It is good to be back in Dublin. Although I can’t claim any Irish ancestry, my Spanish wife is a Mac-Crohon with strong Irish roots in County Kerry. So my better half is indeed better.
It is a relief to be here and not have to talk about the U.S. election campaign. As a representative of the U.S. Government, I have to be strictly neutral about the campaign. So I’ll simply say this: as a public service we will continue to provide free high-quality entertainment on a 24/7 basis for the whole world, including Europe, for the next 4 months…You’re welcome, by the way.
American journalist Tom Friedman wrote a column a while ago stating that putting “European Union” into the lead of a column published in America used to be like a “Do Not Read” sign. That certainly changed last year and this year because what is going on in the EU is of profound importance, not only for the region, but also for the US and for the world.
54 years ago John F. Kennedy, delivered an address on Independence Day in Philadelphia. He had this to say about the recently created European Economic Community:
“The United States looks on this vast new enterprise with hope and admiration. We do not regard a strong and united Europe as a rival but as a partner…We see in such a Europe a partner with whom we can deal on a basis of full equality in all the great and burdensome tasks of building and defending a community of free nations.”
A few weeks ago, President Obama delivered a speech in Hannover in which he echoed these sentiments: “…the United States, and the entire world, needs a strong and prosperous and democratic and united Europe.” He quoted former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer: “European unity was a dream of a few. It became a hope for [the] many. Today it is a necessity for all of us.” Today that dream is still alive.
The United Kingdom has made a historic decision and its democratic choice must be respected. The special relationship that has long existed between the United States and the UK endures. At the same time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the European project. A strong, united Europe helps to uphold the norms and rules that can maintain peace and promote prosperity around the world. We’re not opting out; we’re opting in.
If Brexit occurs, we will need Ireland more than ever as a close partner inside the EU. We will need to partner ever more closely on issues such as data privacy, digital issues and free trade.
The United States has an enormous stake in ensuring that the European Union survives and emerges stronger from these crises. I am reminded literally every day that the United States and the European Union are essential partners in a turbulent world.
Trade and Investment
The economic underpinnings of the transatlantic relationship remain strong. The European economy has improved, thanks in part to a weaker euro and lower oil prices. In 2015, U.S. FDI outflows to Europe totalled $185 billion, a nearly 7.7% increase from the previous year. Conversely, total inflows to the United States from the EU totaled $268 billion in the first nine months of 2015, a significant increase over the prior year.
The US and the EU think that we can build on these firm foundations in TTIP. As we head into the 14th round of negotiations this July in Brussels, we are making good progress. There has been a lot of inter-sessional work since the April round in New York, including numerous meetings at the political level, in the lead up to the next round. We now have proposed text in the vast majority of the negotiating areas.
Our common goal is admittedly ambitious: to reach an advanced stage of text consolidation across the board in July, narrowing down our differences to only the most sensitive issues.
There are still difficult issues on the table, including agriculture – both geographical indications and the elimination of tariff lines on sensitive agricultural products – government procurement, investor state dispute settlement and sectoral regulatory cooperation.
But the Obama Administration is prepared to make every effort to reach an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard agreement in 2016. We have demonstrated our willingness to invest political capital in expanding trade – above all in the Transpacific Partnership agreement. But if we are going to succeed in completing T-TIP this year, we need political will on both sides to maintain our current intensified engagement and bring a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to resolving the remaining issues.
In addition to TTIP, the US and the EU are working closely to liberalize trade, both multilaterally at the WTO, plurilaterally and bilaterally.
We have worked closely on the recent breakthrough to significantly expand the coverage of the Information Technology Agreement that eliminates tariffs on $1 trillion worth of trade in high-tech products among 54 economies. We are also spearheading negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement to eliminate tariffs on solar panels, wind turbines, water treatment equipment and other environmental goods. And we are also leading the way on the Trade in Services Agreement that aims to open up markets and improve rules in areas such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and professionals moving abroad temporarily to provide services.
In addition to trade, the US and EU are engaged in a broad set of economic, political and even security issues. Let me start with data privacy, an issue of particular relevance in Ireland because of the large number of US technology companies based here and regulated by the Irish Data Protection Authority.
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, the U.S. and the EU have made concrete steps to restore trust in data flows. All too often in Europe it is falsely argued that Europeans care about privacy, while Americans do not. The United States has had privacy laws before Europe did, and we believe that our privacy regime is as robust as any in Europe. Both the US and Europe are grappling with the difficult balance between personal security and the right of citizens to protect their privacy.
A key priority for me and the U.S. Mission has been the approval of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. On February 2nd we announced an EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement, to replace and strengthen the former U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework that was invalided by the Court of Justice on a referral by the Irish High Court in the Schrems v. Facebook case on October 6, 2015.
Over the last few weeks, we have worked with the Commission to develop some important additional clarifications that respond directly to concerns raised in the non-binding Opinion published by the Article 29 Working Party of national data protection authorities regarding both national security and commercial matters. We are confident that the Article 31 Committee of member states will vote favorably on Privacy Shield when they meet on July 8.
The Privacy Shield represents a significant achievement for privacy, for individuals and for businesses. It includes new privacy protections to be implemented by companies, as well as new U.S. Government commitments and resources to administer the Privacy Shield and oversee compliance. We are confident that the revised framework can withstand future judicial scrutiny because it meets the Court’s standard of essential equivalence.
