The American View of Europe

Berlin, February 10, 2014
Ambassador John B. Emerson

Guten Abend.  Es ist mir eine Ehre mit Marie-Therese Duffy-Häusler und Botschafter Wolfgang Ischinger hier zu sein.  Und ich freue mich auf Sie alle.

Good evening.  I appreciate the opportunity to join you this evening,and I am honored to be here with Marie-Therese Duffy-Häusler and Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger.  It is a great pleasure to be able to meet with such a young, dynamic group of students as we have here this evening; although I’ve been feeling pretty young myself these past few days!  Each of the last four nights, I’ve been to Berlinale movie screenings, sometimes going past midnight; and then, of course, there are the after parties.  The collaboration between German and American film-makers and producers that we see in the Berlinale is a great tribute to the trans-Atlantic partnership.

And so, I would like to thank the Schwarzkopf Stiftung for hosting us this evening.  And most important, I would like to thank all of you for being a part of this discussion.  Why?  Because this is a crucial period for Europe and America.  The world faces many difficult challenges and the fundamental truth is that neither America nor Europe can confront them alone.   Our alliance is the foundation of global security.  Our trade and our commerce is the engine of the global economy.  Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet.  Together, we can do things that no other nations can or, for that matter, will do.  As President Obama so often says, the United States and Europe plays a leadership role that the world needs and expects of us in these complex times.

However, the level of collaboration that defines our relationship requires trust.  And that, as we are all aware, has been badly shaken by the recent NSA disclosures.  In order to work together – effectively and cooperatively – we need to re-build that trust; and this will require sincere efforts and hard work.  In our personal lives, as probably all of us have experienced at one point or another, friends sometimes disagree.  Friends sometimes disappoint one another; but when that occurs, if the relationship is important, you work hard to get through it.  By the same token, countries sometimes have disagreements.  And in the case of the German-American partnership, a partnership and a friendship that has grown over so many decades, we need to nurture and maintain and develop the essence of the trust between us; a trust based on basic common values and a shared past.

I will discuss this in greater depth in a minute – but given that Ambassador Ischinger is here, I think it is appropriate to acknowledge the 50thanniversary of the Munich Security Conference, which took place a week ago. Consider how much our world has changed since 1963.  The world today is more secure, prosperous, stable and free than it was 50 years ago.  We were at the height of the Cold War.  The Munich Security, or Wehrkunde, Conference was a way for trans-Atlantic partners to hold serious conversations about the messy, dangerous, often morally problematic, but absolutely essential business of building and managing security in a world armed with a frightening array of nuclear weapons and underlying policies of ‘mutually assured destruction.’

Fortunately, the Cold War concerns that dominated the second half of the 20th century have evaporated.  And today’s Germany is a role model: exactly what leaders in the United States and Europe envisioned when, at the end of World War II, they formed a partnership, based on a vision of freedom and prosperity.  Nevertheless, the challenges we face today can also be messy, dangerous – and most often with no easy answers or simple overarching strategic framework, like ‘containment’ during the Cold War.  It is essential that we continue to talk calmly and seriously about how best to manage the complex global parameters of our world.  By the way, to that end, I would recommend to all of you that you go online and read the speech that President Gauck gave at the opening of last week’s conference.  It was an eloquent and very compelling testimony to the importance of the values we share across the Atlantic and the responsibility they entail.  Well, it took us four decades but we resolved the crises of the Cold War, and we certainly should be able to untangle today’s dilemmas.  Back then, the problems were measured in megatons.  In today’s digital world, it is megabytes.

And so, of course, it is essential that we continue our conversation regarding the profound concerns arising from the recent NSA disclosures.  I fully understand the distress that has been caused here in Germany by these disclosures.  And I understand the differences between the experiences of the German people, especially from 1933 to 1989, and the recent experiences of Americans after 9/11, as well as their impact on our respective attitudes towards intelligence gathering.  The shared concerns of Germany, Europe and many in my country are being taken very seriously, at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

In January, President Obama outlined some of the changes that will be made in U.S. intelligence activities, as a result of the comprehensive review that he ordered last year.  In ordering this review, his goal was to ensure that information is collected because it is needed, and not just because technology makes it possible.  Consequently, he announced significant changes that will strengthen the executive branch oversight of intelligence activities; insure that privacy concerns are advocated within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; modify the manner in which metadata is collected, stored and used; insure that we work with our friends and partners in a manner respectful of that relationship; and, in an unprecedented step, extend certain protections that American citizens enjoy to people overseas.

Secretary of State John Kerry discussed these issues in detail with Chancellor Merkel and Aussenminister Steinmeier in Berlin, on his way to the Munich Security Conference.  Discussions are ongoing – within the Administration, in Congress, and between the senior levels of our respective intelligence services – about how to strike the right balance between protecting our security while also protecting our personal privacy and liberties.

