Ambassador Gardner on Priorities for the U.S.-EU Relationship

Remarks at Regent’s University London
November 11, 2014

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Professor Drew, for that kind introduction. I am pleased to be at Regent’s University to speak about U.S.-EU Relations. I’m pleased to be joined here by my friends Fernando Guimaraes of the External Action Service and Sanford Henry of Chatham House.

Today is the 96th anniversary of what we both used to call Armistice Day, the end of World War I. I took my family to visit the Passchendaele Memorial Museum this past Saturday so that my children could understand the sacrifices of past generations for the values they take for granted. This weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the escape of millions of people wishing to escape their Soviet prison to be free Europeans. The East Germans called the Wall the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart”; today Vladimir Putin exhibits the same world view and respect for the facts.

We are reminded nearly every day that democracy, tolerance and the rules-based international order are under threat. Our freedoms are not free; they need to be defended. And U.S.-EU cooperation is more necessary than ever before.

During the 23 years that I have been involved in or have followed transatlantic relations, I can’t think of a time of greater opportunities and challenges. Ever since President John Kennedy, the United States has been a supporter of European integration. This has been so, not out of a starry-eyed idealism, but out of the conviction that a united Europe can be a strong partner of the United States. Naturally, there have been and will be areas where we disagree, but the areas where we do agree are so much more numerous.

Never before have the U.S. and the EU collaborated on such a broad array of issues: not only related to our bilateral economic agenda, but globally about sanctions against Russia, combating ISIL, responding to Ebola, dealing with numerous refugee crises, seeking to limit Iran’s nuclear program, and many other crises. Our cooperation with the UK on EU issues continues to be strong; we share many of the same views and objectives, and that is why we continue to favor, as President Obama has stated, a strong UK in a strong EU. Our view is shared by many EU members.

I have believed in the European project as a force for good since I started studying the EU as a graduate student at Oxford and then Columbia Law School. My 13 years in the UK prior to my arrival at post have not diminished my enthusiasm; they have just provided me with a good source of anecdotes about how the tabloid press routinely caricatures the EU.

I recall walking to the tube one morning and seeing out of the corner of my eye large headlines on the front page of a tabloid newspaper concerning a European Commission “plot.” I rushed over to the newsstand to find out more. Apparently, the Commission had been planning to merge Southern England into Northern France to create a new country called Arc Manche with its own flag and anthem – that is, before the tabloid in question intervened.

I started my career in Brussels in the early 1990s because it was a compelling place to be: the single market was being completed and the EC was opening up to the East. I feel the same sense of excitement and possibilities today. Why?

First, external threats – including continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine and the spread of militant Islam — have refocused minds on both sides of the Atlantic on the importance of our shared values and the necessity of working together to address a wide variety of global challenges. We are now, more than ever, essential partners.

Second, this is a time of change in Brussels. President Juncker has presented a bold vision of how the new European Commission should work. We applaud the effort to promote greater cooperation around broad themes; the creation of new portfolios around better regulation and energy union; and the focus on growth, jobs and entrepreneurship. We look forward to fruitful collaboration with him and his entire college of commissioners, as well as with President Donald Tusk, just as we enjoyed with their predecessors. We have much work to do together.

The change in the EU institutions offers an opportunity to turn the page on some of the disagreements of the past. The EU has its own list of irritants it wishes to address; I have made it a major priority to address some of the concerns expressed around how the U.S. deals with EU citizens’ data privacy. We have our own list of irritants we would like to address, but let me mention just one major one.

The outgoing College of Commissioners failed to act on eight pending applications to authorize the importation for processing into food and feed of genetically modified commodities. These applications have been pending for many years, along with a backlog of 59 others for import, cultivation and renewal. These GMOs have been deemed to be as safe as their conventional alternatives by the European Food Safety Authority; Anne Glover, who was President Barroso’s Chief Scientific Adviser, agreed. Major U.S. export interests are being injured. And EU food and feed business operators are seriously hampered in their ability to import much needed protein-rich products used to feed Europe’s livestock industry. President Juncker will be conducting a review of the legislation applicable to the authorization of GMOs. The outcome will indicate whether science will play an enhanced or diminished role in Commission decision-making. We hope that the former will be the case.

Tonight I will focus on some areas of cooperation that will be familiar, as well as others that may be less so.

T-TIP

Let me start with the transatlantic trade and investment partnership agreement. There is no doubt that one of the biggest projects that the U.S. and the EU have over the next few years is T-TIP. Tonight I don’t want to get into the details of the substantial work that has been done over 7 rounds of negotiations. I simply want to make a few general observations about what we are trying to achieve, before addressing a few misconceptions.

