A Letter from the President
Dear members and friends of the ACG,
Just over two months into 2019, and the pace of events is as frenetic as ever! And, this year is proving to be just as volatile and uncertain as the last.
In my role at the ACG, my focus tends to be on the transatlantic relationship and on developments in Europe – and in the United States. But, from time to time, it makes sense to take a step back and look at the broader context within which the European-American relationship plays out. Given the important events that took place in the second half of February, I cannot help but think about wider issues shaping the global environment – and their potential impact on the transatlantic relationship.
The press and the foreign policy community have been focused on Asia in recent days because of Donald Trump’s fruitless meeting in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. But, the unprecedented airstrikes between India and Pakistan deserve greater attention than they have been getting, because the long-smoldering tension between these two South Asian powers could come to a head and result in war between two nuclear powers. Armed conflict in the subcontinent – with or without nuclear weapons – would have grave consequences for the entire region and for the world as a whole. Fortunately, the release of an Indian pilot by Pakistan seems to have deescalated the situation. For now.
But, a “hot conflict” in Asia is not the only concern. In mid-February, both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were in Europe, and one of the themes that they both raised was the nexus of technology and security. Both Europe and the United States appear to have fallen behind in the race to develop the next generation of 5G wireless technology. And, in today’s interconnected digital environment, the competition in this area is significant. Fast, reliable, and secure wireless platforms are essential for the development of autonomous vehicles and lifesaving medical equipment, but they will also influence manufacturing in the digital age.
Mentioning Huawei (the world’s largest telecom equipment provider and second-largest mobile phone manufacturer) by name at the Munich Security Conference, the Vice President called on “all security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems.” If anything, Europe and the United States should be working together to develop a common strategy to engage – and compete – with China in this field. NATO, the European Union, and even the United Nations (where Germany and France are jointly chairing the Security Council until the end of April) can serve as key institutions to strengthen a multilateral approach to developing a China strategy.
Without sounding alarmist, the race for the next generation of wireless technology is a technological arms race – and China is in the lead. On the periphery of the Munich Security Conference, I asked many European and American attendees if we are witnessing the “Sputnik moment” of this era. While some concurred that 5G and Huawei are changing the technological playing field and should serve as a wake-up call, many highlighted the complex global environment with interdependent economies and intertwined global supply chains. It will be difficult to compete with China on the world stage given the lead Huawei has in 5G technology. But, that does not mean we should give up.
These developments come at a time when confidence in the transatlantic partnership is at a low. Earlier this week, Pew Research Center released a study on how Americans and Germans view the bilateral relationship. Germans believe that the ties are worsening, while Americans remain somewhat more positive. The study also finds that although Americans and Germans differ on how they view the bilateral relationship, they have similar views when it comes to attitudes toward China and Russia.
In light of the common challenges facing Europe and the United States in the international arena, it is more important than ever to find areas where we can work together. One such area is in the development of a joint strategy vis-a-vis China.
How to manage the competition – and potential collaboration – with China has been a recurring theme at ACG events. Most recently it was a subject that was discussed when the ACG and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), in cooperation with Atlantik-Brücke, hosted an official side event at the Munich Security Conference featuring Olaf Scholz, Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance, and others.
As world affairs churn, the American Council on Germany continues to serve as an important forum for dialogue about the host of domestic and foreign policy issues affecting the transatlantic partnership. This month, we will be starting two new initiatives under the auspices of Deutschlandjahr, the Year of German-American Friendship. This coming weekend, the first of three InsightDeutschland Community Town Halls will take place in Boise, Idaho. More than 100 Idahoans will meet with a group of policy makers, diplomats, and journalists to talk about various issues shaping the transatlantic partnership. Later in the month, in Dallas, Texas, the ACG – in partnership with the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius – is kicking off a series of discussions about social cohesion in Europe and the United States.
We will also continue to bring our members a range of programs and activities looking at these issues and more – all for the betterment of transatlantic ties at a time of pronounced volatility.
With best regards,
Dr. Steven E. Sokol
The Annual Meeting of the Members of the American Council on Germany will take place on Wednesday, March 20. Members are invited to attend the meeting followed by a speech by Hon. Philip D. Murphy, Governor of New Jersey and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany. For more information, please email email@example.com.
