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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Inaugural Luncheon of the French-American Business Council
Washington, D.C., June 19, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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(As Prepared for Delivery)

Minister Strauss-Kahn, Ambassador Rohatyn, Ambassador Bondurant, Dana Mead, Michel Bon, distinguished founders of the French-American Business Council, thank you for inviting me to share your inaugural lunch.

There is always one problem with speaking to such a distinguished and serious body as this, particularly when you are preceded by other speakers and an excellent meal.

Either you can give short, witty remarks -- and miss the chance to say something important; or you can ponder aloud the fate of the world -- and risk inducing in your audience indigestion, sleep or both.

There is, however, a happy compromise, and that is to talk about serious matters, but to do at least some of it in French -- because, as I am sure my friend the Minister would agree, it is simply not possible to sound dull in French.

[English translation below]

D’abord, je remercie Dana Mead pour son aimable présentation. Je me réjouis de vous voir à la tête d’un groupe aussi important. Dana a déjà fait une carrière distinguée dans les plus hautes institutions publiques et privées de notre pays. L’année dernière, il a fait un travail superbe en tant que Président américain du "Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue." Je suis sûre qu’ici aussi, il fera de grandes choses.

Il y a deux cent vingt ans, nos pays ont noué une amitié profonde basée en partie sur le caractère extraordinaire, et les nobles idéaux, de notre premier chef-de-mission à Paris, Benjamin Franklin.

De Franklin à Pamela Harriman, nous avons la tradition de choisir des géants de la vie américaine pour nous représenter à Paris. Avec Felix Rohatyn, cette tradition continue.

Si jamais un ambassadeur pouvait servir d’interprète entre deux civilisations brillantes, fières et parfois obstinées, ce serait vous, Felix.

Si jamais un conseil se réunissait, sage, pragmatique et comprenant le mystère, si mystère il y a, de la coopération entre nos pays, ce conseil serait bien le vôtre.

Sur l’Internet, à la télévision, dans nos écoles et nos journaux, vous trouverez des millions de sites, organisations et idées qui partagent l’expression "Franco-Américain."

Mais vous n’y trouverez ni "global rivalry" ni "Anglo-Saxons perfides."

Parfois, dans les couloirs de la diplomatie, cela s’oublie; mais nous partageons un héritage fondamental, nous les Américains et les Français, innovateurs en art et sciences, pionniers de la démocratie et de la justice.


[English Translation]

First, I want to thank Dana Mead for his kind introduction. I am delighted to see you heading such an important group. Dana has already had a distinguished career in the highest public and private institutions of our country. Last year he did a superb job as U.S. Chair of the "Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue." I am sure he will do great things here as well.

Two hundred and twenty years ago, our countries became fast friends, owing in part to the exceptional character and noble ideals of our first chief of mission in Paris, Benjamin Franklin.

From Franklin to Pamela Harriman, it has been our tradition to choose giants of American life to represent us in Paris. This tradition is continuing with Felix Rohatyn.

If ever an ambassador was able to serve as interpreter between two brilliant, proud, and sometimes stubborn civilizations, you, Felix, are that ambassador.

If ever a council was wise, pragmatic, and understood the mystery--if it is a mystery--of cooperation between our countries, it is your council.

On the Internet, on television, in our schools and newspapers, you will find millions of sites, organizations, and ideas that have in common the words, "French-American."

What you will not find in them is either "global rivalry" or "perfidious Anglo-Saxons."

Sometimes, in the corridors of diplomacy, this is forgotten; but we share a fundamental heritage, we, Americans and French, innovators in the arts and sciences, pioneers of democracy and justice. [End Translation]


It was said once -- probably by someone across an ocean or channel somewhere -- that Americans and French have difficulty getting along because we are too much alike. I, for one, see that as high praise.

For if you come right down to it, when the world needs principled leadership for peace, prosperity and freedom, and against aggression and terror, time after time our nations have acted together.

The reason is that our world views are too much alike, and our hopes and dreams too similar, to prevent the differences we sometimes have from undermining the kinship we must never lose.

For that reason, I made it a priority as Secretary of State -- beginning in Paris on the second day of my first official overseas trip -- to build solid relations with my French counterparts.

I have been very pleased with the response, and the commitment we have achieved to work together as much as possible and to settle our differences in a way that reflects our close friendship.

I am pleased as well that this brilliant new Council of French and American leaders has come together because there is so much to gain, in diplomacy and commerce as well as education, culture and other fields, if we do even better and cooperate even more.

The private sector has a critical role in building and maintaining ties in two areas. First, within Europe, by sustaining momentum toward a continent that is whole, prosperous and free; and second, across the Atlantic, in strengthening our economic relations, so that they may serve as a model of openness and shared prosperity around the globe.

This job is critical, for if we fail, if we act as rivals, not as partners, the world financial system will weaken, and workers, consumers, investors and businesspeople will pay a terrible price.

In looking to the future, we draw confidence from the past. For in Europe, the United States and France have stood together through peace and war, prosperity and hardship, periods of amity and times of disagreement.

After 1945, we were partners in rebuilding the economies of Western Europe. Since 1989, we have worked together to help extend in Central and Eastern Europe the rule of law -- whether in its Napoleonic or Anglo-American form.

Throughout we have worked together, not always smoothly but with tremendous success, to develop the network of institutions that has brought strength and prosperity to Europe itself -- and resilience to the bonds between Europe and North America.