Simply put, T-TIP is about is about providing consumers with more choice and better products at lower cost; it is about growth and jobs necessary to provide work for the unemployed, to fund pensions for our retirees and pay for the health, safety and environmental protections our citizens demand; it is about providing business, especially small and medium-sized businesses greater opportunity to export and to have access to cheaper inputs so that they can grow and be more competitive. Much of what we are trying to achieve is actually a natural extension of what Europe has already done in creating a single market without tariff walls in which goods and services can circulate freely. There are many vocal critics of the T-TIP negotiations, but there are no critics of the extraordinary achievement of the single market, and for good reason.

Although T-TIP is certainly an ambitious undertaking, especially due to its focus on removing non-tariff barriers, both sides have negotiated many free trade agreements in the past. We know from our own experience (including the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) that these agreements have in fact stimulated exports, high-paying jobs and consumer benefits.

T-TIP would also be of tremendous geostrategic importance – a point that I think is under appreciated, and should be discussed more. T-TIP would set a standard for future regional and global deals that reflect the value we place on rules-based trade, high standards, and regulatory transparency and accountability.  It would enhance the U.S.-EU global partnership in the realm of trade negotiations, helping to make progress in stalled WTO talks and ensuring that world trade rules will continue to be compatible with free-market democratic systems. We have a window of opportunity during the next few years to set a standard for future regional and global trade deals that reflect our shared support for rules-based trade, high standards and regulatory transparency and accountability.  If we fail, other countries who do not share our values and whose weight in the international trading system is growing fast will set the agenda themselves.

According to my dear Balliol College, Oxford, classmate Boris Johnson, “There is nothing not to like about T-TIP. As Churchill might have said, it is altogether unsordid.” And yet many myths are being repeated, especially in social media, by those who seem not to want to let facts get in the way of a good story.

Boris has put it better than I ever could:

“They say that the EU-U.S. free trade deal will be a ramp for all sorts of undesirable American imports: American chickens bathed in chlorine and so genetically modified as to possess three drumsticks per bird; pale and tasteless American cheese that has been processed to the point of macrobiotic extinction; vast American gas-guzzler cars with seats that have been designed specifically for the supersized American buttock. They say that the notion of mutual free investment will lead to McDonald’s being given the catering for the NHS, while JR Ewing will arrive in the Home Counties shouting yee-hah and insisting on his right to frack the place to kingdom come.”

You laugh, but I have seen many reports that are extremely close to what Boris describes. The myth that T-TIP will lower European standards persists, despite numerous academic studies – including one recent one authored by two European and two American experts – that conclude that the levels of health, safety and environmental protection are not necessarily any higher in Europe than in the United States.

The United States is not going to sell T-TIP to Europeans; that is not our job. Europeans are going to have to sell T-TIP to Europeans. It is time for certain European governments who have been on the sidelines of the debate to start speaking up. It is time for more European businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones, to speak up.

And it is time for the NGOs who criticize us for inadequate transparency in the negotiations to live by their word by making clear for whom they speak and by whom they are financed. That is not clear today in Europe.

The reasons for Russia’s opposition to T-TIP are much clearer. The Russian state-funded and controlled RT television channel, formerly known as Russia Today, has just launched a news channel specifically for the UK audience. It will no doubt spread its anti-T-TIP message here. Why does it hate these negotiations? As Professor Dan Hamilton explains:

“T-TIP presents a huge challenge to the Kremlin’s efforts to divide Europeans from Americans. It offers something that the Kremlin cannot match: a transparent, mutually beneficial agreement that creates a rules-based framework for international cooperation. A reinvigorated transatlantic marketplace among … highly competitive democracies … would challenge the Kremlin’s version of “managed democracy;” render Russia’s own one-dimensional natural-resource-based economic model increasingly unattractive; and consign its rival economic project, the Eurasian Economic Union, to irrelevance.”

The Kremlin also hates T-TIP because it would facilitate the export of natural gas to Europe, thereby undermining Russia’s ability to exploit its ability to use energy as a weapon to divide and control Europe.

This leads me to another area of U.S.-EU collaboration: the coordination of sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine

The Ukraine crisis started with Russia’s refusal, which continues to this day, to allow the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny, including a free trade agreement with the EU. The EU and the U.S. are standing up for the principle of territorial integrity, the rejection of changes of borders through the use of force and respect for international law. Russia’s actions represent a fundamental challenge to our shared values and the rules-based international order; they require a steadfast response and a willingness to bear the costs.