And let me make clear that we understand that the tapping of a Chancellor’s phone has nothing to do with combatting terrorism.  As President Obama has made clear, if he wants to know what Chancellor Merkel thinks, or any of the leaders of the countries that are our friends and allies for that matter, he will pick up the phone, call them, and ask.

But make no mistake: we are confronted by a different assortment of weapons than during the Cold War, less overtly lethal, perhaps; but they are potentially just as destructive of the ways in which we all work, travel, and live our lives.  Our adversaries are very skilled at using technology to accomplish their objectives – and not only through methods we conventionally define as “terrorism,” but also through cyber-attacks against our financial exchanges, air traffic control systems, or even, through massive identity theft, our personal credit cards and bank accounts.  The digital world opens up great opportunities for personal and economic development, but it also has become the vehicle used by those who seek to do us harm, to recruit, train, plan, and attack.   The reality is that since 9/11, our collaborative intelligence gathering efforts have thwarted numerous such attacks, including some on German soil.

Striking the right balance between security and freedom is not a zero sum game.  Strengthening one actually protects and enhances the other.  And this is a much bigger issue than the NSA.   As Minister de Mazière said the other day, you could eliminate the NSA, and the problem would still be there.  We in the US government just experienced this recently with the release, on Youtube, of a surreptitiously recorded phone conversation between a top State Department official and our Ambassador to the Ukraine.

The fact is Germany, Europe and the U.S. each need to define what we seek to accomplish by regulating digital activity, taking into consideration the nature of business, security, and privacy concerns, while keeping in mind the fundamental, transformational characteristic of the Internet: to allow anyone to communicate, with anyone else, anywhere in the world, at any time.  I am a technological midget, as they say, but this is your world.  How do engineers, scientists, and business practitioners think it will evolve over the next two or three decades.  How do you think it will evolve?  And how should we respond to those anticipated developments?  One thing is certain:  Germany, Europe, and America must ask these questions, and then work on the solutions together.

On this broad issue, let me address one final aspect: and that is a concern that the United States may be conducting industrial espionage, in particular here in Germany.  As President Obama said in his remarks on U.S. intelligence programs: “We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.”  We do, however, exchange opinions, conduct research on economic and industry trends, and examine issues ranging from trade, investment, development, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Every Embassy has an economic unit, and working with the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Labor and Agriculture, we analyze local, regional and global economies, as well as industry sectors within those economies; and the information we develop, whether on projected crop yields or trends in manufacturing and international trade, is frequently made publicly available.  This kind of approach has helped to make the trans-Atlantic partnership so successful.

There is yet another reason why it is essential that we re-build the trust that has been shaken.  We share a common heritage, with 65 million Americans having German ancestors.  We share family relationships; many of the American service men and women who were based in Germany married Germans, and their children were born here.  We share a common love of culture, with much of classical literature and music coming from Germany, and much of popular culture – fashion, music, television and film content, and art – coming from America, or being developed together, as we can see from the co-productions screened as part of the Berlinale.  We share a love for American-made iPads and smart phones and well-built cars that are made in both of our countries.  And we share the common values that undergird the long-standing trans-Atlantic relationship.

Our collaboration today will determine our ability to deal with the challenges of tomorrow.  I am talking about jointly confronting issues such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the challenges posed by changes in northern Africa and the Middle East; understanding the changing dynamics in Russia, and the states of the former Soviet Union; and preparing for the inevitable changes in the economies of China and southeast Asia.  And I am talking about global warming and climate change, the need to transform our sources and uses of energy, and, as mentioned earlier, the important decisions that need to be made about how to respond to the rapid advances in the digital world.

I am also talking about how we can strengthen our economic partnership.  I believe we can ensure that prosperity will be as emblematic of the 21st century as security was of the last.  And we have before us a great opportunity to do just that:  the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP, will not only create the world’s largest free trade zone, it can also serve as a framework for the codification of Western values such as freedom, rule of law, respect for the environment, labor law, transparency in commercial dealings, and the protection of intellectual property rights.  Imagine what happens when you take the world’s largest market and the world’s largest single economy – also, by the way, the two most innovative economies in the world – and you marry them together, reinforcing these shared principles and values.  If we’re ambitious enough, T-TIP will do for our shared prosperity what NATO has done for our shared security, recognizing that our security has always been built on the notion of our shared prosperity.

Nevertheless, there are concerns about T-TIP –especially on the part of young people who are frequently – and understandably – skeptical about what they hear from leaders of government and business.

First, some ask, “We’re doing pretty well, why do we need it?”  Domestically, in Germany, many sectors of the economy are doing well.  In the U.S., the employment situation continues to improve.  The American energy sector is experiencing a renaissance as new technologies and innovations re-shape the market.  But I don’t need to tell you about the crisis of youth employment in Western Europe or in America.  This free trade zone will generate numerous jobs, as it frees up the ability to sell goods across borders; and, by increasing competition, it reduces prices for consumers.  Even if you’re gainfully employed or you live in a region where the economy is humming, none of us can afford to be content.  In this fast changing world, if we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind.

