Ambassador LeVine: Foreign Policy is Economic Policy

Ambassador LeVine(Following introduction) Thank you so much….

It is a real honor to join you here this afternoon. Before we begin, I want to quickly recognize and welcome my counterpart from the Swiss Embassy, Ambassador Martin Dahinden, as well as my friends and colleagues from the United States Department of Commerce – Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director of SelectUSA – all three of whom are joining us from Washington on this beautiful Michigan afternoon.

I also want to extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude, not only to all of you, but to Ulrich Spiesshofer, and the rest of ABB’s team for this invitation. Days like this, and events like this, are the perfect reminder of why we do what we do, both in business and in diplomacy – working “relentlessly,” in Ulrich’s words, to shape a better, cleaner, more prosperous, and ultimately more peaceful world.

Ulrich – while I don’t know if it was intended – You are conducting diplomacy with this opening and executing foreign policy. You see – foreign policy IS economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy – whether here in the United States, in developed nations with whom we have strong trade, or in developing nations who are just establishing their economic base.

One of the strongest elements of the relationship between Switzerland and the United States, in fact, is our economic relationship.  And that relationship is a clear illustration of Shared Prosperity – where our and Switzerland’s economic success is deeply intertwined.

Did you all know that Switzerland is the 6th largest foreign direct investor into the United States, #1 in R&D, and that Swiss companies generate almost half a million jobs here in the United States – really great jobs!  And ABB is among the top investors overall.  They have invested $10B over just the past 5 years, employ more than 26,000 employees here – and, are clearly growing as this event and other recent ABB announcements demonstrate!  At the same time that we are seeing an increased Swiss investment in the United States, the United States has been the main source of growth for Swiss exports over the past few years.

But why should ABB and others expand their investments in the United States?  They could choose anywhere else in the world.

This past fall, I had the opportunity to meet and then sit down with Ulrich in his Zurich office.  And he asked me that question – why the United States? Why not supply the robotic needs of the United States from facilities somewhere else?  Especially since, until today, every major global robotics manufacturer did just that.

And that’s when we talked about all that we share and all that the United States has to offer.

In terms of what we share – As sister republics, in which the Swiss constitution in 1848 was modeled on the United States Constitution and in which we were two of the few democracies in a world of monarchies – we deeply respect the rule of law, we ensure that every citizen has a voice, and we protect the right of the minority.  And none of those characteristics can or should be taken for granted in a decision of where one conducts business.

In terms of what the United States has to offer a company like ABB: ours is an ideal market for the quality of products ABB provides – a market that is open to and hungry for the innovations in longevity, resilience, and energy-efficiency for which ABB has come to be known.  And this market is only growing stronger – with GDP, Exports, Graduation rates, and employment all heading in the right direction for many many months now – and that is Up!

The United States’ economic recovery is no accident.  It is because we are a country that learns and gets stronger when we suffer a setback – as is exemplified by all of you from an industry that was imperiled just 6 years ago and is now stronger than ever and a model for the world!

It is also because we can offer a company like ABB the best workforce in the world!  And it’s thrilling to me to see all of the new jobs created today and into the future.

Now – as the United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I get to share all that is great about the United States and I work hard to encourage and attract business to the United States.  And – I also get to experience and learn all that is great about the countries to which I am assigned.

Can those of you who manage people please raise your hands?  I want to invite every one of you to come and visit me – and to see what I have learned over the past year about not just finding talent, but growing talent – something we do well here in the United States, but something that I believe we can also learn from the Swiss.

Most of the leading Swiss companies utilize an apprenticeship model to develop their pipeline and because it’s a nationwide ecosystem, those companies are getting their investment’s worth in talent AND contributing to a strong economy. It’s also something that is a path, not an end, where 2/3 or students choose apprenticeship – with many then continuing their studies.  In fact, many chief executives and entrepreneurs throughout Switzerland started their careers as apprentices.

Ulrich, I hope you don’t mind if I take some liberties here – but not only do I invite you to come and visit me and my extraordinary team in Bern to learn what we’ve learned about apprenticeship – but I hope you are especially able to visit and see what ABB has built around apprenticeship – growing talent in fields as diverse as IT, Logistics, Electronics, and Mechanics.

Given the quality of ABB’s main global training center, which is located just north of here, you can imagine that what you’ll learn from their robust program in Zurich is nothing short of exemplary.

As a part of attracting investment from Switzerland to the United States, we are also trying hard to encourage Swiss companies to share and adapt their apprenticeship model here in the United States – and I am confident that many of you, if you see and learn more about this model, will also consider adopting it as a way to further strengthen our already outstanding workforce!

Ulrich – you shared a vision with me last fall of becoming the first global robotics supplier to manufacture your robots in the United States.

Congratulations to you, your board, and your customers on realizing that vision.  And thank you for investing in the United States! My team and I at the U.S. Embassy in Bern as well as all of our colleagues in the US Government, are looking forward to working together with you to ensure the success of this and other similarly ambitious ABB investments in the United States in the years to come.