Remarks by Under Secretary Lago - November 17, 2022

Frankfurt, Germany
November 17, 2022

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Sumi, for that kind introduction. I am so pleased to be back in Frankfurt, a city that I have visited more times than I can count. It is also a special pleasure to participate in such an impressive all-women panel alongside State Secretary Brantner and President Menne. 

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce, thank you to AmCham Germany for your partnership—and especially for your support for our EMPOWER HER initiative with AmCham EU, which seeks to advance women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. 

My thanks as well to Ambassador Amy Gutmann, Consul General Thatcher Scharpf, and Minister Counselor Bill Czajkowski, who heads the Department of Commerce’s Germany Team from Berlin. Their leadership helps us to forge even stronger U.S.-German ties.

At the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, we are deeply committed to building a more prosperous and inclusive economy through strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry and workers, promoting trade and investment, and ensuring fair trade practices.  

Our work is grounded in the conviction that economic security is national security. Between the economic disruptions of COVID-19 and the rippling consequences of Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war in Ukraine, the importance of economic security is clearer than ever.

This conviction aligns closely with Chancellor Scholz’s view that we have reached a turning point or Zeitenwende—for Germany, for the Transatlantic relationship, and, indeed, for the world.

Putin’s illegal, immoral and unjustified invasion of Ukraine was a fundamental miscalculation on his part. Not only has Ukraine shown tremendous resolve, but the United States, Germany, and the European Union have banded together and responded forcefully and in unison. Witnessing shocking aggression in Europe has shrunk our differences and brought us even closer together around a common cause.  

Our security and prosperity rely on economic and commercial cooperation to support mutual resilience, innovation and competitiveness in a challenging global environment. That is why I am in Germany this week: to further deepen our already solid U.S.-German commercial partnership.

It is the same spirit that I carried with me during stops in Berlin, Düsseldorf and here in Frankfurt, where I have had the pleasure of meeting with State Secretary Udo Philipp and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, as well as engaging with U.S. and German private sector leaders and visiting the Medica and Formnext Trade Fairs.

Every conversation has reinforced the existing strength of our bilateral relationship. Germany is one of the United States’ most significant trading partners—and its biggest in Europe—not to mention the second-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the United States. We welcome this FDI, we appreciate it, and we never take it for granted.

German companies account for nearly 900,000 U.S. jobs—that is more than the population of Frankfurt. These companies help to drive innovation in cutting edge sectors through research and development, investment, and partnerships with U.S. companies and institutions. German industry is now part of daily life for many Americans—from the medicines we take, to the cars we drive, to the elevators we ride.  

Building on this strong foundation, we would welcome a robust German delegation at the 2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit, which will be held on the 1st through the 4th of May near Washington, DC. SelectUSA is our annual premier event intended to help non-U.S. businesses that are interested in investing or expanding in the United States.  

Of course, our trade and investment relationship flows in both directions, with U.S. FDI employing millions of German workers across key sectors.

We celebrate the strength of this relationship—not just as a source of jobs and prosperity, but also as a lever to advance economic and strategic priorities, and keep our nations secure. Recent events have underscored the relationship between economic and national security, as supply chains and semiconductors became dinner table conversation topics during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as Americans and Germans grew more aware of the vital role of global commerce in their daily lives. 

Grounded in our shared values, U.S.-German cooperation has been integral to navigating this precarious moment, starting with energy security. We applaud Germany’s decisive leadership of EU sanctions and export controls, and its diversification away from Russian energy. U.S. companies, facilitated by our Commerce team, are eager to help Germany meet its near-term energy demands—including through floating and regassification facilities. Equally, we support Germany’s long-term climate and energy security ambitions. 
Looking beyond immediate energy imperatives, the United States and Germany also continue to collaborate in our approach to China—at once a significant market for U.S. and German exporters and a competitor that pursues a different model, standards and priorities. While the detailed contours of our nations’ relationships with China vary, we share an overarching need to compete and protect our economies from coercive influence. U.S. and German officials are consulting constantly to coordinate our approaches, whether aligning export control regimes or exchanging insights on investment screening.  

The United States is eager to continue and expand this partnership—because there’s no question that we can and must do more together to address this turning point—in Europe and around the world.  
A primary tool is the U.S.-Germany Informal Commercial Exchange (ICE) Talks, which I will co-chair with State Secretary Udo Philipp in 2023. These ICE Talks will be results oriented, and we hope to focus on diversifying supply chains and energy sources, exploring clean tech opportunities, and countering coercive influences.

But, beyond these core priorities, the ICE Talks also offer an opportunity to reinforce other important areas of cooperation, such as on apprenticeships. Germany’s apprenticeship system, which I was immensely impressed to see in action this week at the Bayer Pharmaceuticals Training Center in Berlin, is world-renowned. Time and again I hear from U.S. businesses about how eager they are to emulate the model. 

The ICE Talks can likewise help our Mittelstand to address challenges in adapting to a changing and uncertain economy. The COVID pandemic transformed the global economy, forcing companies in Germany and the United States to quickly learn to operate digitally in order to survive. This was a special challenge for the Mittelstand, which often lacked the expertise and resources to make the transition smoothly.
Our Commerce team is focused on supporting the Mittelstand’s digital and other ambitions through our global engagement. At the U.S.-EU level, we are jointly pursuing a workshop series for SMEs to engage directly with transatlantic counterparts and government officials. Germany hosted the latest workshop in Augsburg in September, and we look forward to hosting the next workshop in Alabama in 2023. 
As we look to future rounds of our bilateral ICE Talks, we also hope to bring in the private sector—including organizations such as AmCham and BDI—to make our discussions that much more productive and actionable. 
In addition to our ICE talks, another pillar of U.S.-Germany cooperation is the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, or TTC, for which I am the Department of Commerce’s Deputy. The TTC is a nimble, flexible format through which we are forging vital new cooperation and addressing differences before they become irritants.  
We look forward to the TTC Ministerial, which will be held next month in the DC area. At this Ministerial, U.S. and European Commission officials will announce progress on a number of priority initiatives. The TTC is a living, breathing instrument, and our team is eager for input from those on the front lines of commerce— that is you!—on where we should focus our efforts to deliver results for businesses and workers. 
A final area of growing cooperation is implementation of the U.S.-EU Data Privacy Framework.  Data flows underpin trillions of dollars of transatlantic commerce, and we need EU Member States such as Germany to play strong, supporting roles in implementing the Framework. Given that many German multinationals rely on data transfers to manage their extensive U.S. operations, and many other German firms depend on U.S. cloud services, we seek your engagement as we work to fully implement the Framework and restore legal certainty for transatlantic data flows.  

Clearly, there is immense opportunity for transatlantic cooperation in this challenging global environment.  

So, I will return to where I began—this new paradigm, this Zeitenwende that we are navigating together, is bringing into even sharper focus our overlapping values and the indispensability of our relationship. 

When the United States, Germany and EU focus on our differences—we make headlines. When we work together, we make history. I am confident that we will do just that as we look beyond immediate crises and pursue a more sustainable, equitable, prosperous and secure future together, grounded in our shared democratic values and free market principles. 

In forging that future together, we will rely on all of you—the U.S. and German private sectors — in concert with labor, environmental, and other stakeholders—for guidance, partnership and innovation. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Thank you.