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The Relationship between the United States and the European Union

Submitted by on 12 Jul 2012 – 12:15

William KennardBy William E. Kennard, US Ambassador to the European Union

As U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, I make it a point to meet often with young professionals from both sides of the Atlantic. This is important, because the generation gap is a significant one: While members of my generation are products of national security threats and state-to-state conflicts, the younger generation is growing up in a globalizing world. They are products of the information age. Thus their challenges are different than the ones my generation faced.

I take note of this to help remind myself that our world is changing, and it is imperative that the United States and the European Union work together to address these new challenges.

With our shared values, strategic interests, and the robust economic relationship ($4 trillion in trade and investment, accounting for approximately 50 percent of global GDP), it is clear we have the will and the means to do so.  Since World War II, the United States and Europe have worked hard to create the most cooperative and successful multilateral partnership the world has ever seen.  What we accomplished through the Marshall Plan, the founding of NATO and the European economic relationships that led to the European Union resulted in an unprecedented period of transatlantic prosperity and security. This successful pairing of market capitalism with political freedom has served as a global model for securing progress and prosperity.  Crucially, these past accomplishments point to a partnership that we can use to address the challenges we face today.

At present, the issue of most concern is an economic one.  The economic crisis has recently forced both the United States and the European Union to undertake many difficult reforms. The recovery has been painful and slow.

Nevertheless, we should resolve not to deviate from the economic and political models by which we have gained such prosperity despite current and future challenges.  While some emerging markets – including those featuring a state capitalism model – have fared better in recent years, we believe economic growth is sustainable in the long term only through a system that more fully embraces economic freedom and individual rights.

By making our transatlantic partnership work towards a common agenda of economic recovery and growth, we strengthen transatlantic trade and investment ties that reinforce our mutual recoveries, and also bring emerging powers into the international rules-based system where we can overcome the 21st century economic challenges together.

I am pleased that the United States and Europe are already cooperating on these emerging challenges. One example of this is interoperability of electric vehicle standards and smart grids technology.  In the future, as more electric vehicles hit the road – President Obama aims for one million on American roads by 2015 – this will generate tremendous transatlantic economic activity.  U.S. and EU high-level meetings are already taking place that will ensure that our electric vehicles and the associated infrastructure are completely interoperable.  Building on this year and a half of cooperative work, the Commission, my Mission, and over 50 private sector stakeholders met recently to identify steps to achieve and advance transatlantic cooperation in research, standards, and regulations for the full electromobility value chain.  The electromobility markets of the United States and the European Union are working on a common transatlantic solution.

Although the main challenges we face in 2012 are predominantly economic, the United States and the European Union also face many political challenges – and like in the economic world, we are already working together on many of these issues.

Significant recent events have highlighted the level at which Europe and the United States work together to tackle global issues.  This year, representatives from our governments have stood together as one voice to spur a series of talks with Iran to discuss their nuclear program.  Although there has not yet been a significant breakthrough on the Iran situation, it is clear that our transatlantic partnership’s shared approach has made a significant impact on this very important issue.

Our mutual approach to global political and defense issues can also be seen through our cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa.  Even at the highest level, our officials are very cognizant of the fact that we share interests and common values and because of that, we should work together to tackle contemporary defense and security issues.  Perhaps nothing highlights this recent effort to move forward to tackle new challenges better than the recent approval of a U.S.-EU Passenger Name Record agreement.

We are also working together on a joint strategy to improve U.S.-EU cooperation in the East Asia/Pacific region. Drawing upon mutual ideas and interests, we hope to have high level engagement to pursue a coordinated approach to the region.  As the region continues to be more important, it is imperative that we continue to strengthen our cooperation with our European partners.

Now, more than ever, the United States and the European Union need one another.  The issues we face will subside only if we continue this trend of using our historic and remarkable partnership to tackle the issues of today and tomorrow.  Indeed, if we wish to maintain our enviable standards of liberty and life, it is critical that we continue to work cooperatively and serve as international and multilateral models in the coming decades.  As we have in the past, we will face the challenges of the future together.