Ambassador to E.U. says relations are
Idaho and Europe closely linked,
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
The U.S. Ambassador to the European Union,
on vacation in Ketchum this month, said trade between the United States and
Europe is helping to advance the prosperity of people throughout the two
regions, including in Idaho.
Rockwell Schnabel, U.S. ambassador to
the European Union, speaks about international trade issues last week at his
Ketchum residence. Schnabel, who works full time in Brussels, Belgium, has owned
a home in Ketchum for 10 years. "I hope to retire here," he said. Express
photo by David N. Seelig
Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel, a Ketchum
homeowner and part-time resident, said last week that the United States and the
15 established E.U. nations together generate more than $1 trillion in trade and
investment each year, money that filters into economies throughout the West.
"People might wonder, ‘What does a place
like Idaho have to do with Europe?’" he said. "In fact, it has a lot to do with
Schnabel—who in 2001 was appointed by
President George W. Bush to be the chief representative of the U.S. Mission to
the E.U., in Brussels, Belgium—said more than 27,000 jobs in Idaho depend on
trade with E.U. nations. European investment in Idaho supports an estimated
11,400 jobs in the state, he said. Merchandise exports to Europe support an
additional 15,980 jobs.
He added that European countries invested
nearly $1.2 billion in Idaho in 2000, 53 percent of the total invested in the
state by foreign nations. In 2000, Europe was also the state’s second largest
export market, buying nearly $1 billion worth of goods from Idaho enterprises,
The figures, the ambassador said, are a
microcosm of the global economy, which is increasingly dependent on free and
open trade to expand markets.
Schnabel said the E.U.—which now boasts a
gross domestic product close to that of the United States—is actively seeking to
become the world’s single largest economic power. "Their stated goal is that
they want to be the most competitive economy in the world by 2010," he said.
"They’re working on becoming a single market with no barriers, no borders."
The Euro, the E.U.’s common currency, is
becoming more successful every day, he noted.
However, Schnabel said, United States
officials are maintaining that free and equal trade policies will ultimately
benefit both entities. "The U.S. can compete successfully in Europe," he said.
"A prosperous European Union opens a market of 500 million people."
The U.S. Mission to the E.U.—which is the
focal point for relations on all issues between the United States and the E.U.—is
also pursuing policies to develop the economies of less-developed nations.
"Global poverty today is the number one
problem that we face," Schnabel said, noting that the United States and the E.U.
together account for more than 50 percent of the world’s gross production.
The U.S. Mission is currently conducting
meetings with the World Trade Organization to discuss the possibility of opening
up certain markets in the United States and the E.U. to less-developed nations.
"We have a moral obligation to address poverty," he said.
Schnabel noted that security concerns
brought forth after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States
have created new challenges for trading nations. He said the United States and
the E.U. are working closely together to provide security for trade containers
"Terrorism is one of the biggest issues in
the world," he noted.
Relations are consistently improving
between the United States and E.U. nations, the ambassador said, despite rifts
produced last spring by the Bush administration’s approach to addressing
perceived threats posed by Iraq. He said significant disagreements did mark the
onset of the United State’s invasion of Iraq, but a recent meeting between
President Bush and E.U. leaders proved consequential. "There were a lot of
feelings to bury the hatchet," he said. "Things are on the right track again. I
think we’ve turned the corner."
Schnabel said additional disagreements
between the United States and E.U. nations have stemmed from agricultural-trade
issues, particularly the E.U.’s refusal to allow genetically modified foods into
To counter efforts by European nations to
keep genetically modified foods from being imported, the United States has filed
a legal suit with the WTO to force Europe to accept them. "We feel that we have
a good chance to win the case," Schnabel said, noting that a decision might not
come for several years.
A second issue being handled by the U.S.
Mission to the E.U. is the E.U.’s failure to recognize the geographical
integrity of many products from the United States. The problem is epitomized in
the case of exported Idaho potatoes, which can be sold in Europe as potatoes
with no specific origin.
"It’s an issue," Schnabel said, noting
that several of his 200 employees are working to resolve the dispute.
"All in all, I feel the partnership is
extremely important for both sides," he said. "I feel optimistic for the future
of the E.U."