Many thanks Tom for your introductory remarks. We met recently in Brussels in the headquarters of the European Union and I am happy that I can now reciprocate your visit and meet you here in DC at your headquarters.
I am also very pleased to be here with all of you today for a conversation about how we can strengthen transatlantic relations from both a political and economic perspective.
The US Chamber of Commerce representing more than 3 million businesses is a valued partner and a long-standing proponent of ever-closer ties between the EU and the US. And we highly value and appreciate your engagement and activism.
I also strongly welcome the fact that we have here today an important delegation from Business Europe, one of the main driving engines of the European economy and an equally committed partner of deeper EU-US relations.
The US Chamber and Business Europe joint work has been a great asset and an agenda setter in our relations, from the creation of the Transatlantic Economic Cooperation Council back in 2007 to the launching of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership last year.
I feel very proud that two Commissions were behind these major leaps in our relations. What had been for a long time a vision and a wishful thinking – that of an integrated Transatlantic Common Economic Space – is now closer to become a reality. I will come to that in a second.
One of the reasons that brought me to Washington today was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the largest ever wave of enlargement of the European Union that reunited and reconciled our continent.
This enlargement has improved European security, extending its area of peace, liberty and democracy. It has also made Europe stronger and more influential. The EU is now the world’s largest economy, largest trading partner and the largest recipient and source of foreign direct investment in the world.
And we are not resting on our laurels. Our common house was recently shaken by the global economic and financial crisis. Many doubted of our capacity to fight back. Many predicted the implosion of the Euro. The dismantling of our Union. We have proven these critics wrong.
We rolled up the sleeves and did what had to be done: reforms at national level and completion of our Economic and Monetary Union at European level. Of course it took time, but I never saw sound pillars being erected overnight.
And the results are there to be seen. Recovery is gaining ground and spreading across EU countries (strengthened domestic demand overtaking export as driver for growth, expanding economic activity and improved economic sentiment; growth disparities narrowing).
This year we expect growth to reach 1.5% and next year our estimations point to 2%.
Ireland and Spain already exited their support programmes and returned to the capital market; Portugal will follow in May and has had very successful bond auctionings.
We have also delivered on our goal to build a banking union and now supervision, regulation and resolution of banks are EU wide and no longer national.
Of course our mantra needs to remain “no complacency” and much work remains to be done to fight the scourge of unemployment and financing the economy. But I can say with confidence that Europe has turned a corner.
TTIP: overall ambition
I am also glad to see that he US is projected to grow at 2.9% in 2014 and 3.2% in 2015. For those who considered that developed economies were the sick man of the world this is an impressive come back. We are both making again a contribution to global growth.
Besides putting our houses in order, I believe that the most important contribution that we can make to world’s economy is to continue promoting the opening of trade.
The reasons are self-evident. More than 38 million U.S. jobs depend on trade, with one-third of manufacturing jobs stemming from exports. One in 3 acres on American farms is harvested for exports. In Europe about 30 million jobs, or more than 10% of the total workforce, depend on trade with the rest of the world.
Since together Europe and the United States are the backbone of the world economy with nearly half of world GDP, 40% or the purchase power and a third of world trade, it is simple good common sense if we start by making trade freer between ourselves.
This economic reality, together with the political need to reinforce the EU-US Strategic partnership, makes our Trade and Transatlantic Investment Partnership a key geopolitical imperative.
TTIP will be a trade deal among equals because our economies are equal in size and, more importantly, our societies are equal in values.
TTIP should become the economic pillar of the EU and US alliance. It should be our joint attempt to shape a fast changing world and to set the standards of the future. It should act as a platform to project shared EU-U.S. values worldwide with regard to open markets and rule of law.
We should never lose sight of this important strategic dimension throughout the negotiating process.
I have invested strongly in this project with our Members States and the European Parliament. And while it will be difficult to conclude it under this Commission I want to take it as far as possible and to make it truly irreversible.
The EU objective is to ensure a high level of ambition across the three TTIP pillars – market access, regulatory cluster and rules.
It is also important that we ensure a balance in ambition and parallel progress within the three elements of market access. This cannot be a tariffs only deal. Meaningful access in services and a credible offer on public procurement will have to part of the package.
The regulatory cluster is the TTIP pillar which should deliver the bulk of the benefits and cost savings. TTIP will only be credible if it delivers on both horizontal rules and sectors.
This not about replacing our rules and adopt the American ones, it is neither about replacing the American rules to adopt the European ones. But it is about making both compatible and recognising both our systems. This is what business expects from us. This is what we should deliver.
It is of course important that we recognise that there will be sensitivities. In Brussels, with Member States and the European Parliament, on the US side with Congress and the States, and on both sides with civil society. We need to navigate carefully while working for an ambitious outcome.
There will be legitimate doubts and questions that we will have to answer and accommodate. We need for instance to reassure our citizens that this deal is not about lowering our standards but to uphold them globally.
But there will also be a lot of noise by those that simply oppose change, reform and trade opening.
We cannot let the nay-sayers win the public argument. All those who are in favour of this Agreement in the Business Community and in the civil society, need to leave their comfort zones and speak up for it. This is also my appeal to you.
A final thought to say that both the EU and US are also engaged in bilateral negotiations with our other partners. Currently the EU is negotiating more than 15 bilateral or regional trade deals around the world. The US is also very committed to the TPP negotiations.
I see no contradiction or incompatibility between these endeavours. At the same time in the context of the Trade Promotion Authority discussions, I do hope that each agreement will be assessed on its own merits and differences.
TTIP is a unique partnership for a unique alliance. And that is even more true and more urgent today than when negotiations were launched.
Thanks for having listened to me and I am now open to answer your questions and remarks.