Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for the invitation. It is always a pleasure to be in the United States.
And it is an honour to address you here today – at Johns Hopkins University.
I would like to start with a quote by one of your university’s most famous alumni: the 28th President of the United States - Woodrow Wilson.
He famously said that
‘Friendship is the only cement that will hold the world together’.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I think of this type of friendship, I think about Europe and the United States.
We share a long and unique relationship.
Our people share a deep and unbreakable bond.
Our trade relationship constitutes the central artery of the world economy.
Last year we traded almost one trillion Euro’s worth of goods and services. Our supply chains are deeply intertwined.
In 2019, investments on both sides of the Atlantic were worth around 4 trillion Euro. The Transatlantic economy supports no less than 16 million jobs.
And our alliance has always been the best formula for peace, stability and prosperity around the world.
Of course, we do not always agree on everything. We have seen it during the last five years. And we have seen it again in recent weeks.
To be frank, we were disappointed at how the AUKUS situation was handled.
Especially where positions differ, it is important to have reliable channels of communication and consultation between allies.
We have some repair work to do. The engagement in the context of the Trade and Technology Council is a contribution to making our ties stronger.
This is where friendship matters. It allows both of us to speak openly and engage on issues that matter to the world, even if we disagree.
So, today I would like to talk about two things:
First: How to strengthen the Transatlantic bond at a time of the greatest economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution, and in the eye of unprecedented global challenges?
And second: How can we – together – improve the multilateral system and help the world community find global solutions?
These are trying times.
In his inaugural speech President Biden spoke so pointedly of
– not just one –
but a ‘cascade of crises’.
I could not agree more.
We are still hoping to turn the corner on a global pandemic and its economic repercussions.
Meanwhile, the world has become more polarised.
Autocratic regimes are increasingly undermining democracy and rule of law, questioning free speech, abandoning human rights.
And they are trying to export – what I would call – the ‘opposite to Transatlantic values’ to other countries and regions.
At the same time, momentous technological change provides us with the most breath-taking opportunities – while raising the most profound questions.
And recent pictures of people wading through floods in Germany and New York - of blazing fires in Greece and California – are yet another reminder of how urgently we need to halt climate change.
These challenges are enormous.
We will only be able to find solutions, if we work together.
And just as importantly:
How we address these challenges will define the world of tomorrow.
Transatlantic cooperation has always mattered most at the biggest crossroads of history.
Once again, we need to join forces and make sure that democracies write the rules for the 21st century.
This is also the thinking behind the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council – the TTC.
We want to cooperate on global trade, economic, and technology issues. We are both trading superpowers. By working together, we can influence the global conversation in these areas.
So, I greatly look forward to inaugurating the TTC together with Secretary Raimondo, Ambassador Tai and Secretary Blinken in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
We start from a good basis.
With the Biden Administration, we have already been able to overcome several obstacles.
Recently we agreed to land the Airbus-Boeing dispute.
We reached an international agreement on business taxation.
And we are working hard with Secretary Raimondo and Ambassador Tai to find a solution to the steel and aluminium dispute, which originated in the Trump administration.
Resolving these trade irritants is a first important step to build trust.
As we grapple with the economic consequences of this pandemic, our trading relationship is not only critical to our respective recoveries. It will be crucial to the recovery of the global economy at large.
With the TTC, we will now be able to take a step further and focus on a forward-looking agenda on trade.
For our first meeting we have already agreed to work on everything from supply chain security, export control co-operation, investment screening to misuse of technology.
We will discuss topics that matter.
Let me give you a few examples.
Take the seemingly endless set of new ground-breaking technologies.
Here, I am talking about artificial intelligence, ICT security, data governance and the importance of a global approach to avoid cyber-attacks.
This is unchartered territory.
We therefore want to be absolutely sure that our values, and our human-centric approach to technological change is to the fore.
Because technology is always a means to an end, not an end in itself.
This is why we need Transatlantic leadership on these questions. Together, we could create a regulatory blueprint for the digital economy that is valid worldwide.
Digital markets should be competitive and accessible to international trade and investment. Digital trade should empower a full range of businesses to participate in the global economy and boost digital innovations.
If people are to put their trust in new technologies, digital infrastructure must be secure. This why we take protection of personal data very seriously, including cross-border transfers.
This is also a question of security. For the first time in world history, geography matters less.
A threat will not always come from your neighbour’s door. In fact, the biggest danger can come from the very end of the world, with just a click.
Future conflicts will be fought very differently. The fight over tech will be the new battleground of geopolitics.