Upcoming ACG Events
Events in NYC
On March 7, the ACG will host a discussion and luncheon with Moneim Eltohami, Deputy Head of the Division USA, Canada, and Mexico in the German Federal Ministry of Economics. He will discuss economic relations between the United States and Germany. More information.
That evening, the ACG, the German Academy New York, and Pew Research Center will host a discussion and reception on “Mutual (Dis)Affection? How Germans and Americans See One Another and Their Relationship” with a welcome by Andreas Fibig, President and Chairman, German Academy New York; a presentation from Jacob Poushter, Associate Director, Pew Research Center; and a discussion featuring David Gill, Consul General of Germany in New York (1992 ACG Young Leader) and Ambassador Cameron Munter, CEO and President of the East West Institute. More information.
On March 13, the Council and Cultural Vistas will host a political salon with Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. She will discuss the gender policies and priorities in German politics. More information.
Events at Warburg Chapters
On March 7, the Chicago Warburg Chapter will host a discussion and luncheon with Bundestag Member Alexander Kulitz (FDP), who will discuss the challenges and opportunities in transatlantic relations. More information.
On March 14, the Denver Warburg Chapter will host a discussion and dinner with Constanze Stelzenmüller, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. More information.
On March 25, the Dallas Warburg Chapter will host a panel discussion on German politics and the end of the Merkel era with Dr. Christian Martin, Professor of European and Mediterranean Studies and Max Weber Visiting Chair in Germany and European Studies at NYU; Juliane Schäuble, U.S. Correspondent for Der Tagesspiegel; and ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol. More information.
On March 8-9, 2019 in Boise, Idaho, the ACG will host InsightDeutschland Weekend Town Hall: A Conversation with Idahoans about the German-American Relationship, as part of the Year of German-American Friendship, with support from the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University. The goal of the town hall is to engage new audiences in a conversation and a genuine exchange of ideas about the transatlantic relationship, highlighting the deep political, economic, and social ties and shared issues that impact the citizens of our countries both globally and locally. The InsightDeutschland Weekend Town Hall will consist of a series of interactive discussions, commencing on Friday evening and concluding on Saturday afternoon. A diverse array of policymakers, diplomats, politicians, journalists, business and civil society representatives will engage the attendees in a dialogue about current issues – domestic and international – confronting Germans, Americans, and the transatlantic partnership. To register and view the schedule of activities, please click here.
The ACG will implement two more InsightDeutschland Weekend Town Halls in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 11-12, 2019 and in Phoenix, Arizona on October 4-5, 2019. For more information about these town halls, please visit the ACG’s website here.
As part of Deutschlandjahr, the ACG is collaborating with the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius to convene German and American opinion leaders through a series of events to discuss how to confront social inequality in the United States and Germany. Given the political polarization, fragmentation of society, and growing social inequity on both sides of the Atlantic, this series will look at how to overcome the fraying of the fabric of society. Titled "Social Disruption: How to Confront the Fraying Social Fabric and Social Inequality in Germany and the U.S.?" this new initiative will will engage local government representatives, local community foundations, private foundations, and social enterprises. The goal of the project is to highlight the work and activities of local social entrepreneurs and foundations in their local communities and to share best practices.
The first of these events will take place in Dallas, Texas, on March 25 with Dr. Christian Martin, Professor of European and Mediterranean Studies and Max Weber Visiting Chair in Germany and European Studies at New York University, and Juliane Schäuble, U.S. Correspondent for Der Tagesspiegel, in conversation with ACG Board Member Dr. Nina Smidt, President, American Friends of Bucerius and Director of International Strategic Planning and Business Development at ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.
For more information on this collaboration with the ZEIT-Stiftung, please visit the ACG's website here.
On February 7, the American Council on Germany and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation welcomed the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Dr. Katarina Barley for a luncheon and discussion about the challenges digitalization poses to democratic institutions and practices. Speaking before more than 60 members and friends of the ACG, Dr. Barely cited the manipulation of data, influencing of public opinion, and hate speech. She suggested that external controls on companies needed to establish trust without infringing on user freedom, saying companies don’t need all the date they collect, there must greater transparency on how data is used, and when data is combined and processed by algorithms, there must be guidelines in place that allow people to understand how algorithmic decisions are made.
