Statsministerens tale i American Club den 29. april 2010

Det talte ord gælder

Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Members of the American Club, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Rebild Society and the American Women’s Club,

Thank you very much to Spencer Oliver and to Ambassador Fulton for the kind introduction.

And thank you to the American Club for organizing this meeting.

I have been looking forward to giving this speech on Danish-US relations which lies at the very heart of Denmark’s foreign policy. It is a topic that I personally attach great importance to. And now is a good time to take stock of our partnership which has evolved even further over the past 18 months.

The presidential election in 2008 and the Obama Administration’s first period in office have generated an unprecedented public interest and fascination in Denmark - not only with the President himself but with American politics and foreign policy in general.

We had the honour of hosting President Obama twice last year – a remarkable fact considering that a sitting American president had only visited Denmark two times before that – in 1997 and 2005. After more than two centuries of diplomatic relations, we doubled the number of presidential visits in a little more than two months!

Chicago didn’t get the Olympics but Obama’s visits were extremely productive. They helped establish an even closer bilateral relationship between our two countries. And we moved forward the global climate change agenda.

In Denmark and around the world, there is a renewed sense of support behind American leadership. Now in his second year in office, people continue to follow closely the Obama Administration’s foreign policy activism and engagement in solving global problems. The expectations were extremely high – and they still are. We are witnessing a new American role – not only because Obama has changed American foreign policy but also because the world is changing.

The economic crisis has illustrated the new global dynamics. New actors are entering the world stage, moving forward at a blistering pace. I have witnessed this first-hand during two recent visits to Asia. I was extremely impressed by their dedication and commitment – but also by the spirit of innovation and a strong focus on research, development and being on the cutting edge in new, fast-growing markets like clean tech.

The emergence of new global centres of power is changing how global decisions are made. The COP15 Summit and the climate change agenda is just one example of this.

No doubt, the United States will remain a natural leader in global affairs. But on this changing world map, it is not a given who will be America’s closest partners in dealing with future challenges.

I would like to make the following case for you today:

While the world is changing dramatically, the basis for the long-standing and unique Danish-American friendship and partnership has never been stronger. We are bound together not just by history, culture and people-to-people relationships. But also by policies and priorities that have perhaps never been more closely aligned.

Denmark will use this in a proactive and constructive way. To promote Danish values and interests. To influence US foreign policy decisions through honest and direct dialogue. To foster closer transatlantic cooperation through NATO and the EU. And to help shape global solutions in the UN and elsewhere.

In my remarks today I will expand on three aspects of Danish-American cooperation: Economic cooperation, the green agenda and Afghanistan.

But first let me highlight the Danish Government’s key priorities.

Danish Government priorities

We have a busy internal agenda. In February, I presented a new team of ministers and an ambitious work programme called Denmark 2020. The list of domestic and international challenges facing Denmark is long. Getting our economy back on a stable path of growth and employment is our central priority.

2009 was a kind of mental turning point for Denmark. The economic crisis should be a wake-up call for us. It became clear to us that we cannot take progress or our standard of living for granted. If we are to maintain our way of life, we need to improve our ability to compete on the global stage. We need to take an honest and critical view of our productivity and growth potential.

I have set the ambitious goal that Denmark should be one of the ten most prosperous countries in the world by the year 2020. To assess the challenges and suggest solutions, I have established a national Growth Forum with participants from the business community, from academia and from the political arena.

In the Forum, we will take a closer look at our productivity gap which is increasing compared to other countries. Another important topic on the Forum’s agenda is the green economy. And earlier this month, we addressed how Denmark can become better at attracting foreign investments and skilled labour. The American Chamber of Commerce provided useful input to our discussions.

After the meeting, my government presented specific initiatives that will make it easier to get established in Denmark for people who come here to work. For example by creating ”one-stop-shops” that provide services from all relevant public authorities. And we will help make it easier for international students who finish their education in Denmark to stay and work here. Young people who come here to study gain important experience and insight into how Denmark and Danish society works. Some even learn the language. But today, too many of them leave as quickly as they entered. In fact, one year after graduation, half of them have left again. In 2009, nearly 6.000 students were granted a permit to study in Denmark. It is crucial that we do better to keep some of those qualified students in Denmark.

At our next meeting in June, the Growth Forum will take a new look at our education system – especially our primary school system. We have set the goal that Danish pupils should be among the top five by international standards in 2020. Human resources are our most vital asset in this era of intensified global competition.

The scale and urgency of what we need to do is not always fully acknowledged in all parts of our society. I am an advocate of more realism in the political debate. We Danes are not as well-educated, we are not as hard-working and we are not as innovative and industrious as we sometimes think we are. We have some tough choices and difficult challenges ahead of us.

We need to bring our public finances back on track after the economic crisis and provide even more efficient public services. We need to carry out the necessary reforms to ensure future labour supply. And we need to ensure that our productivity and our wage levels are better aligned.

There are no easy solutions.

US-Danish partnership

The same can be said of our common efforts to promote economic growth and address other challenges at the international level. In order to be effective, we need closer collaboration, better coordination and more open dialogue and exchanges. Denmark and the United States are natural partners in dealing with many key international issues today.

Let me highlight three specific examples of this:

First, economic cooperation and trade.

