Ambassador Howery’s speech at Chalmers University of Technology (January 14, 2020)

(as prepared)

“The United States and Sweden: Strong Partners for a Better Future”

Thank you, Prof. Maria Elmquist, for that kind introduction, and to Chalmers for this opportunity to speak here this afternoon. I just came from a tour of the Student Union, thank you again, Union President Dennis Norman. I am looking forward to having a discussion with Chalmers Vice President Fredrik Hörstedt after my remarks. Finally, I would also like to thank Chalmers President Stefan Bengtsson who welcomed me so warmly earlier today. I’m very pleased to be starting my trip to Göteborg here at Chalmers University of Technology, which is known for its global vision for a sustainable future through research and education in technology and science.

I am also well aware of Chalmers’ outstanding reputation for innovation. As someone who spent the past twenty years developing and promoting technological innovation, this university’s mission is one that is close to my heart.

Dennis, I am particularly happy to see that so many of your fellow students are here in spite of having exams this week. I don’t think anything I say today will be useful to you on your exams, but you never know. I certainly wish you good luck!

I am also very glad to see members of the Chalmers faculty and administration, and others from another excellent Swedish university, the University of Gothenburg. I very much appreciate you all coming today.

Today, I would like to speak about the United States and Sweden, our strong partnership, and my conviction that we can make a better future for ourselves and each other through even deeper cooperation. Given my background, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I truly believe that innovation and technology will be key to solving our most difficult challenges and seizing new opportunities. I can think of no better place to convey this message than here in Gothenburg. In fact, Gothenburg is the first place I have travelled in Sweden since arriving in Stockholm as the new U.S. Ambassador three months ago. But it is not my first trip here. I first came to Gothenburg on a trip to Sweden and Europe in 2009. Even then I could sense the spirit and dynamism of this city, which has played such an important role in Swedish history and in U.S.-Swedish relations over the last 400 years.

As Scandinavia’s largest port, international trade and exchange have always been a vital force in the development and growth of Gothenburg — and of the United States. The history of U.S.-Swedish relations is almost as old as that of the city of Gothenburg. In 1638, a Swedish trading company established the colony of New Sweden in present-day Delaware. That first Swedish expedition to America sailed in late 1637 from the port of Gothenburg. During the American Revolution, even before the United States and Sweden signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1783 which established our commercial alliance, American ships were calling in the port. Those early exchanges led in time to a great flood of Swedes traveling to the United States. Approximately 1.3 million Swedes (or a third of the population) emigrated to North America, most of them to the United States, from 1820 to 1930. Gothenburg, of course, is where many of those Swedes started their journey. In other words, the U.S.-Swedish partnership is a long and close one.

One of the key elements of that partnership is our economic relationship and I am very pleased to report that our trade and investment ties are strong. Today, we trade $25 billion worth of goods and services annually, much of that going out of and coming into the port of Gothenburg.

We have also invested over $90 billion in each other’s economies, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sweden is the 15th-largest investor in the United States. For a country of ten million people these are remarkable statistics. Dozens of U.S. companies have offices or do business here in Gothenburg and many more Swedish companies from the Gothenburg region trade and invest in the United States. Deepening U.S.-Swedish economic cooperation even more to promote the mutual prosperity of both our countries is one of my three priorities as Ambassador.

A second key element of that partnership is the security and defense relationship between our two countries. From the 2,000 troops Sweden contributed to the NATO Trident Juncture military exercise last fall, to its trainers in Iraq as part of the Defeat-ISIS coalition efforts, to Afghanistan where Sweden supports NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, Sweden remains a vital security partner to the United States. Sweden is an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, the most comprehensive level of cooperation available for NATO partners.

Last month I was very pleased to host an event in Stockholm to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sweden joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace. There is no NATO partner more active or committed than Sweden.

Strengthening our security and defense cooperation in order to defend Europe and counter the challenges posed by non-democratic regimes is another one of my three priorities as Ambassador.

