Future Challenges

Bochum, May 6, 2015
Ambassador John B. Emerson

Herr Hellen, ich danke Ihnen für die Einladung, heute bei Ihnen hier in Bochum zu sein.

What better place to discuss the future of our relationship than here at Bochum’s Jahrhunderthaus.  It symbolizes the importance of the past, the present, and the future of the unique industrial heritage of Bochum and the Ruhr Valley.  Germany’s Ruhrgebiet was a pioneering force in modern industrial society – and as such, it is as much a concept, as it is a geographic reality.  The ongoing transformation of the entire region – with its new focus on green energy, the IT industry, and an increasingly dynamic research and cultural infrastructure – is a model for many regions.

In its diversity and engagement and constructive approach to the challenges of a new industrial age, Bochum and the Ruhrgebiet are also, in many ways, symbolic of all that the thriving transatlantic community aspires to be in the complex, diverse world of the 21st century.  This includes a commitment to the kind of broad-based development that creates growth and jobs, not just for the few at the top, but for the many; and to forge new collaborations in entrepreneurship and science and technology.  This is one area where Germany, as a whole, plays an outsized role in the transatlantic relationship.

The U.S. economic relationship with the EU – and in particular, Germany – 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.  It was then that the idea of a transatlantic trade and investment agreement 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 economic 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 “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.  In fact, 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 has colored the public discussion of these matters in Germany.  Mistrust of the U.S., and mistrust of the EU.

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 another consideration: this debate is taking place at a time when Western values such as rule of law, human rights, and open markets are being challenged on many fronts.  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.”  With T-TIP, the world of order has the opportunity to reinforce those values; and to build an economic and strategic framework that can serve as the foundation for European and American economic growth well into this century.  This broader discussion of global economic trends will be a theme of Germany’s G7 presidency this year.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss all of these issues here with you today.  Again, the location is symbolic – here at the junction of two ancient trade routes where Charlemagne set up a royal court.  Charlemagne’s name and legacy summoned, for the first time, a sense that the people of Europe could live together as diverse members of a single entity.  Then, as today, Europe, living up to that model, provides a powerful example to other parts of the world that remain divided along ethnic, religious, and national lines.

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.  After one of the most destructive and inhumane periods in all of human history, former adversaries learned to be friends and to work together.

This moment in world affairs is in many ways very similar to the situation at 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.  This is an important time for the coalition of free-market democracies – countries that Thomas Friedman refers to as the “core of the world of order” – to come together and establish the best rules for global integration for the 21st century.  This includes appropriate trade, labor, and environmental standards.  But it also includes other areas of cooperation.

The crisis we face 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.  This is part of “the world of disorder.”  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.  These rules are central to an international system of peace, security, prosperity and freedom.

Another area of cooperation is the necessity of countering terrorism and violent extremism.  We must remain unwavering in our fight against 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 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.  We must also address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances.

And of course, 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.

Two events that had an enormous impact, not only on the transatlantic relationship but also on the dynamics of the global order, were 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 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.  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; and ultimately that will be the strength of our transatlantic partnership.

Vielen Dank.