Out of the ashes of World War II, Europe and the United States collectively forged a transatlantic community, anchored in shared institutions that brought an unprecedented era of peace, prosperity, and stability to Europe, and a new global order that serves the interests of countries around the world.

As the war drew to a close, the Allied powers agreed to establish an international body that would be stronger than the ill-fated League of Nations, which had failed to prevent the conflict. The charter that established the United Nations was the combined effort of 50 nations.  In fact, one of the new organization’s main goals was to promote cooperation among both small and large nations.

At the same time, economic organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (today’s World Trade Organization) were created to help open markets and prevent a worldwide depression, like the one that helped set the stage for the war.

In the wake of the Holocaust and other horrific crimes, countries recognized the benefits of a world with established norms and shared values.  The International Military Tribunal which culminated in the Nuremberg trials was the precursor to the International Criminal Court.  The shared outrage about war crimes also led to the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1949 Geneva Conventions on protection of military and civilians during war.

The current situation in world affairs is in many ways similar to the end of World War II.  We see rising disorder in the Middle East and Africa.  Russia and China are trying to mold the world.  As Thomas Friedman recently put it in his New York Times column, we are facing a struggle between “the world of order” and “the world of disorder.”  The coalition of free-market democracies, the countries that Friedman refers to as the “core of the world of order” must come together in support of the best rules for global integration in the 21st century.

This includes appropriate trade, labor, and environmental standards.  And this is one area where Germany and the United States play an outsized role.  The U.S. economic relationship with the EU is the largest and most complex in the world.  The enormous volume of trade and investment promotes economic prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the dozens of other countries that trade with us. In the future, however, the U.S. and Germany, and the other member states of the EU, will face a very different world market.  To address the challenges and opportunities of globalization in the 21st century, the Transatlantic Economic Council (or TEC) was launched in 2007, under the German EU Council Presidency and upon the initiative of Chancellor Merkel – and with the whole-hearted support of the AmCham, I might add.  It was then that the idea of a transatlantic trade and investment agreement, long on the table, took on shape and form.
T-TIP, now under negotiation, reflects the central tenets of those Transatlantic Economic Council discussions.  The bottom line was – and is – that the transatlantic economy can become even more competitive and dynamic if non-tariff barriers across a broad range of sectors to trade are removed.  T-TIP will not cause health, safety, or environmental standards to drop.  Rather, it will allow Europe and the U.S. to be global standard setters, not standard-takers.  It will create new opportunities for sustained growth – in particular for the small and medium-sized businesses that are the engines of that growth.

When the T-TIP negotiations were officially launched, in June 2013, both sides knew that environmental and health standards, food safety, cultural diversity, and labor and consumer rights might be potentially contentious issues.  For decades, Washington and Brussels have discussed agricultural standards. GMOs, hormone-treated beef, and now “Chlorhühner” or chlorinated chicken became household words.  Issues such as consumer protection and health and food standards, influenced by differences in cultural preferences and in regulatory philosophies, are without a doubt, sensitive issues to resolve.  But remember this: the same kinds of worries about standards, influx of bad foods or products, seized Germany during the discussions about forming the EU!  But you don’t hear much about that any more, now that people are enjoying the benefits of free trade.

Today, it is important to emphasize that both Germany and the United States enjoy uniformly high standards of safety and quality in the products they buy and the foods they consume.  The United States and the members of the European Union lead the world in science, and in research and development.  Our regulatory systems are the most advanced in the world.  Efforts to address trade barriers through T-TIP have been and will continue to be guided by a commitment to the rigorous, science-based standards of health, environmental, and consumer protection that both U.S. and EU citizens expect and demand.  And neither President Obama nor Chancellor Merkel would approve an agreement that fails to do that.

Unfortunately, however, an underlying sense of mistrust of the U.S., and mistrust of the EU, has colored the public discussion of these matters in Germany.  And yet, interestingly enough, the T-TIP debate is taking place at a time when the economies of many European member-states are struggling. The fact is, as the EU contemplates the current state of economic growth and stratospheric youth unemployment, T-TIP can be a jobs package that is practically cost free.   Plus virtually every study confirms that an export giant like Germany would benefit substantially from T-TIP.

And there is yet another consideration: this debate is taking place at a time when Western values such as rule of law, human rights, and open markets – the backbone of the “world of order” – are being challenged on many fronts.  With T-TIP, the world order has the opportunity to reinforce those values; and to build an economic and strategic framework that can serve as the foundation for economic growth well into the coming century.

