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“Europe’s Growth Is in America’s Interest”

Economic growth, removal of business barriers, and the encouragement of entrepreneurship and innovation were key points made by Under Secretary Franklin L. Lavin during a recent visit to France and Germany.

by David Levey

Franklin L. Lavin, under secretary of commerce for international trade, visited France and Germany on October 16–21, 2006. The trip was designed to strengthen U.S. economic relationships and to encourage economic reforms that would provide sustained economic growth in two of the largest economies of Europe. With a combined bilateral trade of $175 billion in 2005, France and Germany constitute two of the largest trading partners of the United States. During the first three quarters of 2006, trade with those countries grew at a rate of more than 10 percent.

Market Access Brings Choices, Lower Prices

Stimulating economic growth, removing barriers to doing businesses, and seeking new ways to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation were key points of Lavin’s message to European business and government leaders. “Every German and every French business should have access to the American market, and every American business should have access to German and French consumers, giving them more choices and lower prices,” Lavin said in a speech on October 17, 2006, to the Aspen Institute, a think tank based in Berlin. “This means lowering barriers to trade wherever possible and doing what we can to make both our economies grow and become more competitive.”

In addition to addressing the Aspen Institute, Lavin also spoke to the Transatlantic Forum of the Free Democratic Party in Berlin and the Euro-American Press Club in Paris. He also participated in meetings with U.S. businesses in Europe and in bilateral government-to-government meetings in France and Germany.

Becoming Drivers of World Economic Growth

In his speeches, Lavin noted that the U.S. relationships with France and Germany are better than they have been for a number of years and that our nations are working together to create a prosperous, safe, and stable world.

He advocated, however, that more can be done. As a percentage of gross domestic product, France and Germany export far more than the United States, but their domestic economies have been growing at less than 2 percent a year for most of the past decade. According to Lavin, France and Germany can be even more important drivers of world economic growth. To accomplish that goal, however, they need to boost domestic consumption, increase labor flexibility, reduce tax burdens, and encourage private-sector innovation.

“Prosperity and a growing economy are the best social models. They give hope to those that aspire to accomplish great things in a society, no matter where they are on the social or economic ladder,” Lavin said. “They give the entrepreneur the motivation to work hard and succeed. When Europe grows, so does our trading relationship, as Europeans will buy more of the products we make.”

David Levey is a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.