A Nordic/Baltic/Poland Conference: Clarifying the Impact of T-TIP

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Last month, just before the holidays, U.S. Embassy Sweden was proud to join the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) to host a workshop on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  We welcomed participants from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  The event captured the potential of collaboration between these countries of Northern Europe when it comes to advancing T-TIP.  The goal of the workshop was to bring together stakeholders to identify positive and negative narratives about T-TIP, and to develop plans on how to communicate the advantages of T-TIP in each country.  An absolute high point of the conference was the participation of the two lead negotiators for T-TIP, Ignacio Garcia Bercero from the EU and Dan Mullaney from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in the US – who were able to listen and learn and offer their vision of a way forward in the T-TIP negotiations

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The workshop is part of a broader stakeholder outreach, which the U.S. Government and the European Commission have engaged in since the genesis of T-TIP.  A key point is that T-TIP is a tool for empowerment:  Youth need jobs, women need jobs, new immigrants need jobs.  At its foundation, that is what T-TIP is about.

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T-TIP is an opportunity of a lifetime and one not to be missed.  Here’s the full English version of a piece I wrote for Swedish newspapers following the conference:

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With 2014 now behind us, I look back on a year that has seen the Swedish-American partnership grow stronger than it has ever been. This summer I had the privilege of biking across Sweden, from the western shore to the eastern shore. And aside from the stunning landscapes and long sunny days of the Swedish summer, I was also struck by the entrepreneurial spirit I found in the villages, towns, and cities of this country. It was a reminder of Sweden’s business-savvy spirit that fuels the close trade relationship between our two countries. Looking ahead to 2015, we hope to make substantial progress on a groundbreaking U.S-European trade and investment agreement that will truly unleash the entrepreneurial spirit from Småland to San Francisco.

Last month entrepreneurs, labor leaders, diplomats, and politicians gathered in Sweden to discuss their hopes and concerns about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, known as T-TIP. This agreement, currently under negotiation between the United States and the European Union, would create the world’s largest free trade area, spurring new economic energy and opportunity in Europe, the U.S., and around the world.

Together, the U.S. and EU are the world’s leading economies – we account for about half of the world’s GDP and together form the world’s largest trading bloc. The strong U.S-Sweden partnership is a key driver of transatlantic trade. Our annual bilateral trade in goods and services is valued at over $25 billion, and U.S. companies directly invest more than $24 billion annually in Sweden, supporting 65,000 jobs.

Economically, Europe and the U.S. are stronger together, and T-TIP would boost economies on both sides of the Atlantic in five key ways:

First, T-TIP will fuel job growth and economic growth in Europe and the U.S. Unnecessary barriers to trade – such as tariffs, red tape, customs delays, and uncertainty over product requirements – now stand between entrepreneurs and potential customers. Tearing down these barriers is a common-sense way to more easily connect European entrepreneurs to U.S. consumers, and vice versa.

Second, we want to set a standard for trade built on our common values.  We live in a rapidly changing world with emerging markets, rising powers, and new technologies raising questions about the future.  Through T-TIP, the EU and the U.S. can ensure the rules of the road  build on our commitment to strong labor rights, enforceable environmental protections, food safety, and intellectual property rights that encourage entrepreneurship. We have an opening in T-TIP to demonstrate to the world that you don’t have to sacrifice standards to create opportunity. And if we don’t write the rules of the road, someone else will.

Third, we want to promote our shared vision for open, integrated economies and the rule of law.  The U.S. and Europe believe that open trade, transparency and rule of law are the cornerstones of our stability and long-term economic health. Amid a changing world, T-TIP would enshrine the highest standards in our transatlantic community and signal to the rest of the world that rule of law is key to growth.

Fourth, we want to lower costs to create opportunities for small businesses entrepreneurs on Storgatan and Main Street are the true engines of growth and opportunity. Businesses that export grow faster, and support better paying jobs than those that do not. But right now, there are too many barriers that can make global trade difficult for small businesses. With T-TIP, we are pioneering ways to open the doors of trade to entrepreneurs, be they in Arvidsjaur or  Östermalm, Manhattan or Montana

Fifth, we want to use our economic partnership to promote peace and security.  The world is safer when advanced democracies stand together. Building a stronger economic partnership and breaking down the barriers between us will make both Europe and the U.S. more secure and integrated.   This will allow us to continue our global leadership in other areas from security to development assistance to humanitarian aid.

The relationship between Sweden and the U.S. is the strongest it has ever been, a testament to the strong business and trade bonds that have existed between our two countries for centuries. With T-TIP, we now have an opportunity to generate new opportunity throughout Europe and the U.S. by building on the high standards and shared values link our economics and our nations.