In April, America reaffirmed its commitment to a new NATO. And in Berlin in May, President Clinton called for a new Transatlantic Partnership for the 21st century. In the months ahead, as we prepare for a series of important summits in 1999, we will be having a conversation with France and our other partners. That conversation will be about how we can best shape a future in which Europe will always be able to count on America, and America will always be able to count on Europe.

In looking ahead, we see three central tasks: completing the integration of Europe; strengthening the partnership between Europe and North America; and keeping our alliance prepared for whatever challenges we may face.

These tasks are neither American nor French, but common tasks, in which both our nations must play a central and indispensable role.

Together, we must continue our joint efforts to build a world of greater security, opportunity, tolerance and law. Flying NATO missions over the Balkans. Defusing tensions in southern Lebanon. Working to substitute negotiation for nuclearization in South Asia. Striving to bring a new Africa more fully into the world economy.

Both in Europe and beyond, our nations also share a responsibility and an interest in being leaders for economic opportunity; and we depend on the participation of bold and visionary business partners, such as those represented here.

And though America and France have chosen different means to this end, we have both sought to build economies at home that are diverse and dynamic as well as sustainable and sound. And we are leaders for a global trading system that is increasingly fair as well as free.

Recently, we have had a run of successes in finding pragmatic ways to promote our shared commercial interests.

Our new Air Services Agreement will fully liberalize our civil air markets within five years.

We worked together to conclude the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, responding to a central concern of many American firms -- and setting an example for the world.

And at last month’s U.S.-EU Summit, the United States and France worked with other EU members to open new possibilities for economic cooperation.

We adopted the Trans-Atlantic Economic Partnership, an important initiative for trade. Through it, we will reduce trade barriers between our nations and promote global trade liberalization. We will give special attention to the commerce of tomorrow in areas such as biotechnology, Internet business, and telecommunications. And we will seek to raise standards for environmental protection and worker rights.

We were also able to bridge our differences over sanctions against countries that threaten our security and flout international norms. This has been one of the most contentious issues in U.S.-French and U.S.-European relations, and while I do not expect the May understandings to end the debate, I believe they form a sound basis for progress.

By taking the high ground of common ground on this difficult issue, we were able to take a negative in our relations and squeeze positive results from it, in the form of strong new rules to deter investment in illegally expropriated property.

Those rules will enhance protection for European and American investors all over the world.

At the same time, the understandings related to the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act will further strengthen our already close cooperation in countering terrorism and opposing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

I know that the understandings reached do not fully satisfy either side. Some in France and other EU countries believe they did not go far enough. And quite a few in this country believe that we have gone too far.

For these understandings to succeed, both sides must faithfully implement their provisions.

By doing so, we can build a pattern of frank exchange and pragmatic cooperation that will serve us well in all our trade relations.

For example, I expect you are all familiar with our current difficulties over American export of genetically-modified corn products to France. Let me assure you that I am not going to get into the science of it -- but let me also say that it is clearly in the interest of both our nations and our exporters, and not just in agriculture, that we have a regulatory process in place that is straightforward, predictable, and fair.

The road ahead is one in which both sides must fulfill commitments and maintain solidarity toward common goals. Both sides must commit to a policy of no surprises. And both must prevent small differences from interfering with or lessening our cooperation on what really matters.

The kind of global gamesmanship of which our diplomatic communities so often suspect each other is simply passe, for this high-speed, high-tech world is no longer zero-sum. And either we will secure its benefits for all nations, or we will surely all fall victim to its perils.

Both our nations must participate in lowering trade barriers -- or neither will escape economic distortions and debilitating regional trade wars.

And both of us must stand together for peace and human rights, and against the forces of terrorism and aggression -- or neither of us will be immune from the threats they pose.

Finally, we must learn the lessons of our shared history and be innovators and pioneers who challenge norms and look fearlessly to the future, not remain trapped in the past.

Today, that means building a trans-Atlantic partnership between governments and businesses to promote our common interests, from stable growth in Eastern Europe to recovery in Asia and trade liberalization worldwide.

It means supporting each other as we build a Europe that is strong, integrated and open -- from maintaining a robust NATO to seeing the European Union expand and ensuring that European Monetary Union succeeds.

And it means encouraging cooperation between governments and the private sector, to keep us pointed toward the future, whether the subject is bits, bytes or movie rights.

That may sound like a tall order. But as Napoleon once said in response to a letter, "You write to me that it is impossible; the word is not French." I would say that it’s not American, either.

Ours are peoples who once fought and won desperate battles together and who today end wars and build space stations together.

We share a love of liberty that is rooted in our twin revolutions; and a respect for the rule of law that grows out of our experience with democracy’s triumphs -- and its discontents.

And we are seldom accused of thinking too small.

At the end of his long life, Jean Monnet wrote that a great leader "is one who can work for long-term goals which eventually suit situations as yet unforeseen."

Monnet and his colleagues from Europe and America laid the groundwork 50 years ago for the security and prosperity we enjoy today, in a world of great power amity and technological advance they could never have imagined.

Let us take up the challenge to forge for a new generation the structures which will carry us safely through the unforeseen century ahead.

I am proud to have this group as companions on that path. I congratulate you on your vision. And I look forward to working with you to reach our goals together.

[End of Document]

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