Transatlantic leadership in the 21st century: Now is the time to set the course

Speech by Liesje Schreinemacher, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, at the meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce, 1 June 2022.

Thank you, Mr. Van Ouwerkerk, for your kind introduction.

And congratulations to AmCham on its sixtieth anniversary, which it celebrated last week.

It’s my great pleasure to speak to you today.

I am convinced that deepening our ties has the potential to change people’s lives for the better: in the US, in the Netherlands and maybe even worldwide.

Worth mentioning in this respect is the upcoming economic working visit to California and Texas, in September, by Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima.

They will be accompanied by a large number of Dutch businesses owners and representatives.

This visit will mainly focus on 4 themes:

- life sciences and health;
- coastal and flood protection;
- the energy transition;
- and transport and mobility.

I will elaborate further on these important topics.

But first, let me tell you why I was so honoured to receive your kind invitation to speak here today.

It’s because I consider myself a European citizen but a transatlantic citizen as well.

First, of course, there are the strong ties between the United States and the Netherlands,
which go back centuries;

With milestones like the arrival in 1609 of Henry Hudson, in what would become New Amsterdam and later New York.

And the first recognition of the USA as an independent nation with the First Salute in 1776.

The second reason I consider myself a transatlantic citizen is because of our shared democratic liberal values, and of America’s involvement in our liberation.

Not many people know this, but my middle name is Jean.

I was named after the wife of one of the US officers that liberated my father and his family, when he was a little boy.

My grandparents, and my father – who was six years old at the time – had felt the repression of the Nazi regime.

But they also experienced the relief – and joy – of the freedom that followed.

In the end, our democratic liberal values prevailed over tyranny.

And thirdly, I am a transatlantic citizen because of the economic ties between our two countries.

Ties that were strengthened after the Second World War and have brought great success for Dutch and American companies alike.

Let’s not forget that many Dutch families – including my own – faced a homeland in ruins after the War.

But then former army general George Marshall, who had become US Secretary of State, proposed an overarching recovery plan.

Thanks to the Marshall Plan, the men and women in Europe were given the strength to work again, but also the prospect of a better future.

Or, as Dirk Stikker – the Dutch foreign minister at the time – said:

‘Churchill’s words won the war;
Marshall’s words won the peace.’

Ladies and gentlemen,

In four days’ time it will be exactly seventy-five years since the Marshall Plan was launched.

Today, the European Union is the world’s second largest economy by gross domestic product.

We, the Dutch, are punching above our weight.

We’re the most competitive economy in Europe.

And the fourth most competitive economy in the world.

In fact, Dutch knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit can contribute to solving
major global challenges. Such as climate change.

And our know-how can help us seize the economic opportunities presented by global digitalisation.

That’s also the reason why we’re committed to integrating the Netherlands - with its focus on sustainability and enterprise - into the international economy.

It’s also clear that our skills and knowledge – as well as our prosperity – are in the interests
of the United States.

The Netherlands is now the fourth largest investor in the US.

And our exports and investments support over 860,000 American jobs.

The Dutch are also America’s third largest trading partner in goods.

Last year, we exported 51 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services to the US.

And we’re working together more and more in the field of sustainability.

As well as on digital applications and future innovations.

I firmly believe that this connection between our two countries is of the utmost importance if we want to set the course and show leadership in the 21st century.

So, how can we do this, bearing in mind the multiple challenges that face us today,
such as health and climate change?

That brings us back to our four related themes, which are a central part of the King and Queen’s economic visit in September.

The first of these is life sciences and health.

The USA has a leading role when it comes to research and development, innovation and standardisation in the health sector.

The Netherlands, in turn,
has a unique position in offering healthcare solutions,
whether through medical technology or integrated approaches.

We excel at linking research to product and business creation.

These things combined could greatly benefit the US healthcare system…

…while at the same time generating business opportunities for both our countries.

Take the American company Quantiphi, which is opening a new service delivery centre in Amsterdam…

…with the help of Dutch engineers.

Or the American company Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS),
which began construction of its first facility for CAR T-cell therapy in Leiden.

In this manufacturing centre, BMS develops personalised therapies for patients with blood cancer.

These are just two examples of the many businesses that show us that tomorrow’s world will be built by today’s entrepreneurs.

And how much we can accomplish if we join hands and set the standards for the international order.

The second theme is coastal and flood protection.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the facts.

The existential challenge of climate change threatens to overwhelm economies and societies all over the world.

Sea level rise is especially threatening to our low-lying coastlines.

As inhabitants of the world’s
best-protected delta,
the Dutch know a thing or two about keeping our feet dry.

Already, American and Dutch regions at risk of flooding actively work together.

Texas for instance is now embarking on major investments in coastal protection: the Coastal
Spine Delta Programme.

Dutch and US companies are exploring solutions that increase
protection against flooding without severely affecting the environment.

It’s my strong conviction that by cooperating closely we can do even more to protect our coastal communities.

The third point I’d like to make is about the energy transition.

The terrible and illegal war in Ukraine reminds us that we can never take our freedom,
our security, or our democracy for granted.

But the war has also uncovered other truths.

Especially concerning energy.

Europe has proven to be vulnerable because of our dependence on Russian oil and natural gas.

It makes speeding up the energy transition doubly important:

Not just because of the climate crisis but for reasons of national security.

Of course, it also makes sound economic sense.

Although the transition toward a green and future-proof economy requires significant investments the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term challenges.

Green growth leads to healthier cities, greater food security, and more productivity. 

Here too, we see very promising initiatives by the US and Dutch business community:

In November 2020, the cities of Houston and Rotterdam signed
an MoU on intensifying collaboration in the energy transition.

Further cooperation can unlock economic opportunities and establish a clean energy corridor between these two hubs.

Finally, I’d like to address the subject of transport and mobility.

Here too, the US and the Netherlands have a lot to offer.

The great city of San Francisco is focusing more and more on sustainability in its policies.

Dutch innovative solutions and urban planning concepts can play a major role in transitioning San Francisco to a low-carbon future with enhanced traffic safety and better accessibility.

Of course, these are not simple issues.

But if there’s one thing American and Dutch engineers excel at,
it’s getting things done by working hard and thinking creatively.

Let’s not forget that many US and Dutch companies – large and small –
are already showing true leadership by becoming more sustainable.

And by making concrete plans to decarbonise their industries.


Ladies and gentlemen,

We are a community based on common interests.
And common values.

And we know that a strong and united Europe is in the interests of the United States.

It’s also in the interests of the United States to be involved in the world.

George Marshall knew this, and he made a plan.

A plan that paved the way for transatlantic solidarity, kickstarted Europe’s post-war recovery and sowed the seeds for economic integration.

Although we face different challenges today current times show once again that neither peace nor prosperity can be taken for granted.

We still have much homework to do.

Governments and businesses alike.

Businesses can ensure that technology is used in a responsible and sustainable way.

That’s why I invite you all to continue looking for opportunities to innovate, accelerate and
work together to find effective solutions.

So that we can truly show transatlantic leadership in the 21st century.

Protect ourselves – and others worldwide – against future wars, conflict and global disasters.

And transform our societies, for a truly secure and sustainable future.

Thank you.