International trade was hit hard by the economic crisis. After years of global expansion, trade declined by about 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2009 and has only slowly recovered. Now it is time to look ahead, as our economies start moving out of the crisis.

There is a tremendous potential to strengthen Danish exports to the US in areas such as green technology, food and agricultural products as well as pharmaceuticals.

The Danish Government also attaches priority to expanding US investments in Denmark. 18% of all Danes employed in the private sector work for a foreign company. And US companies make up a significant share of this.

American investments are important to our overall economic performance, to job creation and to strengthening our research and development capacity. Denmark is an attractive environment for foreign companies to invest in. Yet we must constantly do more to improve conditions. We will do that in close dialogue with the foreign companies, for instance in the Growth Forum where they are also represented.

As Europe and the United States move out of the crisis, there is considerable potential that we must take advantage of. We must work to expand transatlantic economic cooperation, promote free trade and also ensure effective decision-making at the global level.

A second example of our close cooperation is on climate change and the green agenda.

Before, during and after COP15, Denmark has been working very closely with the Obama Administration. At the Summit itself, President Obama played an instrumental role in sealing the Copenhagen Accord.

We went into COP15 with very high ambitions. The negotiations were every bit as difficult as we expected. But we got an agreement. In my view the best possible deal, in light of the circumstances.

The Accord provides the fundamentals of a global framework to combat climate change. It sets out the target to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. And it creates a critical link between this 2 degree target, which was first defined by science and then adopted by politicians; the international cooperation to achieve it; and the contributions of individual countries. The Accord also includes elements related to forest degradation and deforestation, technology development and transfer as well as financing, which are crucial to making global progress.

Next step is to turn the Copenhagen Accord into concrete action. The United States remains one of our closest partners in this effort. So far, 122 countries have associated themselves with the Accord, representing around 90% of world GDP and around 83% of world emissions. This sends a strong signal and provides critical momentum, as we look to the COP16 meeting in Mexico later this year.

Without concerted global action, we will not be effective in addressing climate change. But each country must do a lot of the hard work through their national policies. The economic crisis has not made this easier.

In essence, we are confronted with a dual challenge: Countries must continue to find new ways to create sustainable economic growth and employment. At the same time, we must transform our societies into low-carbon economies to address climate change and future energy security.

The key is to see this dual challenge not as a problem, but as an opportunity. An opportunity which we – Denmark and the United States – must seize together.

The competition in the green tech sector is getting tougher, not least from the emerging economies. We need to continue to invest for the long-term in research, innovation and development. And we need to ensure that the green economy is developing on an open level playing field – not in a framework of green protectionism.

The green growth agendas of the US Administration and the Danish Government clearly overlap. And I see great potential for expanding our cooperation and trade relations in this area.

The third example of Danish-US partnership is in Afghanistan.

Over the last decade, Danish and American troops have been standing side-by-side in our efforts to promote peace and security. This has particularly been the case in Afghanistan.

Today, we are direct partners on the ground in Helmand Province. We see eye to eye on the need to balance civil and military instruments in a comprehensive counter-insurgency effort.

And at the strategic level, we agree that our presence in Afghanistan is a question of our own security. At stake is preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Both the US and Denmark have been reminded of the continued threat from terrorism over the last year.

Just like for the US, Denmark’s commitment does not come without sacrifices. Danish forces have had a challenging year in Afghanistan. Yet the Danish engagement still enjoys wide political and public support. In my view, this is a reflection of the importance of the task, which is widely accepted by the Danish people. And it reflects a deep respect for the men and women deployed to Afghanistan who risk their lives every day.

We are both committed to the long-term effort. But this support for our effort comes with a price tag – progress. Status quo is no longer an acceptable situation – neither for us nor for the international community. We need to see significant progress in the remainder of 2010 in Afghanistan.

It is my sincere hope that we can begin to transfer lead security responsibility over to the Afghans within a foreseeable future. This is our goal. This is the goal of the Obama Administration. And this is the goal of the Afghans and the rest of the international community.

***

To conclude, let me touch on Denmark’s foreign policy and the future of the Danish-US relations.

Denmark must maintain an active foreign policy, guided by both our fundamental values and our national interests. Our goal is to make a difference. To help find solutions. To carry our share of the burden. We must be at the forefront, working with partners and through international organisations to address regional and global challenges. Wherever we engage, close consultation and cooperation with the United States will be a top priority.

The Obama Administration has sent a strong signal about its willingness to assume a global leadership role. And about its preparedness to work closely with partners. As new nations emerge on the global stage, competition will intensify. No one can assume to be able set the agenda alone. The United States will need support from countries and regions that share its values and basic interests. And who are willing to contribute.

Europe and the US are natural allies. We share objectives on a wide range of issues. In the new world order, the imperative for closer cooperation between Europe and the United States has never been stronger. To deliver solutions on the critical challenges in front of us, we must act together - without delay - to promote our common values and way of thinking on the global stage.

Effective transatlantic cooperation cannot be taken for granted. It requires an active effort. We need to continue to push for consultation, cooperation and sharing of information so that our tactics and long-term goals remain aligned. This is a priority of the Danish Government. As a member of NATO and the EU, and with historical ties and shared interests with the United States, Denmark is uniquely positioned to take up this challenge.

Thank you.

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