AmCham Goose Dinner
Berlin, December 7, 2017
CdA Kent Logsdon
It’s a pleasure to join you this evening at AmCham’s annual Goose Dinner. It’s the best kind of tradition – one that brings people together.
Like most of us here this evening, I have strong personal connections to Germany. I did an exchange year at a high school in northern Germany, and our families have remained friends for nearly four decades: we attended each other’s weddings and see each other regularly. Later, I worked as a summer intern in Leverkusen. Coincidentally, when I started my career as a diplomat, my first posting was to Stuttgart and it was there that I met my wife, also a young diplomat. Michelle had moved to Stuttgart after being stationed at our Embassy in East Berlin. Almost thirty years later, we were thrilled to return.
Germany today is a very different country. Its leadership role, within Europe and worldwide, is sought and appreciated. What has not changed is the German-American partnership, which remains robust. It is based on personal connections – as allies, business partners, visitors, and most importantly, as friends. These are the ties that bind.
This was my German-American story. As Deputy Chief of Mission from 2015 and as Chargé d’Affaires for the past eleven months, I have heard many other such stories. I’m particularly energized to see so many young people crossing the Atlantic – increasingly, young entrepreneurs. (I’ll touch on start-ups a bit later).
Given all the media focus on our differences, it is important to remember how much we need each other. Last week, in a major speech at the Wilson Center in Washington, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out our strategy of a strong U.S.-European partnership that starts with security issues, but goes much further. It recognizes that neither the United States nor Europe alone can deal effectively with the challenges of our day, including the challenge posed by a resurgent Russia. And he made clear that our commitment to NATO and Article 5 of the NATO treaty remains unwavering, just as we are eager to work with allies to meet the 2-percent benchmark for defense spending that all of us have agreed.
Ours is not a marriage of convenience but rather an enduring partnership, based on the values that underpin free and open societies including rule of law, a market economy, and openness to innovation and dissent. Together, our two nations have shown we can manage threats and challenges to our collective security and prosperity.
That said, sometimes evolving challenges require new solutions. For example, the Ukraine crisis made clear how energy supplies can be wielded as a political weapon. Enhancing Europe’s energy security means ensuring access to affordable, reliable, diverse, and secure supplies of energy. No country should be able to use its resources or its position in the global energy market to extort other nations. The United States is easing its rules governing the export of U.S.-produced oil and natural gas, and we’re eager to work with European partners to ensure that new infrastructure promotes a diversity of energy supplies, rather than increasing the market dominance of a single supplier.
The hallmark of a close and strong friendship is speaking often and candidly – and our channels of communication are as robust as ever. For example, I can assure you before the President made his announcement on Jerusalem, we were in touch with our German counterparts at the highest level to preview the decision and to discuss the way forward.
I was privileged to attend the first meeting between President Trump and Chancellor Merkel in March at the White House. Since that first meeting, they have met a number of times and speak frequently on the phone. Foreign Minister Gabriel was the first minister to meet Secretary Tillerson; Defense Minister von der Leyen met Secretary Mattis immediately after his confirmation, then shared the stage with him at the opening of the Munich Security Conference in February. Vice President Pence and then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly (now White House Chief of Staff), also participated in Munich. Other U.S. cabinet members and President Trump himself visited as part of the G-20 process – the premier venue for solving the world’s economic and social challenges (sorry, Davos).
Last Thursday, on the final day of Germany’s G20 Presidency, the Economic Ministry hosted the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity – a high-level, intense negotiation. We welcome and appreciate Germany’s international engagement to address steel excess capacity issues, one of the most sensitive economic issues for the United States and many other countries. Much work remains to be done on that issue. We also need to talk about overall imbalances and ensuring that the benefits of global trade are more broadly shared. (But that’s another topic).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Rather than try to list the many ways our governments are working to help business succeed and adapt in a digital world, let me mention a concrete recent example of our shared engagement: the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, a set of robust and enforceable protections for the personal data of EU individuals. Germany, the United States, and Germany’s EU partners together created Privacy Shield after the European Court of Justice invalidated the Safe Harbor framework in 2015, calling into question the legal basis for companies to transfer essential data across the Atlantic – the lifeblood of many businesses, well beyond the tech arena.
Privacy Shield shows the two sides’ timely engagement on an important but difficult issue. Through intense consultations over the past two years, U.S. authorities worked closely with the European Commission and EU member states to address the concerns raised by data protection authorities. The Commission concluded that the Privacy Shield meets EU legal requirements and can stand up in Court. Once the Privacy Shield Framework was in place, both sides stood by their commitment to review implementation to ensure it works in practice to give privacy protections to individuals.
More than 100 U.S. subsidiaries of European companies now participate in Privacy Shield. It allows them to do business with EU partners and to transfer the HR data necessary to open offices here. In fact, many U.S. companies sign up for Privacy Shield at the request of their EU partners. Let me ask: does your firm or its U.S. partners rely on Privacy Shield to transfer data to the United States? How is the digital economy working for your business? Please let my colleagues John McCaslin and Clark Price know if you face barriers to doing business in the digital age. We know there are challenges to the current Privacy Shield system and the USG is committed to maintain this framework that’s working so well for all of us. On this and many other issues, my team and AmCham’s can help engage with German authorities and share our impressions; please feel free to reach out to us!
The United States supports a transatlantic digital economy that creates jobs, facilitates data protection and privacy, and promotes cross-border data flows. There’s a lot at stake: transatlantic digital trade is currently worth $300 billion each year and Europe is America’s top overseas market for digital services. We believe it is in Europe’s best interest that a “Digital Single Market” have a “light touch” and that any new regulations reflect input from a wide range of stakeholders.