On February 11, the ACG partnered with the Deutsches Haus at New York University for a panel discussion with Dr. Joyce Mushaben, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Comparative Politics and the first Professor of Global Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Dr. Christian Martin, Max Weber Visiting Chair in German and European Studies at New York University. Together they covered a wide range of topics including Chancellor Merkel's legacy, her influence on gender politics and her role within the CDU, as well as the waning popularity of the SPD and the future of the grand coalition.
On February 13, members of the ACG gathered at AllianceBernstein to hear from Burkhard Balz, a member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank and former member of the European Parliament (CDU). Following an introduction by ACG Board member Dr. Alan S. MacDonald, Mr. Balz discussed the slowing economic growth in Germany, institutional changes in the EU making the euro area more stable and able to weather upheavals like 2010, and the potential economic impact of Brexit and Italy’s economic challenges.
On February 16, the American Council on Germany (ACG) partnered with the American Institute on Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) and Atlantik-Brücke to hold an official side event on the periphery of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) focused on the nexus of economic policy and national security. More than 50 politicians, government officials, journalists, and opinion leaders from Germany and the United States attended the event, which was carried out in cooperation with Atlantik-Brücke. ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol co-moderated the event with AICGS President Jeffrey Rathke. The event featured German Federal Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Co-Chair of the Green Party Annalena Baerbock, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Bundestag member and Coordinator for Transatlantic Cooperation Peter Beyer (CDU).
30 Years Since the Fall of the Wall
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, setting into motion the unification of Germany. To recognize the significance of this historic event, each month the American Council on Germany will feature individuals as they reflect on life before and after the fall of the Wall.
ACG Board member Ambassador Richard W. Fisher (1977 Young Leader) served at the 12th President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas from April 4, 2005, to March 19, 2015. He was an Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury during the Carter Administration and later served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, overseeing the implementation of NAFTA and helping negotiate the bilateral accords for China’s and Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization. As a young man, he traveled to Germany several times with the American Council on Germany. Here is reflects on some of those experiences:
As a Young Leader alumnus of the class of 1977, I was selected as an American delegate to the XII American-German Conference on East-West Issues in 1983. At the closing-night dinner, the Governing Mayor of West Berlin and future President of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, for some reason asked me to “come with me.” His office had a window that jutted out to overlook the Wall. “Young man,” he said, “I may not live long enough, but you will see this wall come down. Freedom cannot be forever repressed.” Thus began my Forrest Gump-like adventure with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
The Chairman of the ACG in 1989 was former Senator “Mac” Mathias, who that year was in seriously failing health. He called me to say he was too ill to attend the Bundestag ceremony celebrating the Wall’s demise. Could I represent the Council in his place? Without hesitation, my wife, Nancy, and I booked a flight to Berlin through Frankfurt that very evening, arriving in time to join Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the steps of the Bundestag, facing a huge crowd of torch-bearing Germans in the throes of celebration. I stood behind the Chancellor; photos of the event show me trying to peek out around his large frame.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, an aide to the Chancellor whispered to me that should we wish, Nancy and I were invited to join the Chancellor at a reception in East Berlin with some GDR leaders. We jumped at the opportunity. A car materialized, and we were whisked to East Berlin.
At the reception, a woman introduced herself to me in halting but still intelligible English.
“Are you an American?” she asked.
“Yes, I am.”
She explained that she was a member of the East Berlin City Council.
“I love American literature,” she said.
“Really? And how do you have access to our literary work?” I asked.
“Ah, I have had it smuggled in.”
Then, turning to look at Nancy, she said, “Is this your moll? Do you carry a rod?”
“Your English, madam,” I replied, “is most interesting. Tell me, which American authors have you been reading?”
Her answer astounded and delighted me: “Well, only one. Mickey Spillane. I know I will love the freedom to read more American literature.”
This moment is indelibly etched in my mind. To think that Mickey Spillane and his signature detective character, Mike Hammer, ignited a love for Western literature in this East German official brings a grin to my face every time I think of November 1989.
