Panicking will not help us, says new US business leader

Hendrick Bourgeois.jpg

The path to sustainable growth is complex and measures taken will have an uncertain outcome, but this is a time for responsible action not panic, the newly elected American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) president, Hendrik Bourgeois, told EURACTIV on the eve of the EU-US summit.

American businesses are very much concerned and carefully watching the unfolding of the eurozone crisis, urging political leaders to adopt measures that are significant and impactful to stem the crisis, said Bourgeois, who is also vice president in charge of European Affairs at US-based General Electric.

Markets have been unimpressed with measures taken so far partly because there is a lack of appreciation of the importance of these initiatives, but also because there is a recognition that these are difficult to implement.

“But I don’t think that there has been an impact yet on the level of investment or the commitment to invest in the Europe,” he added.

Speaking on the eve of the 28 November EU-US Summit in Washington, Bourgeois stressed that the slightly positive trend of trade between the 27-nation EU and the US will not dramatically change as “everybody knows that the economy in Europe is not going to grow significantly.”

The Belgian national, however, also offered a reassuring prognostic for the EU recovery: “There is opportunity in Europe and there are means in Europe to come out of this crisis. We have the tools, we have the technology and the market participants.”

The US is still the EU’s largest trading partner for both good and services. According to Eurostat figures released last week, the EU-27 has posted a trade surplus with the US of €35 billion in the first half of 2011.

But there is more potential growth if the transatlantic economic partnership delivers awaited results, concedes Bourgeois.

The Transatlantic Economic Council meeting today (29 November) in Washington must advance on removing non-tariffs trade barriers, eliminate taxes on imports and exports between the EU and the US, and come up with an agenda for transatlantic jobs and growth, Bourgeois said.

“The current tariffs between the US and the EU are low. However, in light of the extremely important volume of trade, even small reductions or total elimination of small tariffs would generate significant savings for obvious reasons,” added the General Electric vice president.

Letter of intent on electric vehicles standards

Harmonising regulation in the health sector or delivering on standards of electric vehicles, for example, could boost trade and growth, he argued, noting a letter of intent is expected to be signed today in Washington on electric vehicles standards.

“If we can achieve this, the transatlantic partnership will achieve something that the internal market in the EU has still not achieved, because we still have different plugs here in Brussels than we have in the UK for instance. The symbol of this would be quite important for other sectors,” he stressed.

To read the interview in full, please click here

Hendrik Bourgeois was speaking to EURACTIV's Managing Editor Daniela Vincenti

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