What a remarkable year 2014 was!  A Year of Modern Diplomacy

As 2014 draws to a close, I could not be more proud of the performance and accomplishments of U.S. Embassy Stockholm.  I have to give credit to my Embassy colleagues for a truly extraordinary year.  Relations between the United States and Sweden have never been stronger, nor have they delivered more for our respective peoples. The U.S.-Sweden relationship is increasingly strategic:  We are close partners in addressing key global challenges such as mitigating climate change, safeguarding the Arctic, promoting free trade, advancing security in Northern Europe and beyond, and supporting democracy and human rights. The joint statement issued during President Obama’s historic trip to Sweden in September 2013 states: “Sweden and the United States are very special friends.”  That statement could not be more true as we begin a new year.

During 2014, US Embassy Stockholm worked hard to advance a modern form of diplomacy, using the platform of the U.S. Embassy and the power to convene to advance core U.S. goals in creative and new ways, often in ways that have never been done in Sweden.  Here are ten examples of how the U.S. Embassy engaged our mission in 2014 in unique and constructive ways that I am especially proud of:

1)  Advancing PowerAfrica in Sweden With New Public and Private Sector Partners.  In October, U.S. Embassy Stockholm welcomed Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to Stockholm for his second visit in less than a year.  His visit underscored the strong and continuing partnership between Sweden and the U.S. and commemorated the unique agreement the U.S. and Sweden have on international development cooperation.  One of the defining areas of that cooperation was the focus of a meeting that took place on October 22 here in Stockholm.  The U.S. and Sweden brought together donors, institutional investors, and multilateral organizations to discuss how to mobilize private capital at scale for investment in African infrastructure, particularly in the energy sector.  Mobilization of private capital and these investments are necessary to maintain strong growth and in particular, to make growth inclusive and alleviate poverty.  The meeting built on the groundwork laid during the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit that President Obama convened in Washington in August, during which the Government of Sweden formally announced a commitment to catalyse up to one billion U.S. dollars over the next ten years in support of the President’s Power Africa initiative. Sweden’s bilateral financial pledge for Power Africa represented the first such partnership between the United States and another donor government on this crucial initiative.  Together with the earlier U.S. pledge of seven billion over the first five-year phase, the funds will be aimed at doubling access to electricity in energy-poor sub-Saharan Africa where approximately two-thirds of the population now live without access.

U.S. Administator Raj Shah speaking at a reception to honor the one year anniversary of the USAID/Sida partnership

U.S. Administator Raj Shah speaking at a reception to honor the one year anniversary of the USAID/Sida partnership

2)  Attorney General Eric Holder Declares in a Major Speech in the Swedish Parliament that LGBT equality is one of the “defining civil rights challenges of our time.”  In February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Sweden to advance cooperation to combat terrorism; to crack down on transnational organized crime; to fight against human trafficking, and to advance the fight against corruption.  But his visit also provided an opportunity for the Attorney General to make a major speech in the Swedish Parliament about a core value shared by the US and Sweden:  the fight to advance human dignity and LGBT equality around the world.  The Attorney General’s eloquent address in Sweden’s Parliament about the need to be increasingly conscious of our interdependent responsibilities, was a remarkable amplification of a core theme of US Embassy Stockholm:  U.S. Embassy Stockholm is “anti-anti-gay.”  Read the Attorney General’s speech here.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking at the Riksdag

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking at the Riksdag


3)  Bicycling Across Sweden to Advance Trade. 
In July, I biked literally across Sweden, from the water’s edge of Sweden’s west coast to the water’s edge of Sweden’s east coast, to promote trade.  As the first Ambassador ever to bike across Sweden, nearly 550 miles, I had the unique opportunity to meet the people in Sweden’s heartland, and to do more than twenty-five different engagements, including speeches to local chambers of commerce, meetings with farmers’ groups, meetings with students and faculty at a leading university, with former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, and meetings with immigrant groups.  The trip gave me an opportunity to listen and learn about the hopes and dreams people associate with expanding their business through increased trade.  With stops in Alingsås, Falköping, Kumla, Carlsberg, at the University of Skövde, in the immigrant rich community of Södertälje, and many other locales, I was able to get a pulse of the Swedish heartland and a shared sense of optimism about trade and the future that I would have never gotten had I just stayed in the nation’s capital of Stockholm.

