U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at the AmCham Germany Annual Transatlantic Business Conference in Frankfurt


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks at the AmCham Germany Annual Transatlantic Business Conference to address critical strategic and economic priorities facing the U.S.-German relationship.

Before more than 400 representatives from German and American companies, Secretary Pritzker highlighted the importance of a strong transatlantic alliance and a deep partnership between the U.S. and Germany to advance our shared principles across our nations, throughout the European Union, and around the world. She stressed three priorities that demand the attention and leadership of the public and private sectors in both countries: concluding the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), fostering an open and innovation-based transatlantic digital economy, and supporting an independent and prosperous Ukraine.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Bernhard and all of the leaders and members of AmCham Germany for your warm welcome. I am honored to address your annual conference on strengthening transatlantic business ties – an issue personally very important to me, given my deep affection for the people of this continent. I am proud to be here in Frankfurt to discuss the vital importance of the strong, enduring alliance between the United States and Germany.

 Seventy years ago, the world looked very different than it does today. A world war had just ended. A continent had been liberated. A new transatlantic alliance was in the making. And as the iron curtain descended to the east, refusing to budge for decades ahead, one force remained constant: the deep, abiding, and strong friendship between the United States and Germany. From the Berlin Airlift to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and certainly for the 25 years since unification, America and Germany have remained essential partners in promoting human rights, dignity, and opportunity around the world.

But our partnership is not just a relic of the past.  It is a reality of today and a necessity for the future.  From Ebola, to Afghanistan, to our ongoing fight against ISIS, our alliance is indispensable to global security and growth. And our relationship is based on mutual respect, rooted in our common values, and anchored in shared leadership on the world’s most pressing challenges.

I do not say this lightly.  Even when we disagree, our partnership endures because of the core principles we share: a belief in freedom and democracy worldwide; a focus on enhancing the quality of life for all of our citizens; a commitment to training, educating, and supporting a vibrant workforce; a faith in innovation as the lifeblood of economic dynamism; and a devotion to constructive engagement in international affairs. As two of the world’s strongest economies, we must work together – as partners – to strengthen the transatlantic alliance and to advance those principles in our nations, across the European Union, and around the world.

Today, I want to focus on three core strategic economic priorities that are part of that mission and demand our shared attention and leadership: concluding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; fostering an open, innovation-based transatlantic digital economy; and supporting an independent and prosperous Ukraine.

The United States and Germany share the view that open, competitive markets offer the best opportunity for us to enhance quality of life for our families, workers, and communities. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is how we are going to get there.

The strategic and economic benefits of T-TIP are clear and compelling.  In Southern Europe, countries see the agreement as a budget-neutral path to improve economic competitiveness, stimulate economic growth, and support jobs.  In Eastern Europe, there is a desire to tighten bonds with the west given the international security situation on the continent.  In the North, trade is part of the societal DNA, and these nations see value in an agreement that expands trade and investment, upholds common values, and enshrines high standards.

All told, completing T-TIP is not only the good for the parties involved, but will strengthen the transatlantic marketplace – “the fulcrum of the world economy” – at a challenging moment for global economic growth.  Still, there are many in both our countries and across this continent who fear new trade agreements like T-TIP – because, frankly, we have not explained the benefits of these deals effectively. In business and in government, we have to make it clear: By negotiating and enacting a strong, progressive T-TIP, the United States and Europe can spur broadly-shared prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic and improve the economic security of our peoples and our businesses. We can shape the evolution of the global economy for the benefit our workers and the environment. We can set the rules of international trade together, so no one else can undercut our high standards.

America, Germany, and the member-states of the EU share a firm commitment to preserving our environment, to defending the rights of our workforce, and to protecting the health and safety of consumers. That is why we must complete a T-TIP that enshrines higher labor, environmental, intellectual property, food safety, and consumer standards across the transatlantic marketplace. None of us want or will tolerate a regulatory race to the bottom that reduces quality, makes products less safe, or puts our values at risk. By concluding T-TIP, all of us will be better positioned to uphold our principles and demand that every nation and company operate on a level playing field.

