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“Transatlantic partnership – working together for tomorrow’s world”: Speech by Guido Westerwelle, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the meeting of the FDP parliamentary group

15.05.2013 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,
Rainer Stinner,
Distinguished colleagues,

I’d like to sincerely thank you for this invitation and say that I’m delighted that the FDP parliamentary group is addressing this very topical issue.

We talk a lot about reforms and growth in Europe. We’re all aware of the dynamic economic growth in Asia, Latin America and in many African countries. However, too seldom do we look up and see the huge opportunities our transatlantic relations, which have been so close for so long, have to offer.

The transatlantic partnership is the most important non-European pillar of German foreign policy. It is anchored in NATO, our security alliance. Beyond that, it is the core dimension of the West’s political culture. We Germans found our way back to the international community on the basis of these shared values and goals. And it was on this firm foundation of transatlantic trust that Germany was able to unify in freedom.

Transatlantic relations are a success story. However, there’s no reason for complacency.

Transatlantic relations can’t be left to autopilot. On the contrary, they’re faced with quite new challenges. The vision of a transatlantic single market now gives us an opportunity to infuse the transatlantic partnership with new momentum. In a dramatically changing world, we have to turn to our common strengths in order to shape globalization in line with our libertarian values.

I.

The European Union and the United States are the world’s two largest economic powers and generate almost half – 47% – of global national product. Transatlantic trade relations account for one third of global trade. Every day, goods and services to the tune of almost two billion euros are traded between the EU and the US. Two-way investments to date add up to an almost unimaginable two trillion euros. A merger of the world’s two most powerful economic areas will release new synergies and a new dynamic.

Today this is more necessary than ever. In the US and in Europe, we are in the midst of a tough reform and consolidation process as a result of the financial crisis.

Both sides have to find new and sustainable sources of growth.

As an external engine of growth, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could make a key contribution towards overcoming the crisis. A comprehensive agreement could lead to annual rises of US GDP of up to 95 billion euros. With 119 billion euros annually and a total of 400,000 new jobs, the impact is expected to be even bigger in the EU.

In order to exploit the potential of such a comprehensive partnership to the full, it’s crucial that the EU Commission be granted a negotiating mandate which is as extensive and flexible as possible.

We want to achieve far-reaching results in two key spheres through the negotiations. Firstly, it’s our declared intention to eliminate the tariffs in transatlantic trade to the greatest possible extent and to do away with restrictions on market access.

Thanks to the trade liberalization already advanced in the WTO, tariff barriers in transatlantic trade are already comparatively low at 5.2% for the EU and 3.5% for the US on average. However, tariff levels are still very uneven. Certain branches are subject to especially high tariffs. Due to the huge volume of trade between the EU and the US, we expect the reduction in existing tariffs to bring considerable savings for our companies. Restrictions on market access should also be eliminated in the service industry.

Furthermore, our aim is to conclude a single investment agreement which could replace the current 27 agreements which the individual EU member states have with the US. With the highest degree of liberalization and protection, this agreement is intended to guarantee non-discrimination, competitive neutrality, legal certainty, legal protection and investor protection.

Secondly, we want the negotiations to focus in particular on harmonizing regulatory issues and eliminating non-tariff trade barriers.

Transatlantic trade relations are actually hampered much more by different health and consumer protection regulations as well as diverging technical regulations, standards and norms than by existing tariffs. Our companies, which want to sell their products on both sides of the Atlantic, often have to pay double for licensing their products and subject them to different procedures. We have to clear the jungle of regulations, particularly in the car industry, the chemical and pharmaceutical branches as well as in health sectors.

Even if it perhaps sounds very technical, these norms, standards and regulatory issues determine the success on the market of many good inventions and products. The transatlantic partnership will allow us to set global standards together.

We want tomorrow’s norms and standards to be set by us and in our countries.

The road towards a negotiated agreement won’t be easy. Many people are voicing criticism or warning caution.

That’s why we have to take our partners’ reservations and interests seriously and, at the same time, make clear time and again the agreement’s larger, strategic framework.

The many preparatory talks on the EU negotiating mandate have made me optimistic. We’ve already reached preliminary agreement in the spheres of labour and environmental standards, the mobility of individuals and tariffs on industrial goods. I firmly believe that we’ll also succeed on more sensitive issues.

