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Ladies and Gentlemen,
The American Council of Germany has always been a strong actor in our relations with the United States, and I am delighted to see that Bill Drozdiak and his team have managed to put together yet another group of terrific people and brought them across the Atlantic. You have come with a special interest in alternative energy and I hope you have got some interesting insights in what we are doing here in this field.
I have been asked to tell you something about the transatlantic relationship, and I will try to use the few minutes I have to give you a brief overview.
The month of November has been marked by a number of summits that tell you a lot about the framework in which transatlantic relations are embedded today.
I am thinking of the recent EU-US summit just some days ago as well as of the Transatlantic Economic Council in late November and of the G20 meeting in Cannes in early November.
And I believe we should not forget about the series of summits that President Obama and Asian leaders had in mid-November. America, in the words of the President and his Secretary of State, has become a “pacific power”.
When we think about how to conceptualize the transatlantic relationship we have to keep in mind the increasing role emerging powers play. I will come back to this.
Times are changing. What remains true, however, is that the transatlantic relationship is the most important pillar of German foreign policy next to European integration. This is true politically and also economically. Did you know that Europe accounted for 53% of total foreign output of US affiliates in 2008, nearly $ 1.2 trillion? Roughly 60% of US assets in 2008 were located in Europe. US investment in Europe ($ 2 trillion) was nearly four times more than in all of Asia at the end of 2009.
The U.S. is still Germany’s most important trading partner outside Europe; and Germany is America’s most important trading partner in Europe.
We work closely together on a number of hotspots – from Afghanistan to Iran and so on.
I can hardly think of any moment over the past 20 years when Germans and Americans agreed on as many foreign policy topics as today.
However, the financial crisis has also taught us that economic problems have an immediate negative impact on the respective partner. We can solve the crisis only by working together, and we are doing so. Secretary Geithner is taking part in many high level EU meetings and again this week in Europe, meeting with ECB head Mario Draghi and other top level decision makers, providing US support for European solutions.
At the same time, we have no reason to be too complacent about the good state of transatlantic relations.
There can be no doubt: Transatlantic relations are undergoing a change as well.
When you would go to Washington in recent years, you would always meet with people who know Europe well, Senators McCain or Lugar, for example, or people who had emigrated from Europe like former national security advisors Brezinski and Kissinger.
These times are over. America is becoming more diverse. This year’s transatlantic trends, a survey done by the German Marshall Fund, did clearly indicate that young Americans are more interested in Asia than they are in Europe.
Transatlantic relations seem to become less emotional.
Today, Germany still relies on American guarantees for its security. But today, we do not face any existential threat as we did during the Cold War.
The U.S. market is still very important for German exports and German foreign investment as we have seen.
However, markets in Latin America and Asia have grown in importance for both, Americans and Europeans.
Does that mean that transatlantic relations are less important today than they were some 20 years ago?
I do not think so. I believe that the transatlantic partnership is still indispensable.
The transatlantic agenda, however, has changed. Your group is the best example: When study tours came to Germany some 20 or 30 years ago they would visit the defense department and foreign policy think tanks. Today, our visitors come here to study climate change and how Germany will manage the nuclear phase-out.
And energy and climate are only two topics on the new transatlantic agenda. Others are:
- the regulation of financial markets,
- terrorism and non-proliferation,
- regional conflicts
- and failing states, for example.
All these issues have in common that they potentially have negative impact on all of us. And they have in common that no country – not even the United States – can solve them on their own.
We have to work together in order to find common approaches and solutions to the new challenges that have arisen with globalisation.
Recent years have clearly shown: If Europe and the U.S. do not work together we will not find solutions for these urgent issues. Our partnership remains indispensable.
What is our vision for the future of transatlantic relations?
I think we do not have to worry much about transatlantic relations provided that Europe gets more unified both politically and militarily.
Recent speeches by former Secretary of Defense Gates and his successor Panetta have shown that the U.S. expects Europe to take on more responsibility militarily. And rightly so.
And the U.S. is also right to expect us to solve the European budget crisis – just as we expect the U.S. to address its enormous budget deficit.
We know that only a unified Europe will be able to face up to the new challenges that lie ahead of us. A united Europe is our strategy in a globalized world with open markets and unlimited competetion, and let’s be clear about that: so far we have been very successful. Our ambition now must be to make our currency storm-proof for the decades ahead, and I believe that we have taken the right steps to do so.
Europe can come out of this crisis more unified than before, and our Government is doing its utmost to make that happen. And Europe will then be even better prepared to take on its role as an important political player and economic powerhouse, as a “partner in responsibility” as President Obama has said.
It might seem counterintuitive, but it is true: Today, only a Europe that is economically strong and unified politically and militarily can assure strong transatlantic relations.
I wish all of us a wonderful evening.
Thank you very much.