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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing for Representatives to OECD and EU, Ambassadors to Turkey and UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee nomination hearing for the Honorable Jack A. Markell, nominee to be representative of the United States to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Honorable Mark Gitenstein, nominee to be representative of the United States to the European Union, the Honorable Jeffry Lane Flake, nominee to be ambassador to Turkey, and Ms. Cindy Hensley McCain, nominee to be U.S. representative to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Good morning. And thank you, all four of you, for your willingness to serve in these capacities and your families. As noted by the Chairman, families certainly share the sacrifice. 

“On the nomination of ambassador to the European Union – the EU is one of the world’s key economic unions, and its regulatory regimes are increasingly attempting to set the standards for the world.

“This week, the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council will meet for the first time, in Pittsburgh. There are a lot of trade and regulatory issues to discuss and the results, or lack thereof, are likely to impact our joint ability to stand up against China’s predatory trade practices – with which we are all familiar.

“I was very glad to see that last year the EU and U.S. started a U.S.-EU Dialogue on China. We need to use these discussions to start advancing shared priorities and policies, including those raised in my recent report on transatlantic cooperation on China.

“Sadly, European leaders have grown louder in their calls for “Strategic Autonomy” – an idea in which European Union nations should decrease their interconnection with the U.S., or contribute to an EU member-only military force. Proponents of this movement claim it will only enhance NATO capabilities and will allow Europe to engage in military operations that are outside of U.S. interests. I remain concerned that it will in fact deepen divisions within NATO.

“Europe is, and will continue to be, one our closest allies. There are very few places on the planet where our culture and our values are as congruent as they are with our European friends. Together, their population is much equivalent to the United Sates and it’s going to take the work of both in order to stand up to the 1.5 billion people of China.

“Finally, Balkan nations are under heavy pressure from China and Russia, which could be better resisted if there was greater integration with the rest of Europe.

“I look forward to hearing your thoughts on all of these important issues.

“On the nomination of ambassador to Turkey – the relationship between the United States and Turkey has been at an impasse over Turkey’s purchase and deployment of Russian S-400 missile launchers. As everyone knows, this system in not inter-operable with NATO, and Erdogan, not understandably, insists on buying – it has the S-400 missiles – which makes collaboration with NATO more difficult at best.

“Erdogan has claimed that we wouldn’t sell them the Patriots that are in the same class as the Russian S-400. We know that is not true. Senator Shaheen and I delivered a letter in 2012 to the Turks, at the time they were shopping, to tell them they should buy and we were ready to deliver as many as they needed. Erdogan shrugged when I handed him that letter.

“The human rights situation in Turkey also remains difficult. Turkey is one of the highest jailers of journalists and opposition activists in Eurasia, and has persecuted multiple locally employed staff of our U.S. mission there. This not unacceptable.

“To be fair, Turkey was a key collaborator in Afghanistan and our military-to-military contacts remain strong. Turkey also continues to host millions of Syrian refugees, and its cooperation is key to delivering aid and assistance to Syria.

“Senator Flake, I know that you’ll be able to straighten these matters out, and I’m happy to be sending you to Turkey to do so.

“On the nomination of ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – for 60 years, the OECD has been an important part of our foreign economic policy.

“As China seeks OECD membership, it’s important our ambassador understands the challenges we face today from a rising China that promotes a socialist model. This model seeks to undermine and replace the private sector growth model that has lifted hundreds of millions, indeed billions of people, out of poverty around the world and has led to the greatest period of prosperity in human history. Today, many regret letting China into the WTO. We should not repeat past mistakes.

“I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter, and to working with you to meet this challenge head on.

“On the nomination of ambassador to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture – the United States is the most generous donor of humanitarian assistance globally.

“We need a strong and capable representative to the UN agencies in Rome – the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development – to ensure that these agencies are as efficient and effective as possible, so we can spread our assistance further and save more lives. Additionally, our representative must fight against malign Chinese influence in the UN.

“I believe you are up to the task, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on