Finalization of Privacy Shield allows us now to start negotiating a chapter on data in TTIP. Such a chapter will need to contain the principles that data flows and data processing may take place free from discriminatory terms and trade distorting conditions, with exceptions limited to legitimate public policy objectives and only in full compliance with the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services. With cloud computing blurring jurisdictional boundaries, we need to make sure that data protection doesn’t become a disguise for data protectionism.
In a significant and related development, the US has recently decided to join as an an amicus curiae in Irish High Court proceedings involving a separate complaint brought by Schrems to the Irish data protection authority alleging that Facebook’s transfer of personal data from the EU to the US pursuant to standard contractual clauses may violate EU fundamental rights. Our decision will allow the US to provide a factual description of US data privacy laws, especially government access to data and to intervene before the European Court of Justice on referral – neither of which the US was able to do in the prior case.
Another development in US-EU data privacy is the recent signature of the so-called Umbrella Agreement on protecting personal information exchanged between U.S. and EU Member State law enforcement authorities. This signature was made possible by the prior passage on a bipartisan basis in Congress of the Judicial Redress Act granting foreign citizens protections that U.S. citizens enjoy under the 1974 Privacy Act. We are now waiting for the European Parliament to ratify the Umbrella Agreement.
Digital Single Market
We are also watching with great interest the roll out of the various legislative packages that fall under the umbrella of the Digital Single Market, which intends to promote growth in e-commerce, digitization of industry, investment in digital infrastructure, expansion of e-government, and training in digital skills. We believe that a well-constructed Digital Single Market will benefit both EU firms and U.S. firms serving the European market, many of whom have invested heavily in Europe.
We will continue to pay particularly close attention to the evolution of initiatives regarding online platforms, copyright reform, and technology standards. We also believe that the Free Flow of Data Initiative that is being developed within the framework of the DSM is an important step and a policy that should logically be extended to ensure the free flow of data not only within the EU but also between the EU and the United States.
Both European and U.S. policymakers must approach the rapidly evolving digital economy with a shared commitment to make standards work for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Collaboration in the development of global standards enables technological innovation by defining and establishing common foundations upon which product differentiation, innovative technology development, and other value-added services can be developed. This collaboration is possible when standards are developed in organizations that are transparent in their decision making and open to participation by all interested stakeholders.
I also want to mention very briefly a few other areas where the US and the EU have worked closely: sanctions; law enforcement; energy security and climate change; military cooperation; and humanitarian aid and development cooperation.
Sanctions first. We have worked closely on implementing restrictive sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table to agree an historic agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And we have maintained unity in implementing sanctions against Russia after its illegal annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Southeast Ukraine.
We are confident that these sanctions will be renewed again in July for another six months. They should continue to be renewed until Russia has fulfilled its commitments under the Minsk process. There should be no partial lifting of sanctions for partial fulfilment of Russia’s commitments.
The Ukraine crisis should not be allowed to slip down the list of Europe’s priorities: that would be a betrayal of Europe’s commitment to international law and the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people to live as part of a free-market democracy that respects human rights.
Another area of US-EU cooperation is on law enforcement. We have, of course, collaborated for many years with many EU Member States; reflecting the increasingly transnational nature of serious crimes and terrorism, the US has been steadily increasing its partnership with Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency. For example, we have been collaborating with Europol in cracking down on migrant smuggling networks, online child sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and the illicit sale on the dark net of everything from recreational drugs to neurotoxins to firearms.
And we are cooperating closely with Europol on terrorist financing, an essential tool to combat terrorism. We are working to establish close ties between our own National Counterterrorism Center and the European Counterterrorism Centre housed at Europol.
Energy Security and Climate Change
U.S.-EU collaboration is also deepening in the fields of energy security and climate change. We support the various proposals for an energy union and the diversification of supply that would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. Project by project, we are working closely with the EU and key countries to change Europe’s energy landscape to make it more secure, resilient and diverse, especially in the gas market.
We have worked closely with the EU on the historic climate change agreement in Paris in December last year that establishes for the first time an ambitious, durable climate regime that applies to all countries, is fair, focuses both on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience, includes strong accountability measures and ensures ongoing financial and technical assistance to those who need it. The agreement moves us close to the goal of limiting global temperature increases to 2°C.
And we are making significant, even surprising, progress with the EU on the security front. The US and EU have signed an agreement enabling the Department of Defense to share confidential military information with the EU military staff and to sell goods and services to the EU military missions in Africa.
We are making progress on an agreement to share geospatial imagery with the EU, or particular relevance as the EU needs to track illegal migration flows in the Mediterranean, especially from the Libyan coast. At the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw in a few days, NATO and the EU will make an announcement of their intention to work more closely together in a number of areas, including hybrid warfare.
Development Aid and Humanitarian Assistance
Finally, I want to mention development aid and humanitarian assistance. The EU and the U.S. together account for more than 80 percent of all official development assistance worldwide; it is important, therefore, that we coordinate at both a policy and country-program level to improve the quality and impact of international aid and relief.
So, as you can see, we have a full agenda. The United States needs, as never before, a European Union that is cohesive, effective and outward looking to move forward on these issues and many others. The departure of the United Kingdom might complicate some of the agenda I’ve described, but I’m confident that we can continue to make progress in every area.
The dreary Brussels summer has reminded me of the walks I used to take with my father in the countryside on cloudy days. He would invariably point to the smallest sliver of blue sky on the horizon and say: “Good weather is on its way.” We need some of that American optimism in Brussels; we need some of that American confidence in the European Union!
Thank you for inviting me here today.