Meeting with former Prime Minister Göran Persson during our "T-TRIP"

Meeting with former Prime Minister Göran Persson during our “T-TRIP”


4)  Producing Arctic films with Swedish Superstar Felix Herngren and the World Wildlife Fund. 
Since beginning as Ambassador three years ago, I have been looking for opportunities to symbolize and underline closeness between the U.S. and Sweden on climate change and the the future of the Arctic.  The Arctic is simultaneously a strategic and a human problem.  I did not want to limit myself to speeches and press releases as I engage on the threat of climate change and the impact that will have on the people, the ecosystems and the economies of the Arctic.  I wanted to do something that connects with new audiences, with people you don’t run in to at an Embassy diplomatic reception.  The famous Swedish comedian Felix Herngren combined with me and the World Wildlife Fund to produce four films on the Arctic.  We took a unique approach to trying to understand the melting glaciers, the massive impact on biodiversity in the Arctic, and the way social welfare and local economies in the Arctic are being impacted.  Check out the films here.

Filming in Niila Inga's backyard outside of Kiruna

Filming in Niila Inga’s backyard outside of Kiruna


5)  Taking the US Embassy’s annual Independence Day celebration to the Island of Gotland for Almedalen. 
Every year, the U.S. Embassy faces the dilemma of a timing conflict between our annual July 4 party, which is the largest event the U.S. Embassy hosts every year, and Sweden’s annual political extravaganza of Almedalen, which occurs at the same time and attracts thousands of Swedes and others to the island of Gotland for a week of political debate and social interaction.  This year the U.S. Embassy decided to meet our Swedish friends on “their turf” and for the first time ever the U.S. Embassy in Sweden held its July 4 party outside Stockholm and on the island of Gotland during the Almedalen week.  On July 4, at the Governor’s Mansion in Visby, on the island of Gotland, we held the most terrific July 4 party and sang the Star Spangled Banner under a blue Gotland sky.  It was such a great memory of convening Swedes and friends from all over to celebrate American independence and values, this time in a place outside Sweden’s capital.  Check out a video of our Almedalen event in Gotland here.

Celebrating July 4th at Almedalen

Celebrating July 4th at Almedalen

6)  Advancing TTIP with Finland, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Sweden.  In December, US Embassy Stockholm was proud to join the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) to host a remarkable workshop on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), the proposed U.S.-EU free trade and investment agreement that would link the American and European economies closer than ever before. We welcomed participants from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The event captured the potential of collaboration between these countries of Northern Europe when it comes to advancing T-TIP. The goal of the workshop was to bring together opinion makers from our region and beyond to identify positive and dispel inaccurate narratives about T-TIP, and to develop plans to engage in each country. An absolute high point of the conference was the participation of the two lead negotiators for T-TIP, Ignacio Garcia Bercero from the EU and Dan Mullaney from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative– who listened, learned and offered their vision of a way forward in the T-TIP negotiations.

With T-TIP negotiators Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero and Swedish participants from the conference

With T-TIP negotiators Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero and Swedish participants from the conference

7)  Using Art as a Bridge – Jeff Koons and Young Swedish Artists from Immigrant Neighborhoods.  In October, U.S. Embassy Stockholm welcomed to Sweden the iconic American artist Jeff Koons. At the U.S. residence, we invited a large cross section of Swedish society to meet Jeff Koons‎. But perhaps most importantly, we also invited young artists from immigrant-rich neighborhoods in Stockholm to present their work to Jeff Koons, and to share their hopes and aspirations with all of us. The organization “Voices of the Suburbs” and the Botkyrka Art Center joined with the U.S. Embassy to present a vernisage of the young artists’ works. Jeff Koons and the crowd of more than 200 people who attended just loved it!  It was an awesome opportunity to “walk the walk” when it comes to inclusion and integration.

With Jeff Koons and several Stockholm artists

With Jeff Koons and several Stockholm artists


8)  Sharing our Story Back Home. 
In 2014, Natalia and I seized a number of opportunities to share with fellow Americans what we are seeing and hearing in Sweden, and the growing potential of the U.S.-Sweden relationship which we are deeply committed to.  In January, Natalia and I began the year by jointly presenting at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (an Institute founded by the American political strategist David Axelrod) a series of slides that capture different ways we and the US Embassy are engaging on the U.S.-Sweden partnership.  That same day I signed a MOU with the Institute of Politics (IOP) on behalf of the US Embassy creating a summer internship program.  US Embassy Stockholm welcomed our first two IOP interns this past summer, and they performed magnificently.  In the course of the year, Natalia and I each separately gave speeches at the University of Virginia about different aspects of the work we are doing in Sweden.  I also spoke in March at the Atlantic Council in Washington about Sweden and the security context in Northern Europe, and I spoke at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington in October on Sweden’s successful chairmanship of the Arctic Council that ended in 2013.  Natalia spoke in May at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New York (SACC NY) conference on entrepreneurship and women and business leadership in May.  These and other opportunities allowed us to interpret for our fellow Americans the opportunities and also challenges that the U.S. and Sweden can engage on as partners.