The third key element of the U.S.-Swedish partnership and perhaps the most important one is the personal connection between Swedes and Americans. Here too I am building on a broad and deep foundation. Approximately four million Americans today can trace their roots back to Sweden. More than half a million Swedes visited the United States last year, and we continue to welcome nearly 4,000 Swedish students to U.S. colleges and universities each year. The flagship exchange program for the U.S. government is the Fulbright program which brings talented U.S. students, scholars, and professors to Sweden and similarly gifted Swedes to the United States. I am especially proud that, thanks to the generous support of the Marcus and Marianne Wallenberg Foundation, there has been a Fulbright Distinguished Professor in Alternative Energy Technology, here at Chalmers for a decade. This year it is California State Los Angeles Professor David Blekhman. Dr. Blekhman wanted to be here, but he had another obligation in Borås where he has a meeting as part of his research on Scandinavia’s hydrogen fuel infrastructure.

In addition to exchanges like these, a multitude of civic and other private organizations promote and enrich our bilateral relationship. For example, in September, my deputy was in Gothenburg to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Sweden America Foundation, which sponsors dozens of young Swedes to study in the United States every year. It was at the same time as the Gothenburg Book Fair, where many U.S. books and several U.S. authors were featured. I hope to attend myself this fall. Likewise, I suspect more than a few U.S. movies will be shown at the Gothenburg Film Festival when it opens later this month. These are just a few examples of our immeasurable cultural cross-fertilization. Developing even greater connections through artistic, cultural, educational and scientific programs and exchanges is the last of my three priorities as Ambassador.

Like Chalmers, the U.S. Embassy and I are focused on the future. As I said at the outset, I am convinced that we can make a better future for ourselves and each other through an even deeper partnership, and that innovation and technology will be key to solving challenges and seizing opportunities. Let me explain by touching briefly on three opportunities where I think Sweden and the United States could in fact progress: namely trade, China, and 5G security.

The first opportunity I see for Sweden and the United States is to continue to pursue progress on U.S.-EU trade negotiations. Without a doubt U.S.-EU and U.S.-Swedish bilateral trade benefits both sides of the Atlantic. Now that EU Parliamentary elections have passed and a new EU Commission is in place, it is my hope that we can put new energy into U.S.-EU trade talks.

The U.S.-EU Executive Working Group on Trade has made great progress toward achieving short-term wins in anticipation of a broader U.S.-EU trade deal, that includes progress in identifying and resolving non-tariff barriers to trade. The United States also welcomes the constructive conversations we have had with the European Commission and other EU officials on national treatment of product testing and for the routine acceptance of international product standards developed outside of Europe.

One area which is holding up talks is that the EU negotiating mandate specifically excludes the possibility of negotiating the elimination of agricultural tariffs. The United States has been clear from the beginning that it cannot negotiate – and that both parties in the U.S. Congress will not approve – a tariff reduction agreement that does not cover agriculture. So as a longtime free-trade champion in the EU, I hope we can work with Sweden to help find a way forward on agriculture within the U.S.-EU trade talk framework. This is the first example of how our U.S.-Swedish partnership can benefit both our countries.

The second opportunity I see for Sweden and the United States is to hold China accountable for its trade-distorting practices that threaten the global trade order.

We took note of the Government of Sweden’s October 2nd communication to Parliament on China, and we congratulate Sweden on this whole-of-government approach to assess Sweden’s current and future relationship with China. As many of you know, the United States has also done some whole-of-government thinking on China.

In our 2017 National Security Strategy we raised our increasing concerns about Chinese actions that undermine the interests and values of democratic and free-trading states like the United States and Sweden. The United States is not seeking an adversarial relationship with China. We simply expect China to abide by global norms and to act responsibly on the world stage.

