Ambassador Gardner Visits EP’s U.S. Delegation

Ambassador Gardner and Chair of U.S. Delegation in the EP David McAllister

On November 6, 2014, Ambassador Gardner held an exchange of views in Brussels with the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the United States. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Chairman McAllister,
Vice Chair Kofod,
Vice Chair Schaake,
Distinguished Members of the Delegation for Relations with the United States,

Thank you for inviting me here today, as well as for your hospitality during the plenary week last month in Strasbourg.  I was pleased to see many of you at the reception I co-hosted with David McAllister and Elmar Brok.

In Strasbourg I watched the debate on vote on the new Commission. And I confess that I was moved to see elected representatives from 28 countries around the hemicycle under the EU flag. I was impressed at the speed and efficiency of the hearings and the fact that the new Commission, despite contrary predictions, has taken office on November 1 as planned.

As the elected representatives of European citizens, the EP embodies the democratic ideals we share – ideals that are under attack. Just consider Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine and its effort to crush internal dissent and NGOs at home. Anti-democratic forces within Europe are also being supported from the outside.

Two days ago we had our own elections: as you know, the Republicans strengthened their grip on the House of Representatives and acquired control of the Senate. While this may complicate the President’s domestic agenda during the last two years of his term, I do not think it has an impact on the main priorities for U.S.-EU relations – including relating to TTIP, data privacy, energy security.

Yesterday Senators Mitch McConnell, due to lead the Senate majority, and Orrin Hatch, due to lead the Senate Finance Committee, were quoted as welcoming international trade deals and fast track.

My team at the Mission is ready to facilitate your engagement with new Members of Congress. I understand the next TLD meeting is scheduled for Riga in April. I believe we can make the TLD a more useful channel to elevate political discourse between the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress to the benefit of our ambitious agenda.  We should make sure there is a thematic focus that ensures strong participation on both sides. I look forward to engaging with you and EPLO on how to make this happen.

On TTIP, I am often asked about TPA. There appears to be widespread concern about when this will be achieved. I think this concern is misplaced.

  • The Republican Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp was recently in Brussels and met with some members of the INTA Committee. He assured them that there is bipartisan support for fast track. Now that the mid-terms are over, there is likely to be more appetite to talk about trade.
  • You should derive comfort from the fact that fast track must be concluded before TPP is finalized, which may soon be the case. I would not exclude the possibility that fast track could be achieved in the lame duck session of Congress or shortly thereafter. You should also derive comfort from the fact that we have never failed to obtain fast track authority. Moreover, while fast track is certainly useful, it is obvious that the Administration is in constant discussion with the Hill on the trade agreements it negotiates and would only present an agreement for approval if it has a high degree of certainty that approval will be granted.
  • The same is true here. The EP will be regularly consulted during the TTIP negotiations and, although it must vote the final text up or down, it can of course indicate before the final vote that certain modifications are needed. And there is the complicating factor that 28 national parliaments will have to approve the deal. Some observers suggest that some regional parliaments will have to approve TTIP.
  • We both have our legislative requirements to work out. I suggest that we leave it to each other to deal with them.

Also on TTIP, let me say that we noted the statement on ISDS made by President Juncker in Luxembourg. We were naturally concerned at the rumors that ISDS would be taken off the table. It was not. But the statement indicates that we have a great deal of work to do to explain to the critics why ISDS is a necessary part of a 21st century trade agreement. There is an extraordinary amount of misinformation, indeed disinformation, about this topic. And that is why next week I will start making several public statements that challenge the myths in some detail. I will be happy to share this with anyone who is interested.

This leads me to the issue of TTIP messaging: the United States Government is not going to sell this deal in Europe; Europeans will have to sell this deal in Europe. If we want this deal, we will have to fight for it. And we’re going to have to focus on the real issues, not the peripheral ones. We’re going to have to get on the front foot and aggressively counter the myths, not only on ISDS but also regarding the threat to European standards.

We have to listen to the requests for greater transparency. But we also need to insist that the NGOs who demand greater transparency are transparent themselves. They should be required to make clear who finances them and whom they represent.

You saw the latest downgrade in European growth forecasts. I cannot understand why TTIP’s potential to create jobs and stimulate growth does not seem to convince more people in Europe. Two other arguments I use seem to work better: TTIP is in part an extension of the single market and an opportunity to write the rules of global trade before others do it for us.

But let’s remember that TTIP is only one of many areas where the U.S. and the EU are working together. I have been positively surprised at just how broad our cooperation is:

Ukraine. The European Parliament has been unequivocal in its support for Ukraine’s sovereign right to determine its future – and its choice of a European future – through democratic processes and the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. We agree that Russia’s recognition of the “so-called” local elections this past weekend in Eastern Ukraine is a clear violation of the Minsk Agreements, and calls into question Russia’s commitment to the Agreements.  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.

o 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. Russian companies can no longer finance themselves in the euro or dollar debt or capital markets. Interest rates have spiked to 9.5%. The Russian economy is tipping into recession. Rosneft has asked for a massive capital injection. And all of this on top of oil prices which are far below the levels needed for Russia to cover its outlays.

Ebola. Last week, following her visit to West Africa, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power visited Brussels to rally additional support and strengthen our coordination in the face of this unprecedented health crisis.  The European Parliament has kept this crucial issue front and center, and we are pleased that the EU and Member States have set an ambitious goal of contributing €1 billion to fight Ebola by the end of the year.

Iran. Former High Representative Catherine Ashton has done an excellent job leading negotiations with respect to Tehran’s nuclear program.  These negotiations are about Iran making tangible commitments to verifiable actions that demonstrate to the international community that Iran’s program is, and will remain, exclusively peaceful.  The United States and the European Union remain committed to working toward a long-term, comprehensive solution.

Syria. The United States and the European Union are also working together to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the ongoing conflict there.  Globally, the United States and the European Union, including the Member States, provide over 60% of all humanitarian assistance funding.  The EP has played a crucial role in bringing attention to this humanitarian tragedy and calling for a robust international response to guarantee basic human dignity for internally and externally displaced refugees.

We are stepping up together to address the common challenge of foreign fighters.  U.S. and EU citizens who travel to and from Syria, Iraq, and other conflict regions pose a risk on both sides of the Atlantic, as was illustrated here in Brussels this past May with the horrendous shooting at the Jewish Museum.  We welcome the Council’s call for an EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) proposal to be finalized by the end of this year.

The United States and EU are close partners on law enforcement and security cooperation, including tackling cybercrime.  The new high-level U.S.-EU Cyber Dialogue announced at the 2014 U.S.-EU Summit will formalize and broaden our cooperation on cyber issues, building on shared commitments and achievements in key areas.   The joint U.S.-EU Working Group on Cyber Security and Cyber Crime coordinates ways to improve awareness of cyber issues while promoting public-private partnerships to address cybercrime and protecting industrial control systems.

With a new Parliament, a new Commission, and a new Congress in place, it’s now time to get down to work.  I look forward to collaborating closely with all of you. Even where we disagree I hope there is no doubt that I believe in Europe. I believe in the centrality of the U.S.-EU partnership; and that I want to use the few years I have here to promote it.

Thank you.