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Interview with Ambassador Peter Wittig about German-American relations

Ambassador Peter Wittig answers our questions about the German-American relationship, the upcoming U.S presidential election and TTIP. Ambassador Peter Wittig is Germany's highest-ranking representative to the US government and was guest speaker at a AmCham Germany Patron and Executive Roundtable in Frankfurt am Main.

1. How would you describe current German-American relations?

Our bilateral relationship is strong and rests on a solid foundation. It is not an alliance which is based on shared economic or strategic interests alone. It is based instead on a commonality of values. Our world is changing at a dramatic pace, and America and Europe have common strengths which we have to bring to bear: the virtues of our western democracy – tolerance; free, liberal thinking; the ability to reinvent ourselves and to remain open to criticism; the capacity to be self-critical; the strength of our economies. Only together do we have the power to shape outcomes and events. If there has ever been any doubt about the transatlantic bond, now is the time to show our true colors and assume our shared responsibility to lead.

2. Next year marks the start of the U.S. presidential election season. What do the U.S. presidential elections mean for the German-American partnership?

Germany will be watching with great interest to see how the race for the U.S. presidential election evolves. Whoever wins the race, Germany hopes this person will continue the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic relationship and build on the solid work of previous administrations. TTIP offers enormous opportunity for Germany, Europe, and the U.S., and we are looking forward to working together with the new administration to make our partnership even more vital.

3. With a view to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), how do the presidential candidates stand on the agreement?

In the current primary races, neither TTIP nor U.S. trade policy in general figures prominently. The focus is clearly more on issues such as the economy, immigration, or education policy. The Republican candidates for president generally support free trade, and thus also TTIP. For them, trade liberalization is a necessary requirement to reaching more consumers outside the United States. The Democratic candidates want in particular to prevent production and jobs from moving overseas to low-wage countries as a result of freedom trade agreements. These concerns, however, are not mainly associated with TTIP but rather with other free trade initiatives, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

4. Particularly in Germany, there is a lot of discussion about TTIP: What role does the agreement play in the U.S. public debate?

In the U.S., the public trade policy debate is concentrated primarily on political Washington. Around the kitchen tables of the broad American public, trade policy, and thus TTIP, is not a major topic of discussion. The debate is, however, being shaped by interest groups from the private sector, unions, and nongovernmental and church organizations. We have to take some of their concerns seriously. Currently, the discussion is centered on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In particular, TPP countries with low wage, labor, and environmental standards evoke concerns about the possible negative effects on growth and employment. In the discussion, TTIP is much less controversial than TPP, among other reasons, because Europe and the U.S. have similar living standards; cost, production, and employment structures; and a level playing field.

For news and information about TTIP visit our TTIP Information Center.

5. Beyond TTIP, what challenges and opportunities do you see for transatlantic relations?

When we look at the world today, it seems to be coming apart at the seams: a simmering crisis in Ukraine; a Middle East in flames, where ISIS – an organization that is neither a state nor Islamic – is threatening Iraq and Syria with unspeakable atrocities; refugees flooding across borders; tensions in the South China Sea. The list is long. We are beginning to see that the globalization from which we have benefited, the globalization we promote, also has undesirable side effects – the fragmentation of societies, erosion of political systems, and the rise of extremist tendencies. We are also experiencing global environmental degradation and a changing climate whose negative impacts threaten to pose new security risks we are only beginning to understand. In light of these developments, a strong bond across the Atlantic is so essential. Neither side of the Atlantic can do it alone. “Together” – this word, so often used, gains new meaning when seen through the prism of the current global crises.

Ambassador Peter Wittig
Peter Wittig has served as German Ambassador to the United States since April 2014. Prior to this, he was German Ambassador to the United Nations in New York and represented Germany during its tenure as a member of the UN Security Council from 2011 until 2012. There, he drew on his wide expertise in United Nations matters, having previously served as Director-General for United Nations and Global Issues at the German Foreign Office in Berlin and having been posted to the German Permanent Mission in New York in the late 1980s. Quelle:

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