By removing unnecessary barriers to trade and investment, this agreement will unlock opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises. Today, there are there are more than 20 million small or medium-sized businesses in the EU and more than 28 million in the United States. With T-TIP, these businesses will benefit from lower barriers, reduced costs, and increased efficiency. Most importantly, they will benefit from smarter regulations, NOT de-regulation. Let me repeat that: T-TIP is NOT about de-regulation. T-TIP is about making it easier for firms of all sizes to do business in each of our markets.

Take, for example, a Bavarian company like Shubert & Salzer Control Systems, which specializes in valve technology and precision casting. This is a family-owned business with 450 employees worldwide and a history that goes back more than 130 years. When they entered the U.S. market, they had to literally revise thousands of drawings to adapt them to American standards. Products that had been tested and approved by the EU had to be tested again in the United States.  Based on that experience, the company’s Managing Partner stressed that “the most important argument for T-TIP is that it is precisely SMEs that will get easier access to markets.”

The same is true for small American companies. Take, for example, Perkins Products, which employs 24 workers in Massachusetts and makes assistive technology for the visually impaired. Perkins has sold its equipment across the EU, including Germany, to help visually impaired children learn braille and provide visually impaired adults with the tools to succeed in mainstream jobs. The company serves people who are often challenged economically, which means that the reduction of taxes and customs duties from a T-TIP agreement can lower prices and assure life-changing products reach those in greatest need. For Perkins and its European customers, T-TIP could be a game-changer. As the firm’s Vice President notes – by making it easier to get these goods to the European market, this agreement could “make visually impaired people more independent and employable in the countries to which we export.”

These are the kinds of stories we all have to share: to dispel myths about T-TIP and to make the case for this agreement. In the United States, Germany, and across the EU, we have to ensure that the truth about T-TIP stands front and center – so we can complete, advance, and ultimately implement the agreement.

Beyond the benefits of deepening our trade ties, our two countries share a conviction that technology will not only transform, but also improve our lives and strengthen our economies. Both our nations are committed to creating an open, innovation-based transatlantic market for digital goods and services. But right now, we have a problem. For 15 years, the Safe Harbor Framework has enabled American and European businesses to remain interconnected and to thrive. It has served as a foundational policy that protects privacy and facilitates data flows across borders. The framework is based on privacy-protective principles – notice, choice, onward transfer, access, security, data integrity, and enforcement –which have broad consensus support in Germany, the United States, Europe, and around the world. The over 4,400 companies that participate in Safe Harbor have agreed to bind themselves to protect privacy and abide by the Safe Harbor principles.

About three weeks ago, the European Court of Justice decision brought great uncertainty to businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. The decision does not give due credit to the steps we, in the United States, have taken at both the executive and legislative levels to protect privacy. Now, companies of all sizes in the United States and EU face uncertainty about how to transfer their data across the Atlantic. As someone who has started and run a number of companies, I know that uncertainty is not good for business. With every turn of uncertainty come costs, legal fees, and unintended consequences.

We have heard directly from companies in the United States and Europe, and have conveyed in real time to the European Commission the impacts of the court’s decision. A European representative of the Computer and Communications Industry Association captured it best when he stated – and I quote – the “suspension of Safe Harbor will negatively impact Europe’s economy, hurt small and medium-sized enterprises and the consumers who use their services, the most.”

Put simply, on both sides of the Atlantic, this is an urgent problem, with a sensible solution in the improved Safe Harbor framework we have negotiated with our European Commission partners over the past two years. A few days ago, Commissioner Jourova expressed her desire to use her visit to Washington in two weeks as a milestone in the adoption of the new framework. We sincerely hope that will be the case.

In the interim, as we work with our European colleagues to finalize this package, there must be clear guidance on the means of data transfer for our businesses. We must provide our companies and our economies the certainty needed in order to function, grow, and thrive. If this is important to you, I urge you to make your voices heard – here in Germany and across the EU. I encourage you to speak up about the impact of this case on the digital economy in Europe and the urgency of implementing a solution – because failing to resolve this issue, as AmCham EU has said, could “compromise the EU economic recovery and negatively impact the…goal to create a digital single market.”

Advancing a new Safe Harbor framework and building a digital single market reflects a broader shared objective: realizing the potential of the “fourth industrial revolution.” To take full advantage of the promise of the digital economy, we must marry German and American leadership in advanced manufacturing and the digital space. We have an opportunity to develop better solutions to common urban problems, such as traffic, health services, and waste management, through our “integrated industry” technologies – as part of the Global Cities Team Challenge sponsored by my Department.

