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Mending Transatlantic Ties

TO PROSPER, EUROPE AND THE U.S. NEED EACH OTHER.

 Recent global political upheaval has prompted the leaders of Europe and the United States to focus on the tremendous significance of the Transatlantic Alliance. The nature of America’s relationship with its longstanding European allies also came under close world scrutiny during the U.S. presidential election. The central theme and the commitment to a greater unity of purpose was clear: America needs Europe as much as Europe needs America.

Just by looking at some basic parameters, we are reminded how true this is. In 2001, foreign affiliate sales on both sides of the Atlantic amounted to $2.8 trillion€¦quot;more than five times the scale of bilateral trade. Europe is the most important market for Corporate America by a wide yet underappreciated margin.

U.S. companies rely on Europe for half their total annual foreign profits. In 2003, U.S. foreign affiliate income from Europe rose to a record $77.1 billion, a year-on-year leap of 30 percent. Similarly, the total number of people directly employed by U.S. and European foreign affiliates is more than three times as high as that of U.S. affiliates in Asia and Asian affiliates in the United States.

For all of us at DaimlerChrysler, and other transatlantic corporations, this is good news. After all, the transatlantic relationship is a two-way umbilical cord that feeds our intellect and creativity at the same time that it stimulates healthy growth.

As Americans and Europeans, we are intensely aware of our own personal and national histories. Having experienced the horrors of war, we understand its disastrous implications. But we also understand that the freedoms on which our companies have prospered come at a price. We have seen in all its stark braveness and undeniable beauty what the transatlantic community is able to accomplish when it is united. More often than not, it has created the mechanisms that have enabled the world to contain and ultimately defeat totalitarianism and inspire the spread of democracy.

There is much that companies, and chief executives, can and must do to build transatlantic bridges. Personally, I took over the European chair of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue in 1998. Working with more than 30 leading academic, research, cultural and commercial institutions in the U.S. and Europe, we strive to promote the emotional as well as intellectual dimensions of our relationship.

We sponsor projects and events ranging from student exchanges and concerts to research programs and economic studies. It is our firm belief that a continuous flow of information, in tandem with open dialogue, offers the most effective safeguard for the preservation of civilized values and the proper conduct of our businesses.

As the single largest transatlantic company, it goes without saying that DaimlerChrysler has an important stake in the partnership. With more than 100,000 employees based in the U.S. and nearly 200,000 in the European Union, DaimlerChrysler families are materially dependent on the well-being of the transatlantic relationship. But we are only part of a much bigger picture. More than 3 million Europeans work for affiliates of U.S. companies, while more than 4 million Americans work for U.S. affiliates of E.U. firms. That is symbiosis in action.

We share common security interests and, most importantly, common values. Together, we are equipped to confront the greatest challenges facing our world: the need to expand economic opportunity and build prosperity, spread democracy and eradicate poverty, disease and environmental degradation.

No one should pretend that the relationship between the U.S. and the E.U. has been without strain, or that there will be no rough patches in the future. Having said this, we must never lose sight of the huge potential that resides within a united Europe and well-disposed America working together as a force for good.

We should never let arguments of the moment obscure the much greater€¦quot;and more important€¦quot;positive opportunities for the future.

Jürgen E. Schrempp is chairman of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., and Stuttgart, Germany.

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