Security also means that we need to keep an eye on what we export and who is investing in our economies. And what they are investing in.
Here our aim is to strive for convergent export control approaches on sensitive dual-use technologies.
We want to develop a shared understanding of how best to do investment screening.
In addition, we intend to work closely together to address non-market, trade-distortive policies and practices.
We are saying that as democratic market economies, we share an absolute commitment to the global level playing field.
We are saying that we want the multilateral system to give everyone a fair chance, consistent with our core values, including respect for human, workers and labour rights, and environmental protection.
This is why we will cooperate closely to protect workers’ rights, at home and abroad, and to combat forced and child labour.
We can do it jointly by sharpening our respective tools, including in trade agreements and preference programs, and we will cooperate in multilateral fora.
Our cooperation should be about both rules and tools.
Last but not least, we must put our heads together to see how we can help the fight against climate change.
We want to cooperate on facilitating the development and deployment of technologies and policies that support the transition to a climate neutral and circular economy.
These are just some of the many topics we will discuss.
And we want discussions in the TTC to be inclusive. Stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic have a legitimate interest to be heard and informed.
The discussions in the individual working groups will often be very technical and detailed.
So, we are currently looking at the best way to obtain and feed detailed input from stakeholders into the discussions. And also vice versa.
We are equally exploring options for exchanges with experts.
While the TTC will be a good way for us to start finding Transatlantic answers to these defining questions, in itself it will not be enough.
This takes me to the second major point I would like to discuss today: how we can cooperate to strengthen the multilateral system.
We risk losing momentum, if we fail to bring on board our global partners.
Global problems need global solutions.
And who would know it better than the U.S. and Europe?
After all, we share a long history of defending our values in the rules-based international system that we built after World War II.
In a trade context, this starts with the World Trade Organisation and its forerunners.
Let me say very clearly:
We hear U.S. concerns about the functioning of the WTO.
And we share them.
We equally share concerns about the urgent need to address unfair trade practices emanating from non-market economies.
These challenges include:
- massive industrial subsidies;
- forced technology transfers;
- subsidisation on home markets and third country markets;
- state involvement pervading across the entire economy; and
- aggressive industrial policies designed to build dominance without any account for costs.
And yes, the WTO cannot ignore core issues of concern to our citizens, such as human rights, forced labour and sustainability.
We agree that the WTO in its current form cannot address these challenges. This is hardly surprising. It was not designed to do so.
Its membership is deeply divided as to the direction the Organisation should take – there is an absence of common purpose.
At the same time, we should not forget that the WTO has contributed to stable economic growth for over a quarter of a century.
This, in turn, helped lift millions of people out of poverty.
So we need reform, not ruin.
And to consign the WTO to a benign neglect would be to lose one of the most important tools we have to maintain and advance the open and fair trading system that has served us so well.
The reform process needs to start with the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference.
The EU stands ready to work with the U.S. to reach outcomes on health, sustainability, fisheries, and agriculture. We should work to improve transparency and monitoring across the board.
And we should start a serious discussion on institutional reform.
We are willing to start a dialogue on what a reformed dispute settlement system might look like.
We want the WTO to return to its roots as a forum for deliberation, for exchange of views and for negotiation, not just confrontation and litigation.
Yes, we should coordinate our autonomous actions to counteract the negative spillovers from non-market economies.
This can help avert injury to our own businesses in our own markets.
But what about the level playing field in third countries, or in non-market economies themselves? We cannot deliver these outcomes through autonomous actions – we need to negotiate and advance new rules at the multilateral level.
This will not happen overnight, but the time to start is now – this is why we must begin the work on a competitive neutrality agenda, working together to shape global rules.
By uniting our efforts, we also generate momentum and create leverage to bring about positive change.
If we do not act in concert, we leave the playing field open for non-market economies to do as they please in a global free-for-all.
I believe that with strong engagement and joint leadership, we can really reinvigorate the WTO.
I know a lot of this sounds very technical. And I realise the WTO with its talk about rules and procedures has not necessarily won hearts and minds everywhere.
But we need to understand that this is about much more than the institution itself.
It is about the choice between order and law of the jungle.
It is about fairness and predictability.
Ultimately, it is about our very place in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Transatlantic friendship has always mattered most when the world has seen its most difficult moments.
Today’s tests are very different from the challenges of the past. But we must approach them with the same ambition, the same conviction and the same courage as we did before.
Let our friendship and values be the cement that shapes the world of tomorrow.
On this September morning, I have every confidence that, once again, we will be able to join forces and achieve the best outcome for all of us. Thank you.