1. Why does the EU matter to US businesses? How have you seen the role and relevance of your organisation develop since you joined AmCham EU?
Quite simply, because the EU is one of the world’s largest economies. According to the IMF, we can expect between 1.5 and 2% growth in GDP in 2016 – the strongest growth in years. Europe remains the favoured destination of US firms despite the popular belief that it has shifted to Asia. Indeed, US affiliate sales in China, for example, remain well below that of Europe; even below that of a much smaller country like Ireland. But beyond those figures, US companies consider Europe a much better business environment than many other regions of the world – Europe ranks very high in terms of ‘ease of doing business’, competitiveness and innovation.
At AmCham EU, we advocate on behalf of US companies across all sectors that are invested in and operating here in Europe. Despite economic hard times, our membership has grown over the past few years and now stands at 164 companies. Our companies have come to rely on us to communicate to our stakeholders on strong advocacy programmes to develop policies we believe will make Europe stronger and more competitive. And likewise, given the major investments US companies have in Europe, we are finding more and more that stakeholders are looking to us to weigh in on issues impacting the economic viability of Europe.
2. Citizens are becoming ever more involved in EU politics, with social media playing an important role in mass mobilisation. The recent Dutch referendum on the Association treaty with Ukraine and the debate surrounding TTIP are clear illustrations of that development, and the effects of the public’s involvement are noticeable. What are your views on this shift in the way political decisions are reached?
EU policy-making, and in particular, trade policy, is in a state of flux as new actors and new interests demand new approaches. The advent of social media and online platforms has created a platform for civil society to express their views in new and exciting ways. This helps improve engagement at all levels of civil society to help create more effective policies.
But social media can also have a down side. In the TTIP debate there has been a lack of accountability in messages being conveyed – statements that aren’t based on fact but on opinion and emotion. As a consequence, many myths and misconceptions about the agreement have been spread to discredit the trade deal. Through social media, these erroneous messages then filter down to the media and general public and can colour public opinion.
This new environment was a key reason for establishing the Business Alliance for TTIP, a coalition representing small and large businesses including AmCham EU. It was created to communicate the benefits of TTIP in a transparent and impactful way. This new connected, 24/7 world means that not only are there greater opportunities, but also the need for greater vigilance.
3. In recent years, the EU has been confronted with one political impasse after another. From an American business perspective, what should be the EU’s priority action to overcome this weakness?
There have been a number of challenges to the EU over the past few years, including the most severe economic crisis in memory. But with those challenges has come the recognition that important reforms are necessary to improve the governance of the EU. One of the keys to improving the functioning of the EU is the completion of and further implementation of the EU Single Market. The Single Market is the foundation of Europe’s economic success, a key determinate of US foreign direct investment in the EU, and a critical priority of AmCham EU and its member companies.
Increasingly there is concern over the possible unravelling of the Single Market as certain Member States increasingly pursue nationalist and populist policies in light of a variety of economic and political challenges. Issues such as the UK referendum, the migration crisis, and continued sluggish economic growth are placing significant and mounting pressure on the Single Market, at a time when integration and solidarity is needed more than ever. Working together with the EU Member States, policy makers in Brussels should look to enact policy changes that strengthen the EU’s free trade area, helping to revive economic growth in the EU and also providing a political boost to the union and its ideals.
Susan Danger is Managing Director of the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU (AmCham EU), which speaks for American companies committed to Europe on trade, investment and competitiveness issues.
AmCham EU speaks for American companies committed to Europe on trade, investment and competitiveness issues. It aims to ensure a growth-orientated business and investment climate in Europe. AmCham EU facilitates the resolution of transatlantic issues that impact business and plays a role in creating better understanding of EU and US positions on business matters. Aggregate US investment in Europe totalled more than €2 trillion in 2015, directly supports more than 4.3 million jobs in Europe, and generates billions of euros annually in income, trade and research and development.
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