Members of the Chamber, Excellencies, Friends, Colleagues – thank you once again for the opportunity to spend this evening with all of you. Before I begin my brief remarks here, let me give a special thank you to Martin Naville and his exceptional management team at the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce – within this country, there is no better representative of or advocate for U.S. – Swiss business relations than Martin and his team. Martin – thank you again for the invitation and your continued partnership.
I’d like to also quickly acknowledge Harry Hohmeister for his expert stewardship not only of Swiss, but of this organization. Harry – now that you’re stepping down, I hope you’ll find the time to give a few more of us a ride in your single engine (airplane). Lastly, I want to quickly congratulate the board for appointing Martin Senn to the Executive Board. Martin is an exemplary representation of everything that makes the U.S./Swiss business relationship so prosperous and enduring – Martin, I know you will create a lasting legacy here, and we are all lucky to now have you helping lead this organization.
When I arrived in Switzerland exactly one year ago, this event was one of the first events I attended. Looking back over the past year, it is hard to overstate how deeply impressed I have been by the members of this Chamber, and the truly transformative work you all do on a daily basis. During that time, a lot of things have changed – but one thing has not – and that is my highest priority as the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein – advancing our bilateral economic ties. Over the past year, I believe we have advanced that goal in some measurable and important ways.
The Swiss-U.S. Commercial Relationship in 2015
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has often remarked, economic policy is foreign policy. I am hard pressed to think of any relationship for which that is more true than the Swiss/U.S. relationship. With more than 80 major U.S. multinationals calling Switzerland home for their international or European headquarters, and with Swiss companies generating hundreds of thousands of high-paying U.S. jobs, there are few, if any, countries whose bilateral economic ties with the U.S. are stronger or more important than those of Switzerland.
Thanks to all of you, that opinion is one that is increasingly shared within the United States Government. For evidence one needn’t look any further than the Swiss Executive Roundtable held at the White House last January – the first such bilateral event ever held. At the Roundtable, Swiss companies – including Chamber members like Novartis, Bühler, the Kudelski Group, Reha Technology, Pilatus Aircraft, Nestlé, and Zurich Insurance Group, announced over $3 billion in new Swiss investment into the United States, while also announcing plans to introduce or expand core elements of Switzerland’s vaunted apprenticeship program into their U.S. facilities.
A few weeks later, my team and I led the largest per capita delegation ever to the SelectUSA Summit in Washington, D.C., where Chamber members including Flare International, Helsinn Healthcare, HV Technologies, Karr, Lindt & Sprüngli, Mikron, UBS, Waypoint Holdings, and many others joined me for meetings with top U.S. government officials, economic development organizations from every corner of the United States, and hundreds of other global businesses working to increase their investment positions in the United States. In fact, I am proud to announce that we are holding a Swiss SelectUSA Summit on September 17th in Bern.
Switzerland’s strong showing at that Summit was not missed by President Obama, who, during his keynote address, highlighted Chamber member Reha Technology’s recent $5 million investment in an American company in Watertown, Massachusetts as an example of just the sort of FDI America wants to embrace. Not to be outdone, U.S. Secretary John Kerry later highlighted a number of the impressive Swiss investments that have been made in the United States over the past year, focusing particular attention on the work we’ve all done together to expand core components of Switzerland’s apprenticeship program into the United States.
President Obama and Secretary Kerry aren’t the only U.S. officials to pick-up on the promise of Switzerland. Over the past year, the idea of translating elements of Switzerland’s world-class apprenticeship system into the United States has garnered particular attention from U.S. policy makers, attracting high-level visits to Switzerland from Dr. Jill Biden, U.S. Governor Jack Markell, Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, who is currently drafting legislation encouraging companies to expand apprenticeships in their U.S. facilities. In fact, apprenticeship related legislation is now starting to show up in Presidential Campaign platforms.
In exactly one week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will meet with Swiss Federal Councilor and Vice President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Washington to do the first of three signatures on the high-level “Joint Declaration of Intent” on VET, laying the foundation for Federal-level bilateral cooperation to train more highly-skilled workers in the United States, helping all of us to create greater pathways to high quality careers both here in Switzerland as well as in the United States. Chamber members like Zürich Insurance Group, Bühler, Daetwyler USA, Kudelski Group, and Nestlé are leading this charge, helping us partner with educational institutions and local governments to create vocational education ecosystems that will become a template for vocational education and training programs throughout the United States. Over the next year, I want to work together with each and every one of you to double down on that effort, strengthening the bond between U.S. and Swiss business communities and practices even further. In fact, we will soon be announcing new partners in this initiative to have Swiss companies bring their programs over to their US facilities and, if you or your company are interested in making a commitment and being in that announcement, please come find me or my team members after this.
U.S. Renaissance Underway
While our work on vocational education and training is groundbreaking, it is simply an extension of some of the broader macro-developments helping redefine the Swiss/U.S. commercial relationship. Chief among those developments is the rise of what many are calling a “third industrial revolution” in the United States. What started as the initially unpopular auto industry bailout in 2009 has now become a robust economic engine for the United States and the world. One needn’t look further than Auburn Hills, Michigan, for a concrete example of where and how Swiss companies are taking advantage of that renaissance. In Auburn Hills, Chamber member ABB just opened the first robotics manufacturing plan for a global manufacturer on U.S. soil. That operation is expected to double ABB’s employment in Michigan to roughly 1,000 employees over the next five years, adding to the steadily growing high-tech presence in southeast Michigan. I was proud to stand side-by-side with ABB Chief Executive and Chamber Member Ulrich Spiesshofer for the opening of that facility, and I look forward to attending many more such openings with all of you in the year to come.
Fundamentally, with 63 straight months of positive private sector job growth – driving United States unemployment down to 5.5% – all US economic indicators are heading in the right direction.
In closing, I want to echo the remarks of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, delivered in Lausanne, following a historic breakthrough on our Joint Plan of Action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran: and that is to say thank you, to the people and government of Switzerland, for your incredible generosity, and the way in which you not only welcomed Secretary Kerry to Switzerland multiple times over the past year, but the way in which you continue to welcome me and countless other American citizens to your beautiful country. Thank you for the relationship we have worked so hard to build over the past year, and thank you for your partnership in promoting our shared prosperity.
Lastly, a big thanks to all of you – the members of the Chamber. Working together, we have produced some amazing results over the past year. Looking ahead, I couldn’t be more excited about 2015/2016, and the many ways in which we will strengthen and deepen this truly remarkable, longstanding, and burgeoning relationship in the year to come.