Speaking with Natalia at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics

Speaking with Natalia at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics

9)  Advancing Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality:  In 2014, Natalia and I worked to fully and creatively maximize the potential of the U.S.-Sweden partnership in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Natalia has engaged on this issue all across Sweden, speaking at universities in the heartland but also at Stockholm School for Economics, and for three years running she has held a high profile International Women’s Day lunch at the US residence to honor inspiring women (I greeted each of these inspiring women at the front door with rose to reflect my respect!).  Natalia has also spoken on this topic at the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia, at SACC NY, and has done a lot of Swedish media on the topic.  A high point this year was the US Embassy’s engagement at the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), which brought women from around the globe for a remarkable conference in November that considered how entrepreneurship and business is one of the best catalysts for advancing gender equality.  The conference, which Natalia supported as a moderator, conveyed to all participants the U.S. government’s commitment to empowering businesswomen on an international scale.  Ambassador Ruth Davis, a veritable institution in U.S. diplomacy, was able to share remarkable lessons learned from her more than forty years in the U.S. Foreign Service.  During the reception hosted at the U.S. residence for more than 150 women leaders, the U.S. Embassy strategically organized a number of “pop up” presentations by women entrepreneurs from around the world, who were able to share their unique stories of business success.  In 2015, we will honor our first female CEO as part of the US Embassy’s Businessperson Statesperson lunch series, which features leading U.S. business executives who offer perspectives on public policy during the lunch.

With Ambassador Ruth Davis

With Ambassador Ruth Davis

10)  Raoul Wallenberg and the Congressional Gold Medal:  Symbolizing Closeness between the U.S. and Sweden in the fight for human dignity.  Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who during the Holocaust risked his life, and ultimately gave his life, for a higher moral calling.  His story, and his rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews scheduled for destruction in Nazi-occupied Hungary, epitomizes “the importance of not being indifferent.”  Since I began as Ambassador three years ago, I and the U.S. Embassy have embraced fully the narrative of Wallenberg and the theme of the importance of not being indifferent.  In July, the U.S. Congress conveyed the Congressional Gold Medal, the American Congress’ highest recognition, to Raoul Wallenberg.  The medal was accepted by Raoul Wallenberg’s still living half-sister, Ninna Lagergren.  I was able to join my Swedish counterpart in Washington, Ambassador Bjorn Lyrvall, in a joint interview on MSNBC’s “Ronan Farrow Show”, to discuss the legacy of Wallenberg, and what it means for the challenges of today and tomorrow.  See link to MSNBC joint interview here

Ronan Farrow interviewing Sweden's Ambassador to the U.S. Björn Lyrvall and me about  the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg

Ronan Farrow interviewing Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.S. Björn Lyrvall and me about the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg

What a remarkable year 2014 year has been.  As Ambassador, I am deeply committed to the relationship between our two countries.  I can say our destiny is joined together.  The breadth and depth of the relationship has produced a number of major accomplishments, and the relationship itself is transforming in a positive way.   Natalia and I are honored to join our U.S. Embassy colleagues and the government and people of Sweden in continuing to work to advance our common good as we go in to 2015.

Gott Nytt År!!

World premiere of four short films: #OurSharedArctic

This week US Embassy Stockholm premiered four short video films on the future of the Arctic.  We made these films with Swedish superstar Felix Herngren and the World Wildlife Fund to highlight climate change.   This is a new kind of diplomacy, in which we bring together new partners, and try to connect with people in a way that reflects out of the box thinking. I am so very proud of these four films – each of which addresses how climate change is impacting life in the Arctic, and what we can do about it.

‎Please view these films, and if you like them please share them via social media – we would appreciate your help.

FLX has created a trailer of the four films that can be viewed here.

The first film (“The Glacier”) covers the effects that climate change is having on glaciers through a visit to Rabots Glacier near Kebnekaise, Sweden’s tallest mountain.

The second film (“The People”) describes how climate change is detrimentally affecting the lives of the Sami people of northern Sweden.

The third film (“The Science”) shares scientific knowledge about climate change via interviews with experts at Abisko Scientific Research Station.

The fourth film (“The Future”) features US efforts in the Arctic – the upcoming Arctic Council Chairmanship and the Fulbright Arctic Initiative – and encourages viewers to take action themselves.

