Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s Opening Remarks at 2019 USEU Rentrée Event

Ambassador Sondland Remarks (as prepared)
2019 USEU Rentrée Event
September 30, 2019
Brussels, Belgium

What a gathering we have here tonight. We’ve got dignitaries, world renowned journalists, and representatives from some of the world’s most prestigious institutions. Thank you all for coming this evening to join me and my team as we kick off what I know will be an incredibly productive year for the Transatlantic partnership.

One reason I’m so optimistic about the future is because I believe we now have a golden opportunity to take a fresh look at our relationship.  The United States has worked hard over the summer and fall to cultivate relationships with the incoming leadership of the European Union.  In July, I had a great conversation with Ursula von der Leyen to talk about everything from trade to China to Iran.

Then, at the beginning of this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Brussels to meet with the new leadership of the European Council, the European Commission, and the European Parliament.  He made this trip on short notice and rearranged his schedule on the fly because he believes in the importance of developing personal relationships with Europe’s key decision makers.

The Secretary and I met with Ms. von der Leyen, Charles Michel, David Sassoli, and Josep Borrell to express our interest in working together on shared challenges and finding a way forward on areas of disagreement.  These meetings were very positive, and I was impressed by the degree to which our opinions aligned.

Following up on this visit, I had a three-hour long family dinner last week in New York with Josep Borrell and Charles Michel at the home of the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.  We all sat in the kitchen together, rolled up our sleeves, and had a great discussion about our relationship, the areas where we agree, and the areas where we disagree – sometimes strongly, which is typical in such a close relationship.

It’s these types of engagements that build the rapport needed for any healthy relationship; no cameras, no talking points, no politics, just five friends enjoying a wonderful evening talking about our shared vision for the future.

While the United States and the EU sometimes disagree about tactics, we share the same goals:  to improve our mutual security and the prosperity of our people.  Our differences make for exciting headlines, but what is very often overlooked are the successes that derive from our cooperation.

One recent example involves changes in the Universal Postal Union.  The United States and EU worked together so countries such as China can no longer subsidize uncompetitive practices that undercut domestic small and medium-size enterprises, permit counterfeit goods and drugs to enter into our markets, and trigger job losses at home.  Our combined efforts have revamped the UPU into a more modern and resilient organization, structured to meet the new demands of e-commerce and the increasing challenges of states that seek to distort markets to their advantage.

When it comes to trade, a more open and competitive Transatlantic market will not only strengthen our markets, but it will also set the agenda for the global, rules-based trading system that we would like to create.  The beef MOU we signed on August 2 is a great example of what happens when we meet each other halfway on trade. U.S. farmers and ranchers now have greater access to the EU beef market and Europeans have greater access to world class U.S. beef.

This is the type of cooperation we need to address challenges big and small.  And there is no shortage of big challenges confronting us, whether it’s Russian aggression, Iranian belligerence, or the vulnerabilities inherent in new sensitive Chinese technologies, such as 5G.

We no longer have the luxury of time.  We need to get to work.  As the new leaders of the EU’s institutions prepare to take office on November 1, we will work closely with them to create early wins in areas where we largely agree, identify areas where progress has been stalled but results are achievable with determined effort, and flag the thornier areas where positive outcomes will be more difficult and more intense engagement required.

We will have hard conversations, but they will be in the spirit of resolving our differences and working together to build a more trusting and productive relationship.  Ultimately, the United States and our European friends are the closest of partners and the strongest force for good in this world.

President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and I are committed to getting this relationship right and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.

Thank you.