Let’s preserve the openness of the transatlantic economy, support innovation, and benefit consumers. Ideally, the Hippocratic Oath would also apply to business regulation: “primum non nocere – first, do no harm.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I mentioned the United States’ special affinity for entrepreneurs and the start-up climate worldwide, and how delighted I am that young entrepreneurs are so eager to work in both our markets. You may have seen that the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump headlined last week’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India, and spoke about the need to support women entrepreneurs. Well, the United States has helped to organize Global Entrepreneurship Summits since 2010 – and then-President Obama headlined the 2015 summit. Across party lines and from coast to coast, Americans value innovation and entrepreneurship and hard work. In this respect, Americans and Germans are quite similar.
John and Clark and I have met some very cool startups in Germany, from FinTech to high-tech and a lot of ICT.
Home to half of Europe’s business incubators, German has a strong track record in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. In September, I launched this year’s StartUp Night in Berlin, one of Europe’s best startup events (with about 5,000 participants). I also visited with some cool startups in Leipzig at the Spin Lab and met some impressive innovators in Freiburg.
There is lots happening in Germany and the United States is proud to remain the world leader in this area. Many German start-ups want to establish or market in the United States, and most look to Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, and other hotbeds for ideas and – if they’re one of the lucky few – funding.
Of course, any speech to AmCham is sure to include a sales pitch, and here’s mine: through SelectUSA, John McCaslin and his team help companies interested in expanding in the United States. Two-way investment flows between our two countries remain very strong. We will again host a SelectUSA Summit in Washington next June and welcome German companies. We value and appreciate their participation in the U.S. market and the jobs and R&D they support. It is natural, therefore, that SelectUSA is now working with German start-ups that want to grow their businesses in the United States.
And we aren’t talking just about the West Coast: recently, SelectUSA helped a software start-up in Berlin to open a presence in Philadelphia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I started this evening with my German-American story.
Go to the Embassy’s Facebook page to check out a short video we did with my boss Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell, as part of a series entitled ‘Was mich mit Berlin verbindet.’ (Yours truly also contributed a clip, as did Clark Price.) As a former exchange student, Wess Mitchell highlighted the impact of exchange programs which have cemented our partnership for decades. Supporting exchange programs is an important part of what we do – thanks to strong institutional support and because there continues to be strong German interest in studying at colleges and universities in the United States, and vice versa. Within the European Union, only the UK sends more students to the U.S. than Germany. It is great to see that the number of American students who now study in Germany (and more generally Europe) is on the rise. That is a very hopeful sign for the future.
That is one reason why the U.S. State Department has a critical interest in keeping our academic doors wide open.
The U.S. higher education sector remains the global leader in welcoming students from around the world. It is in everybody’s best interests to develop the talent and skills necessary for the 21st century.
Travel and tourism also remain strong. In the U.S., it is the single largest services sector export and second-largest export industry. Last year, some two million German visitors spent a total of $8 billion on trips to the United States (placing them 9th worldwide and second in Europe, again just after the UK). In my line of work, as a diplomat, travel comes with the job. But I am struck by how much Germans know about the United States – and how much more they want to know.
I know that many of you and your colleagues also travel frequently to the U.S., and as I mentioned in October we are here to facilitate legitimate travel. As you will recall, most of our German colleagues can still travel to the United States for business visa-free – there are more than a million ESTA applications from German citizens every year. But for those who do need visas, we are here to help. The U.S. Mission in Germany remains committed to a fast and efficient visa application process. Next-day appointments are nearly always available. In the past year, we adjudicated almost 104,000 visa applications, over half of which included a “B-1” business visa component.
Our Consulate in Frankfurt – with 6,000 cases per year – is our largest “E” Treaty Trader and Investor visa post in Europe. And once visitors arrive in the U.S., we are also trying to facilitate their entry. With automated passport control kiosks and mobile passport control, we have decreased queuing time by 25% nationwide. In 2016, 88% of arriving air passengers cleared passport control in 15 minutes or less.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me conclude.
Recently, I attended an event at the Freie Universität Berlin, Assistant Secretary Mitchell’s alma mater and an enduring legacy of the transatlantic partnership. Professor James Conant, president of Harvard University for 20 years, the last High Commissioner to Germany, and the first U.S. Ambassador to postwar Germany, was extraordinarily proud of Freie as the expression of our highest shared values. Conant was witness to global economic crisis, world war, and a Cold War. He famously wrote that “Democracy is a small hard core of common agreement, surrounded by a rich variety of individual differences.”
Today we face new challenges, but surely not greater than those Conant faced in his time. As a result, Conant’s “small hard core of common agreement” remains firmly within our grasp.
It is incumbent on all of us, however, to expressed our shared values of democracy and freedom – whether we are engaged in business, diplomacy, or education. International education remains crucial in building and expressing that core of shared values. In 2018 and 2019, the German government led by the Auswärtiges Amt will put Germany’s best foot forward in programs across the United States, as part of the Deutschlandjahr – the “Year of Germany.” We wish them all the best and I encourage everyone to participate in its activities.
Let me end, as I started, on a personal note. It has been an honor for me to lead our Embassy during a crucial and historic transition. We hope that a new Ambassador will soon be confirmed, and next year, my wife Michelle and I will move on to a new posting. So as this year comes to a close, I would like to thank all of you for your commitment to strong ties between Germany and the United States.
Thank you. Merry Christmas and all the best in this holiday season.