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Remarks at American Chambers of Commerce Brussels and Business Europe, Brussels, Belgium

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Friday, March 26, 2010

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Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dennis F. Hightower
Remarks at American Chambers of Commerce Brussels and Business Europe
Brussels, Belgium

Thank you for the warm introduction. From 1987 to 1996, I made frequent trips from Paris to Brussels, which was the headquarters of my Benelux operations for the Walt Disney Company. It is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit and work in this dynamic environment.

I am delighted to be here today with my colleague, Ambassador Kirk. And I want to thank our hosts, the American Chambers of Commerce to the EU and Belgium and Business Europe for the kind invitation.

History has shown that when the United States and Europe work together, we can achieve measurable, concrete results that benefit citizens throughout the world.

The companies that do business in the tran-Atlantic space are the backbone of this successful economic relationship.

Despite the economic downturn, the transatlantic trade and investment relationship remains the largest commercial artery in the world—generating approximately $4.28 trillion in commercial sales and employing up to 14 million workers in mutually “onshored” jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

With this in mind, I want to highlight an area of great mutual promise: innovation.

President Obama clearly stated in his National Innovation Strategy that innovation is the driver for sustainable growth and quality jobs.

The United States is focusing on three key building blocks:

  • Investing in tools necessary for successful innovation, from investment in research and development to the human, physical, and technological capital needed to perform research;
  • Promoting competitive markets that create an environment ripe for entrepreneurship and risk taking; and
  • Catalyzing breakthroughs for national priorities in sectors of exceptional importance, such as clean energy, advanced vehicle technology, and health care.

At the U.S. Department of Commerce, we have taken the president’s vision and translated it into some very concrete activities.

To take just one slice of our activity, let me tell you all the different ways we are working to promote clean energy and efficiency.

Recently, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke launched the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help drive policies across the U.S. government that will help clean energy entrepreneurs—and all entrepreneurs—translate new ideas, products and services into economic growth.

The Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office is fast-tracking inventions that materially contribute to enhancing environmental quality; more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources; the discovery or development of renewable energy resources; and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Our National Institute of Standards and Technology continues to work closely with the private sector to accelerate development of standards to support the nation-wide deployment of the Smart Grid that will more efficiently deliver energy.

And our International Trade Administration is heading an Energy Efficiency Initiative to coordinate state and federal incentives for energy efficiency and promote the adoption and deployment of energy efficient technologies and services.

Many see the United States and the EU as competitors in these fields; but, in reality, we can do much together to make our companies more competitive and innovative.

From the U.S. perspective, our technologies cannot succeed both practically and economically unless we open markets, protect intellectual property, and avoid unnecessarily disrupting trade and investment.

American companies must seek to serve not only our domestic customers, but the global marketplace if they are to grow and create jobs. In my experience, the best way to do this is to work closely with our trading partners.

In my opinion, the EU is one such natural ally:

  • The U.S. and EU both believe in the importance of commercializing and deploying emerging technologies;
  • We respect intellectual property rights as an incentive for innovation; and,
  • We believe in the need to have a “level playing field”—open, competitive markets.

Important to our innovation discussion is the fact that research and development by U.S. foreign affiliates totaled $35 billion in 2007, 66 percent of which was invested in Europe.

Likewise, 78 percent of research and development spending in the U.S. by foreign affiliates came from world-class leaders from Europe.

These statistics show that we already rely heavily on each other for developing innovative products and services.

So the question now is how to do we leverage that experience to do it more effectively and in a way that allows us to generate jobs and improve the quality of life of our citizens.

It is for this reason that the Department of Commerce and the European Commission are intent on substantially reinvigorating our collaboration on innovation.

This is an effort to identify, with the input of all stakeholders, three to five priority action items that we can work on over the next 12 to 24 months that will have a significant and measurable impact on our economic relationship.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has received a large number of strong recommendations. We are working to narrow them down to a manageable number of priority items.

We will work closely with our EU counterparts to make sure that we are exploring the same areas for action, and that any plan that we agree to is one that reflects U.S. and EU priorities.

Without prejudging outcomes, I see some very compelling projects in health care, clean technologies, information and communications technology, electric vehicles, and nanotechnology.

As we develop an innovation action partnership, we will work closely with the U.S.-EU Intellectual Property Rights Working Group and the High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum as well as the U.S.-EU Energy Council.

I will close by urging all of you to play an active role in our innovation agenda. We can only succeed in this effort if business comes to the table with recommendations on how to grow our knowledge economy.