EU Ambassador: 'Conflict Forced Us to Find New Ways'
Posted on April 26, 2016 by Alice Jackson
Despite thousands of Germans marching in protest against the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a day before President Barack Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in support of the agreement – the European Union’s Ambassador to the United States told a University of South Alabama audience on Monday he expects negotiations to be successful for approval later this year.
The protesters were concerned the agreement will encourage German factories to move overseas, resulting in lost jobs. The president was in Hanover to join Merkel for the opening of the world’s largest industrial trade fair, where the TTIP was expected to be a major topic.
“At this time, the transatlantic corridor between Europe and the United States is the single most important trade corridor in the world, and one of the best examples of its importance is what happened today in Mobile with Airbus delivering its first U.S.-built jetliner to JetBlue,” said David O’Sullivan, the European Union’s leading representative in Washington, D.C.
O’Sullivan was in Mobile to attend the Airbus delivery ceremony earlier in the day. On South’s campus, he spoke for almost an hour to an audience of students, faculty, administrators and local residents about the present status of the European Union and its role in world trade before a brief reception and a tour of the campus with Dr. Bob Wood, dean of the Mitchell College of Business.
He emphasized that the German protest was also rooted in a variety of issues beyond economics.
“The 28 sovereign states of the European Union are dealing not only with economic issues, but concerns of terrorism as well as unprecedented social issues with the arrival of millions of refugees from Syria, and many of these protesters are equally suspicious about that,” said O’Sullivan. “Many of those same types of suspicions, worries and the rise of populism in some nations are behind the United Kingdom’s June 23 referendum on whether or not it will pull out of the EU.”
O’Sullivan said most EU members hope the United Kingdom will remain in the EU because “these are complex issues we will be grappling with for some time, and to tell you the truth, some of the European Union’s best ideas have formed out of conflict because conflict forced us to find new ways to work together, and that’s what we are all about.”
He explained the EU sees the influx of Syrians as refugees rather than migrants based on the Geneva Convention. And, he added the EU is working on ways to shut down the smuggler network that charges the refugees outrageous sums of money for trips on unseaworthy vessels.
The beginnings of the EU formed as an effort to rebuild Europe following World War II. Today its headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium.
He added that the reality of a 1.5 to 2 percent growth in Europe’s economy already this year with unemployment figures steadily coming down is another important reason for all members to stay in the EU.
O’Sullivan said the protests overshadow that negotiations are seeking resolution of other issues that will speed trade between the EU and the United States. For instance, many goods currently moving between the two countries, such as medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and automobiles, are tested by both the importer and the exporter.
“Testing standards between our member nations and your country are equal, making dual testing nothing but an impediment to our mutual economic growth,” said O’Sullivan. “And, frankly, we do believe the American markets could be more open. We are both looking outward to where the next trade growth will be in Asia and worldwide.”
The European Union makes up the world’s single largest economy with the United States and China battling for second place, according to the ambassador.
O’Sullivan talked about how Mobile’s historic connections to nations in the European Union strengthen today’s economic relationships for both.
“Of course, while some of those early relationships were very contested, today’s relationships are slightly friendlier,” he said, referring to wars between France, Spain and England for ownership of the colonial-era Gulf Coast.
He added he hopes future trade relationships grow in this area of the world for the sake of the EU and the United States.
“You can never underestimate the resiliency of the European Union,” O’Sullivan said. “Yes, there are difficult problems, but going backwards isn’t an option for us.”
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