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Atlantic Council: Interview with Anthony Gardner, US Ambassador to the European Union

TTIP is clearly going to be a prominent issue but it faces serious opposition in some EU countries, especially on the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and other matters such as GMOs. What, if anything, can and should the US do to address that opposition?

“The fundamental reason the United States and the EU agreed to pursue the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to build on what is already a very successful trade and investment relationship – with bilateral trade in goods and services amounting to $2.7 billion per day and more than $3.7 trillion invested on both sides of the Atlantic.

I seek to remind people that this agreement aims to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. At the end of the day, TTIP will include only what both sides agree it will include; it cannot be an agreement forced on one side or the other. These facts will hopefully ease anxiety about what we are trying to do. Where misperceptions and misinformation about our objectives persist, we will seek to correct those. I will also continue to make clear what our objectives are in these negotiations and how we see mutual benefit for US and EU citizens.

Similarly, it is primarily the role of the European Commission and the member state governments to explain to their citizens the EU’s objectives. We will work together in demonstrating to European citizens how TTIP will benefit European and American consumers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and others.”

Our new Atlantic sister newsletter EU Source has asked incumbent US Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner five questions on current hot topics like the incoming Commission, TTIP, data privacy, and the future of the transatlantic relationship.


FIVE QUESTIONS WITH…ANTHONY GARDNER, US AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION

>> Now that we have a new Parliament and will soon have a new Commission, what are your top three priorities for relations with the EU?
I have just paid my first visit to Strasbourg during a session of the European Parliament, where I had many fruitful meetings, and look forward to meeting the new Commissioners. My number one objective at this point is to continue to develop a strong, working relationship with the members and committees of the new Parliament, and with the Juncker Commission. There are many important priorities in the bilateral relationship, including:
• Seeking to resolve crises in Ukraine, Syria, and other trouble spots;
• Making progress in key transatlantic economic issues, such as TTIP, energy security, climate change, data privacy, and the digital economy; and
• Addressing health and humanitarian crises, particularly Ebola and refugee crises in the Middle East and Africa.
>> TTIP is clearly going to be a prominent issue but it faces serious opposition in some EU countries, especially on the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and other matters such as GMOs. What, if anything, can and should the US do to address that opposition?
The fundamental reason the United States and the EU agreed to pursue the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to build on what is already a very successful trade and investment relationship – with bilateral trade in goods and services amounting to $2.7 billion per day and more than $3.7 trillion invested on both sides of the Atlantic.
I seek to remind people that this agreement aims to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. At the end of the day, TTIP will include only what both sides agree it will include; it cannot be an agreement forced on one side or the other. These facts will hopefully ease anxiety about what we are trying to do. Where misperceptions and misinformation about our objectives persist, we will seek to correct those. I will also continue to make clear what our objectives are in these negotiations and how we see mutual benefit for US and EU citizens.
Similarly, it is primarily the role of the European Commission and the member state governments to explain to their citizens the EU’s objectives. We will work together in demonstrating to European citizens how TTIP will benefit European and American consumers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and others.
>> Data privacy is also a sensitive issue in US-European relations. Do you anticipate progress on this issue in the coming months, and if so, what will be the implications for US businesses?
Data privacy is, indeed, one of the most critical issues today affecting US-EU relations, because it has major implications for the way we cooperate on law enforcement, the ability of companies to do business across the Atlantic, strengthening consumer confidence in a growth-generating and secure online environment, and so much more. In our discussions with the Commission to further strengthen the Safe Harbor Framework, we have made significant progress, and we fully expect to reach an agreement so that Safe Harbor can continue to serve its intended purposes ensuring privacy and facilitating US-EU trade and investment. In talks on the “umbrella agreement” for data exchanges in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, including terrorism, we are well-advanced and are working hard to resolve the remaining issues. We share the EU’s commitment to privacy, and are responding to EU concerns and questions about how we protect personal data.
>> Recent European headlines have featured large US companies — Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. – that are having difficulties with the EU authorities. Are you concerned about this? What does it say about transatlantic economic relations?
The United States and the EU have a robust and large economic relationship. With $1 trillion in annual trade between us, and $4 trillion in investments, it is not surprising that legal cases in the United States involve European corporations and others in Europe involve US businesses. Although we are following these issues with interest, we do not comment on specific cases. Our cooperation with the Commission on competition law has always been strong; we cooperate with the EU in multilateral fora on issues relating to intellectual property protection and taxation, especially in the digital society.
>> You have been the ambassador to the EU for several months. What have you found to be the most surprising thing about dealing with the EU in this capacity?
My direct involvement with the EU goes back to my internship with the European Commission 23 years ago and subsequently at the White House during President Clinton’s first term. Back then the US-EU relationship was largely focused on economic issues. I have been struck by the fact that our relationship is broader and deeper than ever, and now includes a wide variety of political, law enforcement, financial, development, regulatory and security aspects. This is reflected by the fact that only half of the 160 staff at the USEU Mission come from the Department of State: the rest work for the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Homeland Security, Treasury, Defense, as well as USTR, FDA, FAA, and USAID among others. Today there is a widespread appreciation in Washington of how the EU works and how it affects our interests in numerous fields.