For decades we have held out hope that by opening up to China, Beijing would gradually adopt democratic and free trade norms, but that has not occurred. In fact, whatever progress was made has been reversed.

So we must challenge the Government of China over its market-distorting policies and practices, forced technology transfers, theft of intellectual property, and cyber intrusions of commercial networks. The tariff actions the United States has taken are designed to encourage China to behave in a more market-oriented manner and to create a level playing field that will give our companies – and Swedish companies— a chance to compete and succeed.

As a result of that new approach, the United States and China reached an historic and enforceable agreement on a Phase One trade deal, which will be signed this week. The deal requires Chinese structural reforms in the areas of intellectual property, agriculture, financial services, currency and foreign exchange, and technology transfer policies. We hope to make even further progress in the next phase of negotiations. The Chinese economy is dauntingly large, so to persuade Beijing to truly embrace the necessary reforms will require the West to remain united. So this is the second area our partnership can really pay off.

Finally, I strongly believe that the United States and Sweden also have an opportunity to push for a secure 5G network that will benefit both of our economies and societies for years to come.

5G is the next generation of wireless technology, and it will have vast applications ranging from artificial intelligence, to manufacturing, to public services, such as electricity and transportation. The global economic potential is staggering. In the United States alone, 5G is predicted to add up to three million new jobs and create $500 billion in economic growth. The United States hopes that all countries will take advantage of the tremendous economic potential of 5G.

At the same time, the United States strongly encourages its allies and partners—whose national security is a mutual interest the United States shares—to craft legislation, regulations, or other measures that ensure our common 5G security. National standards should take into account the governance of the country regulating the 5G provider and the risk of government influence on those providers. In practice, this means that legislation should be country and company-neutral, composed in such a way to prevent untrusted vendors of any national origin from securing access to a network.

Companies like China’s Huawei and ZTE are required to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services and Chinese security agencies, no questions asked—and to keep this cooperation secret.

These untrusted vendors could thus provide the People’s Republic of China’s authoritarian government the capability to disrupt critical applications and infrastructure, to invade our citizens’ privacy, and to provide technological advances to Chinese industry and the People’s Liberation Army. These are not paranoid fantasies; there are many documented cases of Chinese cyber intrusions linked to the Chinese Communist Party, even without the easy access 5G would provide.

We need trusted vendors in our 5G networks. So, I welcome the new Swedish legislation on security in 5G and other networks. Sweden is a technology leader – this university at the very forefront of that – and Sweden will have to continue to lead when 5G technology spreads in business, industry, the public sector, and in our homes. And to lead it must not be vulnerable to autocratic regimes’ interference. Sweden must also continue to contribute to the European efforts on security in the roll-out of 5G in the EU.

I also applaud Sweden’s growing awareness of how its world-class technologies can be misappropriated by non-democratic regimes through foreign direct investment. Its work on an investment screening mechanism to ensure the country’s national security interests is taken into account is laudatory. Getting that mechanism in place will help us both ensure the functioning of free and open markets.

Lastly, I would mention the Arctic. I know that some of Sweden’s most significant centers of research on that important region are based here. The U.S. National Science Foundation already cooperates closely with the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat in Luleå, but I would hope to see more joint research, including by our respective private sectors, to find solutions to the particular challenges of that fragile yet invaluable area. As a maritime gateway to the North Sea and the North Atlantic and the home of both Chalmers and Gothenburg Universities — Gothenburg has a significant role to play in that effort.

So in many ways Gothenburg represents the past, present, and future of the U.S. relationship with Sweden. Gothenburg is where our trade relations began, it’s where Swedes took to the sea over a century ago to make their way to the new world, and it’s where Sweden’s brightest minds are creating the future in which we will all live, where all our societies and our environment can prosper.

In closing, the United States is profoundly grateful to have had Sweden as a partner for almost four centuries. I look forward to taking that strong partnership forward for the benefit of both our countries and hope that many of you today in the audience will join me in that mission. Thank you.