Last night at the US Ambassadorial residence, we premiered‎ these four films with Swedish actor Felix Herngren and with Tom Arnbom of WWF, in front of 230 guests and Embassy friends. It was a spectacular evening, with the Embassy team and our efforts saluted like no other time I have seen here in Sweden.  Here are some photos from the event:

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‎Amazing conversation with Sweden’s ABB about Energy and Infrastructure Opportunities of Today and Tomorrow!

 

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Today I had the privilege of travelling with my Commercial Chief Nick Kuchova to Ludvika, Sweden, where we visited ABB’s offices to learn about the company’s international strategy, their role in the Power Africa initiative and their views on international trade. ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies, with a considerable footprint in the US. Their North American operations are headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, and employ about 30,000 people in manufacturing and service in about 30 US states. Their global center of excellence for smart grids is located in North Carolina.

Nick and I met with ABB Sweden’s dynamic CEO Johan Soderstrom‎, and his highly able team including Mats Holmberg, Head of Public Affairs and Carl-Johan Liner, head of Power Products Division and Site Manager. We took a tour through ABB’s Transformer Unit, we visited the High Voltage Test Laboratory, and received a briefing from Olof Heyman, Global Head of HVDC.

Energy efficiency, sustainability are the national security challenges of today and tomorrow. Maximising the opportunity of cross border R & D, especially across the transatlantic area, is an opportunity we have not fully maximized. By partnering together we can solve the energy challenges of today and advance sustainability goals that will leave a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you ABB for a highly effective US-Sweden engagement in Ludvika, Sweden!

Local Roots, Global Reach: Welcoming State of Georgia and Gwinnett County Commercial Promotion Delegation to Sweden

This week, US Embassy Stockholm welcomes to Sweden an 8-member delegation from the U.S. state of Georgia and Gwinnett County.  I was thrilled to host the delegation at my residence for a dinner discussion on their strategy to build links between Georgia and Sweden.  The delegation was in Sweden to meet with existing investors and future investors to advance their commercial engagement with Georgia and the United States.

At the US residence, we was able to introduce the delegation to some of Sweden’s most innovative companies.  What followed was an absolutely constructive and lively discussion on economic development and cultural ties between our two countries.  The delegation was led by Ms. Charlotte Nash, Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners; Dr. Daniel Kaufman, President and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson.

The connections between Sweden and the State of Georgia are broad and deep, and are symbolic of the close linkages between the US and Sweden, which are stronger than ever before.  Georgia is host to 56 Swedish companies and their 153 facilities, approximately half of which are in Gwinnett County near Atlanta. Over 8,600 Georgians are employed by these Swedish firms.  It is so inspiring to see how Georgia and Gwinnett County are building on these existing business ties and working to grow and build through economic innovations such as the state’s Quick Start Workforce Training Program.

Sweden’s connections with Georgia extend far beyond investments however and include a sister city relationship between Vaxjo and Savannah, Georgia.  I have been to Vaxjo during my tenure here in Sweden and can attest to the vibrancy of its loval economy and the great opportunity that exists for even more linkages with the US.  Sweden also has an outstanding Consulate in Atlanta and a very active Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce.

It was just a wonderful evening celebrating the ties between Sweden and the State of Georgia.  During my tenure here in Sweden, I have hosted US President and Georgian Jimmy Carter, US Senator From Georgia Johnny Isakson, who co-chairs the US Congress’ Swedish Caucus.  It was a privilege to host in Sweden another delegation of great Georgians, including Ms. Charlotte Nash, Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners; Dr. Daniel Kaufman, President and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, and the rest of this strong delegation.

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Power Africa

I am very excited to welcome Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to Stockholm for his second visit in less than a year.  His visit underscores the strong and continuing partnership between Sweden and the United States and commemorates the one year mark of the signing of a formal agreement on international development cooperation.

One of the defining areas of cooperation under the agreement will be the focus of a meeting taking place on October 22 here in Stockholm.  The United States and Sweden are bringing together donors, institutional investors, and multilateral organizations to discuss how to help mobilize private capital at scale for investment in African infrastructure, particularly in the energy sector. These investments are necessary to maintain strong growth and in particular, to make growth inclusive and alleviate poverty.

The meeting builds on the groundwork that was laid during a roundtable meeting on August 3, 2014, in connection with the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit held in Washington, when the Government of Sweden formally announced a commitment to catalyse up to one billion U.S. dollars over the next ten years in support of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative. Sweden’s bilateral financial pledge for Power Africa represented the first such partnership between the United States and another donor government on this important initiative.  Together with the earlier U.S. pledge of seven billion over the first five-year phase, the funds will be aimed at doubling access to electricity in energy poor sub-Saharan Africa where approximately two-thirds of the population now live without access.