Second, some are concerned that only the large multinationals will benefit from T-TIP.  This is not true.  In fact, all levels of companies stand to profit from the agreement – and in particular, many of the small and medium sized companies that are the backbone of the German economy.  Of great significance to the T-TIP negotiations are the non-tariff barriers to trade that have emerged over the last several decades, such as regional regulations and standards.  Removing these kinds of barriers will greatly simplify trans-Atlantic trade.  This is where, proportionally, small and medium sized companies stand to benefit from T-TIP.  Big companies can afford to employ specialists to deal with regulatory differences.  Smaller businesses often cannot.  All businesses, however, will benefit from regulatory convergence by saving money on duplicative testing, legal analyses, and conformity assessments.

A third concern is that T-TIP will undermine our safety standards.  European and American regulatory systems are the most advanced in the world.  We know that when we get behind the wheel of a car or board an airplane – on either side of the Atlantic – regulators have worked closely with manufacturers to ensure that we are traveling in greater safety than ever before.  Yet, as an example, a car that is perfectly safe here in Europe cannot be sold in America without making modifications to things like the tail lights, or without passing the US crash test standard.  Is the US standard really better than the European one?  Or vice versa?

We know that we can eat a fantastic meal anywhere here in Germany or in the U.S.; and that the food will be safe and healthy, regardless of the fact that it may have arrived at the table via different regulatory routes.  And if we’re serious about the need to feed the world and confront starvation, or dramatically reduce the use of pesticides that poison our ground water, we have to approach food production from the basis of science, and not myth driven fear.  We have been able to reduce regulatory barriers to trade without undermining consumer safety in all of our previous trade agreements, including those related to the production of organic food, and we can do the same with T-TIP.

At the end of the day, one of the main objectives of T-TIP is to create a fair playing field which improves opportunities for everybody – from the farmers who are struggling to put good, healthy food on our tables and still make a living; to the employees of small and medium-sized business, as well as multinationals; to young people, seeking long-term employment.  And here I am talking about both the 18 year old who is trying to enter a tight job market and the entrepreneur, perhaps from Berlin’s Silicon Allee, who might be the world’s next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates; or, since Berlin is in the midst of the Berlinale, the young film-maker, perhaps from the Film Academy at the Babelsberg Studio in Potsdam, or the School of Theatre, Film and Television at UCLA or USC in Los Angeles, my home town.

I have spoken a great deal lately with young entrepreneurs – and this week with young film-makers here in Germany –about developing a climate where innovation and creativity can thrive.  Since I am from California, sometimes these conversations have started with a small measure of Valley envy.  In many ways, Silicon Valley has it all: technology, money, talent, a critical mass of ventures, and a culture that encourages collaborative innovation and tolerates failure.  It is understandable when people throughout the world point to that model and say, “I want that.”  But that is a poor guide for success.

The most crucial element in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is to tailor the suit to fit its own local dimensions, style, and climate; and in this respect, people are the common denominator.  What policy makers can do for innovators is to remove structural obstacles to entrepreneurship and facilitate access to talent and opportunity – for example, by reforming the regulatory process and technology-licensing practices to update, modify, or eliminate excessive and costly rules.  By the way, T-TIP is designed to do just that.

Both of our countries have long been places where innovation is encouraged, where good ideas can thrive and dreams can become real, and where the world’s greatest minds are free to push the limits of science and technology.  The key to economic success – and the United States and Germany are again cases in point – has always been the ability to think up new ideas andcreate new industries around them.  In a global economy, we have to keep inventing and innovating in order to stay on the cutting edge – and in the US, as well as Europe, we have seen time and time again that innovative energy most often comes from younger people who are not afraid to ask, “Why not?”

This evening, I have only touched on a couple of issues, and I understand that you may have many questions about the United States – questions that go beyond intelligence gathering activities and comprehensive international trade agreements.  From the government shutdown last October, to our legislative battles over the debt ceiling, health care, gun control, and immigration, I know that people here feel that America could do this and should do that better.

But you know what?  Many Americans, with pride in their country, feel the same way.  America has always been a work in progress.  It is written into our Constitution.  From the beginnings of our nation, founded on a commitment to freedom and democratic values, we have always sought to “form a more perfect Union.”  It has been a role model for the world.

And as I said earlier, today’s Germany is also a role model.  A recent poll showed that for Americans, Germany is the most popular country.  It is respected worldwide for its vibrant and stable democracy, its economic strength, and its open and diverse society.  These values are reflected in society both here in Germany and in the United States.  They are also reflected in our mutual goals and interests; and they are fundamental to an ongoing “more perfect” partnership between our countries.  And I look forward to hearing your views about how we can get there together.

Vielen Dank.