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“It is time to bring cooperation to the next level."
On Wednesday, May 30, Camiel Eurlings, Managing Director of KLM, addressed the AmCham membership with a plea for cooperation and openness. The highlights of his speech are noted below.
The fundamental values of freedom and democracy that are at the root of the relationship between the Netherlands / EU and the US are also at the root of the economic partnership. Because of the open nature of our economies we have been able to thrive on the world stage. Closed, planned economies have not fared as well as free economies. Formerly closed economies have embraced the virtues of the free market as well. This has brought strong economic development to those economies and created a new reality. In this new situation we must strengthen our leading position. We have to bring our cooperation to the next level.
Mr. Eurlings shared telling examples from the aviation industry of both achievements and challenges ahead.
The Open Skies Agreement between the Netherlands and the US was a crucial step in deepening the economic bonds. It was an example of fine strategic thinking - revolutionary at the time, and the first such treaty in the world – that led to KLM’s intercontinental partnership in 1989 with Northwest Airlines and also paved the way for an Open Skies Agreement between the EU and US as a whole.. Thanks to this agreement all European and American carriers are able to operate routes between all European and American destinations. The political courage this agreement took has clearly paid off for all involved.
Mr. Eurlings stated that we still need this courage today. We have to keep on working together.
- The WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA) that was signed in 1996 now has 70 participants, covering about 97 percent of world trade in information technology products. It is truly remarkable that trade in computer hardware is free of duties but this has been the driver for many innovations.
- When 9/11 caused security measures for cargo to increase enormously, the Netherlands received official TSA recognition for the Dutch National Cargo Security Program because the Netherlands could show that their measures are sufficient. Mr. Eurlings applauds US Secretary Napolitano for her ability to think outside the box and her willingness to build bridges in working toward our common goal: a society that is both safe and free.
- But sometimes policies do harm. Negative effects for instance can be seen that are a direct result of European Emissions Trading System (ETS). KLM / Air France does support ETS and the goals of ETS to lower the carbon footprint of the industry. The airline’s leading position in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the partnership with WWF and the pioneering role in developing bio kerosene are just examples of this commitment. The issue with ETS is that Europe is unilaterally implementing it, which causes strong resistance in the rest of the world. Negative effects can already be seen today as Airbus saw $12 billion of orders suspended in China. EU airlines face the threat of future retaliation. Last but not least, ETS might also cause a bigger carbon footprint than intended as airlines may avoid landing in Europe, circumpassing Europe via the Middle East.
Mr. Eurlings supports AmCham’s efforts to promote a level playing field within Europe to compete in all fairness. We need worldwide regulations for a worldwide industry. History has shown the positive effects of cooperation between government and the business world. Both US and Dutch governments have always promoted free trade policies. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said: "Together, America and Europe need to instill that all nations respect the rules of the road that guarantee fair competition."
Mr. Eurlings also referred to an initiative by Angela Merkel. In 2007, she took the initiative to form the Transatlantic Economic Council, or TEC. Merkel said: Our economic systems are based on the same values." We have learnt how to combine the Anglo-Saxon and Continental European legal systems, I think transatlantic cooperation will be more straightforward in many areas than might appear at first glance."
Even though creating a single market between the EU and the US may be a stretch at this point, Mr. Eurlings strongly supports an agenda of deeper transatlantic cooperation. Not in order to limit the ambitions to a bilateral agreement and shut out the rest of the world. No, on the contrary, he believes a successful deepening of our cooperation would invite other regions in the world to join. He finished by quoting Angela Merkel again: "We must watch out that we do not drift apart but instead come closer together, where there are clear advantages for both sides.”