Russia’s recognition of the “so-called” local elections in Eastern Ukraine is a clear violation of the Minsk Agreements, and calls into question Russia’s commitment to the Agreements. This is just another example in a long series of aggressive actions. According to press reports, Putin recently argued that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that divided Poland wasn’t so bad after all. He has boasted of his ability to take Kiev in days. Russia forces have repeatedly violated Baltic airspace. Russian troops remain in Ukraine and Russia continues to train and equip the separatists with the aim of making this a “frozen conflict.” It is clear that the vision of a stable, democratic, prosperous Ukraine is, for Russia, not a dream but a nightmare because it would provide a model, on Russia’s own borders, of another success story and would lead to unfavorable conclusions by Russia’s own people about the direction of their own country.

Over the summer the U.S. and the EU were very successful in rolling out significant sanctions against Russia, notwithstanding the different perspectives and vulnerabilities of the 28 EU member states. We need to keep the pressure up. This is no time for us to roll back sanctions; we need to consider the possibility of expanding them if Russian aggression continues. Statements by some European leaders that sanctions are not working are contrary to fact. They are working: the rouble is at historic laws; in October alone the Russian central bank spent $29 billion trying to defend it. Foreign direct investment has dried to a trickle. Interest rates have spiked to 9.5%. The Russian economy is tipping into recession. On top of this, oil prices which are far below the levels needed for Russia to cover its outlays. And Russia’s sovereign credit rating is at one notch above junk, with negative outlook.

Although TTIP and the Ukraine crisis are getting a great deal of press attention, they are certainly not the only way the U.S. and EU are working together. Tonight I’d like to talk about a few other areas.

Iran

With regard to the ongoing talks relating to Iran’s nuclear program, High Representative Ashton has shown remarkable leadership. The United States remains committed to working with our European partners toward a long-term, comprehensive solution that provides confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. An initial step was taken with an interim Joint Plan of Action, which provided limited relief of certain sanctions in exchange for Iranian steps that halted its nuclear program and rolled it back in key respects. The relief agreed was limited; U.S. sanctions remain in place and we continue to enforce them – an essential part of our dual-track policy to continue to maintain pressure on Iran in order to achieve a successful outcome in the negotiations over its nuclear program. We remain hopeful that we can finally conclude a permanent agreement.

Countering Violent Extremism

The fight against ISIL and the issue of foreign terrorist fighters who travel to and from Syria and Iraq has also been a top issue for the European Union and the United States. The United States is particularly focused on building a common EU Passenger Name Record system, and in increasing the effectiveness of sharing information collected through this system with U.S. border security officials in order to prevent acts of terrorism by foreign terrorist fighters.

Cyber Security

The United States and the EU also cooperate to increase cyber security The U.S. – EU Cyber Dialogue has focused its efforts on promoting public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on combating botnets; protecting industrial control systems; and addressing market access barriers, while continuing to coordinate on improving awareness of cyber issues.

The United States and the European Commission are exploring closer cooperation in the field of standardization for the protection of critical infrastructures. This is critical to ensure a similar level of protection for our interconnected networks and also U.S. and European businesses operating on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Fight Against Ebola

European member states, the European Commission and the United States are collaborating to combat the Ebola crisis in Western Africa. The United States has already approved $360 million and has announced its intention to devote more than $1 billion; we have deployed more than 250 civilian, medical, healthcare and disaster response experts and are committing to sending as many as 3,200 troops to the region. We applaud the EU’s ambitious commitment to reach 1 billion euros in collective contributions to fight the Ebola epidemic. The United States is grateful for the U.K.’s extraordinary leadership, which includes 700 treatment beds, funding for burial teams and up to 200 new community care centers in Sierra Leone. This has enabled the United States to focus its efforts and resources in neighboring Liberia.

In the fight against Ebola, U.S.-EU collaboration has been deep and highly effective.  USAID and the humanitarian aid agency of the European Commission coordinate daily, sharing information on the situation on the ground, strategizing how to encourage more health care workers to volunteer in the region, and identifying where our skills and assets can be complementary and mutually reinforcing.

Combatting Cyber Crime

We have also been engaged on bilateral talks aimed at improving the lives of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic by increasing law enforcement cooperation.  One of our big concerns is the anonymity of financial transactions through some virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, and the challenges this poses to criminal investigations.

Last week U.S. law enforcement worked with 21 other countries and Europol to arrest 17 individuals for involvement in selling illicit goods through an online marketplace called Silk Road 2. This marketplace was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to sell kilograms of illegal and harmful drugs, as well as firearms and other dangerous contraband.  In addition, this law enforcement action shuttered hundreds of other online marketplaces and confiscated property and illicit cash proceeds. What used to take years to organize, took mere months through the working relationship U.S. law enforcement has developed with European authorities.

Conclusion

I have mentioned a number of areas where the U.S. and EU are working closely together; there are many others. The new institutions and decision-making procedures introduced by the Lisbon Treaty have made the EU a more effective voice on the global stage and partner of the United States. We need to continue to broaden and deepen U.S.-EU cooperation. There is a great deal at stake.