It’s also vital that we involve the public here in Germany and in the broader EU from the outset, that we convince them of the advantages of the agreement and campaign tirelessly to this end. Furthermore, we naturally also have to hold intensive discussions with partners outside the EU – especially Turkey, Brazil, Mexico and Switzerland – and dispel their fears that they will be placed at a disadvantage in international trade with the EU and the EU. The transatlantic partnership doesn’t mean excluding third states from prosperity, growth and employment.

On the contrary, the realization of the agreement would also stimulate world trade.

II.

I believe it’s crucial that the project of a transatlantic economic partnership has much more to offer than economic potential. Indeed, I sense today in many talks how this project is spurring on policymakers’ imagination. A successful conclusion would inject new momentum into practically all key foreign policy issues.

Germany has a special responsibility in the coming years. We see two tasks before us in our international role. For one thing, we need to get our house in order in Europe. For another, we need to work with our strategic partners old and new in this changing world to create a global order within which we can promote our values and interests.

It’s right and necessary to advance the integration of the transatlantic area in order to secure growth and prosperity in Europe and to foster the vitality and substance of transatlantic relations.

But this is about much more. A strong economy is the prerequisite for leadership and clout in international relations and is thus of strategic importance. The transatlantic economic partnership would send a strong political message and show that the Western community of values is keen to exert its influence in the age of globalization.

The world is seeing a shift in global power structures. The economic and financial crisis didn’t cause it, but certainly speeded it up drastically. Only 30 years ago, Germany exported ten times as many goods as China. Today, China is the world’s largest trading nation. The rapidly growing emerging economies are increasingly aspiring to have a greater say in the conduct of world affairs. They are developing a new self-confidence in foreign policy. These countries are new movers and shakers in the age of globalization.

It used to take a hundred years for nations to rise to prosperity. Today it’s sometimes only ten. Globalization isn’t only accelerating the trade in goods and services but also information and ideas. Globalization is also “a globalization of values”.

This brings with it opportunities as well as challenges. Our policies and our thinking must keep pace with globalization. Germany is committed to a rules-based, stabilizing global order. We need a shared framework of rules, especially when new challenges have to be mastered and more and more players are on the field.

A transatlantic agreement that covered investments, services, norms and standards as well as trade issues would constitute an important building block for the future of a free international order.

That is the real strategic importance of this ambitious project. That not only has a foreign and security policy dimension but is also a strong argument as to why we’ll succeed this time in realizing this vision of an integrated transatlantic economic area.

This project would also strengthen the central pillar of our shared security, the North Atlantic Alliance. Only by pooling our strengths can we safeguard our interests, our prosperity and, above all, our security in this new world.

In that endeavour, strategic partnership with the United States is our strongest card. The transatlantic economic partnership is the right tool at the right time. The link between our security and the success of the transatlantic economic partnership can be expressed in one clear phrase: economic policy is part of security policy.

This agreement isn’t directed against anyone. Our aim is to set standards which can benefit everyone.

Despite all the advantages in laying down global regulations, we have to admit that the Doha Round has been blocked for the last decade. We want to use the potential of a future Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to formulate answers to questions far beyond bilateral transatlantic trade. It is intended to contribute towards a common regulation of our global networks. The compatibility of the transatlantic agreement with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is therefore top of our agenda.

The EU Commission has examined this question and considers the agreement to be fully compatible with the WTO due to its comprehensive approach. Third countries could also take the new international standards and rules as their model. If we succeed in pooling our economic and creative forces across the Atlantic, we will be able to shape the emerging multipolar world in line with our shared values and interests.

Protectionism, navel-gazing and isolation are not alternatives.

Anyone who shuts themselves off, believing that is the way to avoid all risks, is simply robbing themselves of all opportunities. Germany in particular lives from and with its links with the wider world. Germany’s foreign policy is – first and foremost – an advocate for openness.

The US has long since recognized the growing importance of the new global players and reacted with a strategic shift towards Asia. However, the realignment of US foreign policy doesn’t indicate that it’s turning away from the Atlantic. Quite the opposite in fact: it underlines the necessity of greater cooperation between Europe and the US.

As an exporting nation, Germany has a fundamental interest in peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, in the peaceful and rules-based settlement of conflicts, in the freedom of shipping routes and in the strengthening of multilateral regional organizations.

The time is ripe for an ambitious project that will make use of our strengths on both sides of the Atlantic. The time is ripe for a transatlantic single market. For Germany, Europe and for the US, as well as for a free order tomorrow.

Europe is very much occupied with itself at present. We have to focus our attention on the outside world again, on global developments.

A transatlantic single market can be a beacon which shines far beyond the Atlantic. This beacon stands on a sold foundation of shared values.

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