May 23, 2013

Chairman Menendez Opening Statement at Hearing, “European Union Economic Relations: Crisis and Opportunity”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing, “European Union Economic Relations: Crisis and Opportunity.”

The remarks follow: 

“Thank you for attending this hearing on the economic relationship between the United States and the European Union and thank you to our witnesses who will provide the Committee with a deeper understanding of the realities behind the headlines.

Last week a headline in The Guardian said: “Eurozone Suffers Its Longest Downturn Ever As France Sinks Back Into Recession,” the latest reminder that the economies of many European countries remain quite fragile.

More than five years after the start of the worst financial crisis and recession since the Great Depression and nine of the 17 Eurozone countries are in recession.

The Eurozone -- as a whole -- contracted for the sixth straight quarter, the longest in the history of the Euro and the broader 27-member European Union, has now also slipped back into recession.

This continuing weakness in Europe clearly has implications here in the U.S., and not just at a macro-economic level, but for the welfare of banks, businesses, consumers, and workers.

Our cooperation with the EU also has broader national security and foreign policy implications.

For decades, our interdependent partnership with EU members has been a key component of efforts to counter global security threats, promote greater democracy, economic openness, and human rights, and ensure nations adhere to basic norms and standards.

A Europe that is economically compromised and increasingly inward-focused could have grave repercussions for these broader issues.

The United States and Europe have together formed the core of the world economy for at least the last century, and we continue to have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world, with annual flows between the United States and the EU of roughly one and one half trillion dollars of trade in goods, services, and income receipts from investment, responsible for millions of American jobs.

Together we have been the driving force for shaping global standards and regulations, liberalizing world trade, and prioritizing labor, environmental, and intellectual property rights.

And while U.S. foreign policy priorities evolve to account for a changing world, our relationship will keep growing and our futures will be even more intertwined and integrated.

In my view, the EU – and world economies would be in much worse shape were it not for the coordinated regulatory and policy interventions of the G20, IMF, and the Federal Reserve Bank and European Central Bank, and – as I said last week at the Bretton Woods Conference -- supporting these efforts was crucial to preserving our own interests.

Faced with enormous challenges in the world we engage, we don't shrink back into our shell, we fix problems, and we find solutions. We realize that we can make a difference on the issues that affect all of us: the interconnectivity of people and nations; the clash between internationalism and isolationism; adapting global economic governance structures to an ever-changing world; and the confluence of economic and national security; and the importance of fostering new democracies.

I think we all would agree that every so often, the United States faces defining moments in foreign policy – when the old order gives way – sometimes painfully, often searchingly – when old rules no longer apply and a new, if unfamiliar, order arises from the chaos.

We and the EU have faced such circumstances in recent years, and we have refused to shrink from our responsibilities.

Today we have four witnesses to help us understand this incredibly complex and vital transatlantic economic relationship.

We have asked them to provide their assessment of the economic turbulence in the Eurozone, the implications for the fragile global recovery, and the effectiveness of the EU and multilateral responses, including the critical role the International Monetary Fund has played in supporting fragile European economies.

We also anticipate hearing from them on opportunities for greater economic and commercial cooperation.

To start the conversation this morning we have:

Robert Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and Lael Brainard, Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs.

Both are extraordinarily talented and experienced individuals with distinguished records of public service, and I want to thank both of you for your many years of dedication to advancing the vital national economic interests of the United States. We are thankful to you both for joining us today and look forward to your insights.

Let me remind everyone that after this session we will continue the discussion with two distinguished members from the think tank world, both of whom are experts on the subject of U.S.-EU relations and well-known in their own right - The Honorable Jim Kolbe and Douglas Rediker.

With that, I turn to Senator Corker for his opening statement.”



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