The irony is that Africa has tremendous renewable energy potential, ranging from geothermal to abundant solar and wind power.  Power Africa targets precisely the development of these abundant resources while helping Africa avoid a rise in carbon emissions – something which is not just in the interest of African nations.   Moreover, Power Africa is a private sector led initiative; total private sector commitments to date amount to more than $20 billion.

Attention-grabbing headlines about Africa in both the Swedish and American media often focus the public’s attention on the crisis of the day — terrorist acts, deadly diseases, or the latest armed conflict.  People miss the broader perspective and larger story about a continent that is on the rise.  It is precisely this unparalleled African transformation that has led to a new partnership between Sweden and the United States strategically focused on providing Africa with the tools and conditions to generate its own clean, renewable energy and skip a dirty, fossil fuel-based phase of development.

The focus of Power Africa is on helping African countries create the right conditions to attract private sector investment in the field of renewable energy, largely through regulatory environment reform, loans, and financial service products.  The sad truth is that Africa, despite giving off fewer greenhouse gases than any other part of the world, is one of the places most heavily impacted by climate change.  And these climactic changes have consequences for political stability.  For example, diminishing water resources and shrinking harvest in some parts of the continent leave communities increasingly vulnerable to conflict and violence.

The Swedish and U.S. collaboration on Power Africa goes beyond the day-to-day excellent coordination and cooperation that our respective development agencies already enjoy; it reflects a genuine alignment of vision and goals about helping a continent seize this moment of promise when it can finally lift itself from strife, poverty, and disease.   Africa is now home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, numerous multiparty democracies, and vibrant, innovative communities.  Sweden and the United States see that the tipping point has come that we can help Africa consolidate these gains and help put the continent on a trajectory to grow even further.

In making this commitment to Africa, Sweden and the United States are taking a long-term perspective.  It is inevitable that as Africa’s prosperity expands, so will the prosperity of our two nations.  History has repeatedly shown that stable, secure, and prosperous nations make the best partners in mutually beneficial trade and investment.  Today, for example, 11 out of America’s top 15 trading partners once received U.S. foreign assistance.  Likewise, security and stability in Africa means greater security at home in Sweden and America.  Communities with few economic prospects become breeding grounds for trans-national crime, political instability, armed conflict, and even terrorism.  Such developments end up costing our countries billions of dollars in additional law enforcement, border protection, and peacekeeping forces.  We simply cannot afford to continue viewing Africa as a world apart.  We are now far too interconnected to ignore these linkages — Africa’s challenges are our challenges.

The strength of the Swedish and U.S. shared values on sustainable development will be the driving force in helping African societies build the capacity for transformational change through Power Africa.   And the success of the U.S. -Swedish commitment on Power Africa will not be measured in the amount of dollars and kronor spent, but as President Obama described it by “whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.”  By working jointly, the United States and Sweden can help African nations build the capacity for transformational change in the energy sector.  The transformational change will not only help Africans build a sustainable, clean energy sector but will also help weave economic well-being, security, and better governance more deeply in the rich tapestry of people on the African continent.

According to an African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  But if you want to go far, go together.”   There are no two better partners to make this Power Africa journey together than Sweden and the United States.   It is our long-term perspective and commitment to common values that will carry us through to the journey’s end.  And one day after we have stayed the course, the barrage of attention-grabbing negative headlines about Africa will become a thing of the past.

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Art as a Bridge: Jeff Koons in Sweden

This weekend, US Embassy Stockholm celebrated creativity! We welcomed to Sweden the iconic American artist Jeff Koons. At the US residence, we invited in a large cross section of Swedish society (we had more than 200 guests) to meet Jeff Koons‎. We also invited young artists from immigrant-rich neighborhoods in Stockholm to present their work to Jeff Koons, and to share their hopes and aspirations with all of us. The organization “Voices of the Suburbs” and the Botkyrka Art Center joined with the US Embassy to present a vernisage of the young artists work. The crowd who attended Saturday night just loved it!

The center of attention of the evening was Jeff Koons, who personifies the powerful and constructive voice of creativity. His unique perspective has transformed how we perceive art. His “Balloon Dog” is on display now at Moderna Museet ‎in Stockholm, and the piece just shows Koons’ versatility and genius.

Jeff‎ has also been a much valued contributor to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program. It was terrific to share with him the Art in Embassies program we have in Sweden. The art on display at the US residence is from Chicago. Art as a bridge, art as a vehicle for multiculturalism and integration is the underlying inspiration of our Art in Embassies program.