We also have an opportunity to demonstrate the latest innovative products and ideas from both our countries to hundreds of thousands of customers from around the world at the Hannover Messe. For the first time since the fair opened its doors in 1947, the United States has been afforded the honor of serving as the official “Partner Country.” Our Department is proud to lead the U.S. efforts in Hannover, where the theme will be, “Integrated Industry – Join the Network.” I hope everyone in this room will participate. By embracing these opportunities, we will show how our peoples, our businesses, and our countries are standing together on the cutting edge of innovation – and shaping the 21st century digital economy.

Finally, the United States and Europe are leading the world in standing up to Russia’s brazen attempt to redraw Europe’s borders, put pressure on Ukraine, and cause its economic collapse. Neither the United States nor Germany wants that cynical strategy to succeed. And we have worked hand-in-hand to impose sanctions on Russia – for their dangerous behavior and violations of sovereignty of another nation. This is a situation where our shared values compel joint action, even when it is politically unpopular at home – because Russia’s behavior poses a direct threat to the world order that our nations have worked so hard to build.

Together, we share the firm belief that the emergence of a Ukraine that is independent, prosperous, democratic, and free from corruption is good for our countries, good for Europe, and good for the world. I am proud of the leadership displayed by both the U.S. and Germany in the face of this crisis and in pursuit of a brighter economic future for Ukraine’s people.

Last year, at President Obama’s request, I traveled to Ukraine to meet with President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to discuss steps to combat corruption and create a level playing field for all businesses. Earlier this week, I returned to Kyiv with six U.S. business leaders to push for more critical reforms, including: setting fair and equitable rules to benefit all companies, modernizing the gas sector, strengthening intellectual property rights, ending duplicative and outdated Soviet-era standards and regulations that constrain business, and advancing longer-term measures, such as simplifying tax administration and privatizing state-owned enterprises.

This comes on the heels of the first-ever U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum, hosted by the Department of Commerce in July and attended by Vice President Biden and over 150 American and Ukrainian private sector leaders. This event marked a critical opportunity: an opportunity for Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to share Ukraine’s progress in building a functioning, rules-based, market economy, an opportunity for business leaders to offer concrete steps for Ukraine’s government to improve its investment climate, and an opportunity for Ukraine to further integrate into the global economy, which will enhance the country’s political progress.

Finally, on Monday, I announced that President Obama intends to move forward with a third, $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine in the coming months. This loan will be conditioned on Ukraine’s progress in implementing its economic reform agenda, including adherence to the IMF’s program and concrete momentum in the ongoing fight against corruption. Ultimately, this loan guarantee will support Ukrainian reforms that will unlock international investment and lay the groundwork for a return to growth.

Germany has taken similar and complementary actions, focused on strengthening Ukraine’s commercial and economic stability. Last week, the German-Ukraine Business Summit further highlighted business opportunities in Ukraine and the reforms and legal framework needed to attract investment. In addition, Germany has delivered $700 million in financial assistance to Ukraine this year and helped Ukraine deal with the potential disruption to gas supply from Russia. And Germany has played a leading role in negotiating and implementing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which will align key sectors of the Ukrainian economy to international standards.

In word and in deed, we are both committed to moving Ukraine from a statist, non-transparent, and rent-seeking system to a market-based, open, and transparent system governed by the rule of law. But this can only happen if the United States, Germany, and the EU continue working together.

The United States and Germany share the optimism and core values needed to surmount economic, political, and strategic challenges across the globe. Whether supporting Ukraine’s future or halting Iran’s nuclear program or confronting the current refugee crisis, where Germany has been a true moral voice – the world needs our shared leadership.

We do not and will not always agree. But only together can we tackle the toughest, most intractable, most pressing political and economic problems on our planet.

As President Obama said in Berlin two years ago: “Our alliance is the foundation of global security. Our trade and our commerce is the engine of our global economy. Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet.” By working together to address our mutual challenges, the U.S.-German relationship can shape a more secure and prosperous future.

Thank you for inviting me to join you here today.

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Last updated: 2017-10-23 18:30

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