And we must come together to confront other challenges as well.  The crisis in Ukraine not only imperils the hope of a Europe whole, free and at peace; it threatens the governing principles of the international order and a global rules-based system.  The borders and territorial integrity of a democratic state cannot be changed by force.  It is the inherent right of citizens in a democracy to make their country’s choices, and determine its future.  Adherence to these rules is central to an international system of peace, security, prosperity and freedom.

As we gather here tonight, ISIL is terrorizing the people of Syria and Iraq and engaging in unspeakable cruelty.  ISIL-linked terrorists murdered Egyptians in the Sinai Peninsula, and their slaughter of Egyptian Christians in Libya shocked the world.  Beyond the region, we’ve seen deadly attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen.  Elsewhere, Israelis have endured the tragedy of terrorism for decades.  Pakistan’s Taliban has mounted a long campaign of violence against the Pakistani people, most recently slaughtering more than 100 school children and their teachers.  From Somalia, al-Shabaab terrorists have launched attacks across East Africa.  In Nigeria and neighboring countries, Boko Haram kills and kidnaps, rapes and enslaves men, women and children.

We must remain unwavering in our fight against these and other terrorist organizations.  We also need to deepen our cooperation against foreign terrorist fighters by sharing more information, and making it harder for fighters to travel to and from Syria and Iraq.  It is clear, however, that our work will not be done until we address the fundamental problem of young people who are so disillusioned and isolated – even when living in our midst – that they become receptive to radicalization by extremists.  We have to confront the warped ideologies espoused by terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL, and especially their attempt to use Islam to justify their violence.

And in confronting terrorism, let me briefly address our important work together in the area of intelligence, which has been in the news, once again, as of late.  Our shared intelligence collaboration is essential to combating terrorism, both in Europe and elsewhere, and to understanding what in fact is happening on the ground in places like Ukraine.  But despite what you read in the papers – and I’ve said it before – the United States does notundertake industrial espionage for the commercial advantage of American companies.  We do not do it; and we have not done it.  And let me point out that there are plenty of other countries, including friends and allies, who have not made that statement.

And of course, together with Germany, we face other serious problems.  Over the course of the past year, we have responded in a coordinated and cooperative way to a string of global crises.  We worked together to confront the threat of Ebola and the disintegration of the public health system in West Africa.  We are making strides, together, to confront the dangers of a changing climate.  As Secretary of State John Kerry recently said, the Cold War was simple compared to the multipolar, sectarian world of the 21st century.  But there are lessons to be learned from our shared history.

This building, intentionally built by Axel Springer on the border of the Soviet occupied sector of Berlin, was a “lighthouse of the free West.”  It symbolizes two events that had an enormous impact, not only on the transatlantic relationship, but also on the dynamics of the global order: the peaceful revolution that brought down the Berlin Wall, and German reunification.

They gave shape and form to the postwar concept of a Europe whole, free, and at peace; and to a broader vision of human rights that has inspired people around the world: a vision of a world where people are free to speak their minds, to criticize their own government; to assemble and to vote, and to choose their own destinies; a vision where every human being has the right –and the opportunity – to reach his or her highest potential.  These rights do not exist in a vacuum.  Nor are they inevitable – as the situation in eastern Ukraine or in Iraq or in Syria and northern Africa today so tragically remind us.  What is certain is that they entail a corresponding set of obligations, and the responsibility to stand up and work for the common good.

Our countries are closely linked in countless ways and by an extraordinary spirit of cooperation.  In fact, I would describe the German-American relationship as an “essential relationship.”  I am certain that the strength of our ties will help us address the serious challenges of the 21st century.  In the end, whether we are able to live up to our ideals comes down to us – and the choices we make in confronting these challenges together.  Ultimately, this will be the strength of our transatlantic partnership.

AmCham, and you, the AmCham members and partners who we honor this evening, are invaluable participants in a transatlantic network that has for years stood for dialogue, discourse and dependability.  You understand the issues that drive trans-Atlantic business relationships.  You also understand the need to grow that relationship; and to extend it to younger generations.  You are committed not only to the success of your businesses, but also to building towards that broader role that Germany and the United States, as essential partners, can and must play in the world.

Vielen Dank.