In the course if the evening, we did something very special: we asked every single person, starting with Koons himself,‎ to “make their mark” on a canvas we set up in the main room. Every one was invited to place some sort of mark on the canvas. People drew all kinds of designs, and the result was really magnificent!

It was just an incredible evening celebrating creativity with a man who epitomises it, and It was just an incredible evening celebrating creativity with a man who epitomises it, and connecting with young people who just may be their generation’s Jeff Koons!

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Creative Cities Alliance Launched between Austin, Texas and Luleå, Sweden

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I was so pleased to assist in the launching on September 3rd in the newest partnership between two innovative and dynamic cities: Austin, Texas and Luleå, Sweden.  I have spent time in both, and while they couldn’t be more geographically different, they share the same exciting buzz of communities on an upward trajectory.  I lived in Austin for a summer and grew to deeply love the Hill Country and Lake Travis.  Since becoming Ambassador to Sweden, I have visited Luleå on multiple occasions and truly enjoy the beauty of Luleå’s tranquil pine forests and picturesque Gammalstad (Old Town) on the banks of the Lule River.

Such alliances between municipalities form the strong backbone of the U.S.-Swedish relationship, and the people-to-people relationships, business networks, cross investment, artistic collaboration, and educational alliances crafted through these affiliations anchor the framework of how our two societies interact.  Building foreign relations is not the sole prerogative of national level governments – in fact, it actually works better when individual people and communities are knit together through the type of alliances that Luleå and Austin have committed to.  And in today’s digital word, geographic distance plays only a negligible role in these two cities’ ability to network and collaborate in a myriad of ways.  We are only limited by our imaginations.

What experience has shown is that the most successful city partnerships are those based on similar interests and shared values.  In this regard, I can’t think of two cities that are more suitably linked.  Both Austin and Luleå are thriving centers for innovation: Austin consistently ranks among the most innovative communities in the U.S., and Luleå – home to Facebook’s first European data center and the Node Pole – is rapidly becoming a tech hub of Europe.  On the arts front, Austin has made a name for itself through its defining music scene and SXSW, an annual music, film, and interactive conference.  Likewise, Luleå has vibrant live music scene and the Luleå Culture House dedicated to the advancement of the arts.  And for education and research, the two cities are top in their class.   University of Texas at Austin consistently ranks among the top public schools in the U.S., and Luleå’s University of Technology – Scandinavia’s northernmost school of technology – is rapidly making a name for its applied research and world-class collaboration with national and international companies.  Such similarities can be found across the spectrum of the two cities’ multifaceted characters.

Like all city partnerships, success is fueled by individual relationships.  Knowing the pioneering, vibrant, and warmhearted people of both Austin and Luleå, I can only begin to imagine the directions and possibilities of this new partnership.   As with all U.S.-Swedish municipal partnerships, I and the rest of the U.S. Embassy team in Stockholm stand prepared to support and assist as needed.  I wish Austin and Luleå every success in their new alliance together.

 

 

 

One Year Later

President Barack Obama is introduced by Amb. Mark Brzezinski at an Embassy meet and greet at the Grand Hotel Stockholm in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 4, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama is introduced by Amb. Mark Brzezinski at an Embassy meet and greet at the Grand Hotel Stockholm in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 4, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two months ago, I stood in the beautiful U.S. Capitol Rotunda for the inspiring ceremony to bestow the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg with a Congressional Gold Medal.  Wallenberg, by daring not to be indifferent, saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews during World War II through a joint U.S. and Swedish government program.  The story of Raoul Wallenberg is an exceptional confirmation of the value our two countries place on protecting human dignity and upholding the principles of tolerance and inclusivity.  As President Obama noted in his remarks at Stockholm’s Synagogue one year ago,  “…we’re reminded [by Raoul Wallenberg] of our basic obligations:  to recognize ourselves in each other; to treat one another with compassion; to reach out to the less fortunate among us; to do our part to help repair our world.  These values are at the heart of the great partnership between Sweden and the United States.”

The Gold Medal Ceremony was an archetype moment of Sweden and the U.S. working together.  Today, one year after President Obama’s visit to Sweden, is a fitting time to highlight how the Swedish-American relationship has further expanded since the visit.  It is no coincidence that President Obama’s visit occurred during a period of unprecedented cooperation and alignment between our two countries. And it is no coincidence that since then the relationship between Sweden and the U.S. has only become more robust and more strategic when facing global challenges.

As President Obama said of Sweden and the U.S., “We stand up for universal human rights, not only in America and in Europe, but beyond, because we believe that when these rights are respected, nations are more successful and our world is safer and more just.”   Sweden and the U.S. collaborate on global development initiatives more closely than ever before.  Sida is the largest partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Together, the development agencies jointly combat poverty in innovative ways, with a focus on agriculture, sustainable energy, and democracy.  Sweden has committed to catalyze investments of up to one billion dollars, or 6.8 billion SEK, to Power Africa, President Obama’s program to electrify Africa.  Sweden is the first country to formally join this project.  This commitment follows discussion between President Obama and Swedish stakeholders during his visit to Stockholm last September, when parties affirmed at the dinner with other Nordic Leaders their intent to support Power Africa and to promote more efficient power systems in Africa.

Around the time of President Obama’s visit to Stockholm, the crisis in Syria was in some of its darkest days.  Today, 12 months later, the suffering in Syria continues, as it does around the world from Ukraine to Iraq to Libya.  The need for the international community to stand up for the rights of others has perhaps never been so urgent.  One year ago, President Obama and Prime Minister Reinfeldt stood in agreement about the need to protect human rights and the imperative of the triumph of the rule of law.  Today, one year later, the common resolve between our two countries has never been stronger and our two countries must continue to be active and effective voices in defending dignity around the world.

While in Stockholm, President Obama also paid a visit to the Royal Institute of Technology.  There he met with researchers and viewed several innovative clean energy technologies.  Sweden and the U.S. have demonstrated a shared commitment to supporting the development of innovative technologies and cleaner energy solutions that are at the core of our strategy to address climate change and have a less carbon-dependent future.  President Obama’s Climate Action Plan has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, provided funding to advance renewable energy technology, and helped cities prepare for climate change with fortification against increasingly severe storms and droughts.  We will continue our work with Sweden and the international community to keep moving forward in this area. I believe that the best way to tackle the challenges of climate change is together, so I think it is of the utmost importance that as both countries innovate to find what works, we support exchanges of ideas and programs.

Engaging with issues related to the Arctic was a priority for President Obama during his visit to Sweden, reflecting the Arctic’s position as both a domestic and global policy priority for the U.S.  As we consider how to best preserve the region’s biodiversity while helping Arctic communities reach their fullest potential, we turn to partners like Sweden, who’s successful chairmanship of the Arctic Council is a model such engagement.   During his visit, President Obama convened with Nordic leaders last September and discussed the impacts of climate change on the Arctic.  We value the shared commitment to the Arctic and see this as the ideal foundation for achievement.  The U.S. considers Sweden to be an especially invaluable ally; we look forward to a future in which our countries collaborate to protect and to research the Arctic environment and to encourage sustainable development, keeping in mind always the indigenous communities.  It is our highest priority is to protect the Arctic – our people, our territory, our natural resources – and I am happy to say that Sweden shares this conviction.

Reflecting back on the past twelve months, it is correct to say that the partnership between the United States and Sweden could not possibly be stronger.  President Obama’s visit helped make a solid relationship even more expansive.  I am convinced that our cooperation, which is based in set of common core values and ideals, will continue to expand and flourish.

Tough Viking!

This past summer I bicycled across Sweden, from the water’s edge of Sweden’s West Coast, to the water’s edge of Sweden’s East Coast.  I did it to promote TTIP and trade, and I thought it was the physically most difficult thing I would do in my stay in Sweden – after all, one day we biked over 100 kilometers through rain and wind, and
around Örebro there were many many trucks…

Tough Viking US + Sweden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But that was until I had the pleasure of joining the US Embassy “Tough Viking” competition team this past Saturday here in Stockholm.  Now I can say categorically that was the physically most difficult undertaking I have done here in Sweden – and I loved every minute of it!!  The Tough Viking competition is a 15 kilometer obstacle course that spans the big field of Gärdet, and continues along the footpaths next to the Baltic Sea.  It involved running through burning bales of hay, climbing over ship container after ship container, crawling under barbed wire and swimming through icy swamps, jumping into barrels of ice water, climbing up huge ramps, swimming in the sea, and, of course being electrocuted at the end!

Tough Viking start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was my absolute honor to join with a number of colleagues and family members here at the Embassy in doing this event.  To say the least, I could never have completed the event without their help and support, and I did my utmost to contribute to our US Embassy team.

Tough Viking team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started, as a team, and we finished as a team, and there was nothing more awesome then coming in together, with a member of staff calling out cadences.

Tough Viking action II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a wonderful event, it was a wonderful team building exercise, it was a challenge unlike any I will probably do in my life, and it was another awesome memory that I have from our wonderful stay in Sweden.

Tough Viking action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I cheer all my fellow Tough Vikings – from the Swedish military that participated as a team, to the police and volunteers who supported the event – to fellow challengers with whom we all share a uniquely Swedish memory!!

Tough Viking finish