Before we left Berlin to return home, Matthias Wissmann, a dear friend and a member of the Kohl cabinet (and a Young Leader in 1982), handed me an envelope dated November 9. It contained a piece of the Wall.
When I returned home, I had it framed and gave it to my son Anders with a note saying: “A reminder of the absurdity of tyranny and the ultimate power of the will to be free.”
Anders became an ACG Young Leader in his own right, as did my younger son James (aka Miles). To this day, they have a passion for freedom - and for Germany.
Call for Applications
The ACG is currently seeking applications for the DZ BANK Fellowships on Transatlantic Business and Finance. The fellowships allow American and German academics; practitioners from banking, business, and government; and journalists to conduct research on key issues influencing the transatlantic economy, including business, finance, trade, banking, fintech, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. The fellowship covers transatlantic airfare (economy class), domestic travel (economy class), and a monthly stipend of up to $7,500, for a minimum of one month and a maximum of three. Fellows have the opportunity to be in residence at the ACG’s office in New York City and/or travel within the United States or Germany, as long as their research includes a transatlantic component.
The ACG is currently seeking a detail-oriented, reliable self-starter to be a Program and Administrative Assistant. This person will help with planning policy discussions and conferences, handle general office-related tasks, including database management, conducting research online, making travel arrangements, and answering telephones.
The ACG is grateful for the generous support of its corporate members. We are pleased to highlight the latest news from selected members.
BASF Pioneers Fashion Revolution with Sustainable Fabrics
Chemical company BASF collaborated with fashion label Seven Crash and downstream fabric maker San Fang to create a collection of futuristic streetwear outfits using inventive material solutions. BASF provided a significant breakthrough in fashion with the development of its Freeflex and Haptex fabrics, which allow for eco-conscious manufacturing without sacrificing design freedom. These materials have wide applications for everything from athletic clothing to formal evening wear, and the streetwear that was displayed can easily be transitioned from day to night. The collection, called Quantus, was unveiled at the Autumn/Winter New York Fashion Week 2019.
BMW and Daimler Join Forces for the Future of Transportation
German automakers BMW and Daimler have unveiled a joint venture to invest more than $1 billion to develop ride-sharing, hailing, and parking services. The transportation world is becoming ever-more saturated with innovative technologies, with similar partnerships underway between Ford and Volkswagen, Uber and Google, and General Motors and Honda. BMW Chief Harald Krüger said of the initiative: “The cooperation is the perfect way for us to maximize our chances in a growing market, while sharing the investments.” Mr. Krüger, who will be honored at the ACG’s McCloy Awards Dinner on December 4, sees this as a first step toward major changes in the market. The two companies also are expanding their cooperation on autonomous vehicles.
Siemens Foundation Introduces Training Program to Address Skills Gap
The Siemens Foundation is launching a training program to advance STEM middle-skills workforce development, in order to better address the skills gap for young people in the United States. In partnership with Siemens Building Technologies and the Association of Controls Professionals (ACP), the Siemens Foundation will develop community college training programs and career pathways for local school systems to target specific workforce development needs. Shifts in personnel demographics and increased income inequality led the Foundation to focus on the economic and educational challenges young adults face. Their new strategy will focus specifically on reaching members of traditionally underserved communities and providing them with the opportunity to excel in the workforce. The Siemens Foundation will invest more than $1.6 million over a three-year period, with the program set to launch in metro Atlanta in late spring. This project is part of the SPARKS (STEM Partnerships to Advance Real-World Knowledge and Skills) Initiative, an effort to extend excellent STEM training programs across industries such as smart infrastructure, health care, and advanced manufacturing.
JPMorgan Chase Commits $3 Million to Benefit Veteran Entrepreneurship
JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently announced increased support for Bunker Labs, a nonprofit organization that supports active duty and veteran-owned startups. JPMorgan Chase’s $3 million philanthropic commitment will fuel Bunker Labs’ mission to assist veteran entrepreneurs in all 50 states by establishing chapters that provide access to education, resources, and business networks. February also saw the launch of Bunker Labs’ 2019 Muster Across America Tour, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, in Washington, DC. Muster DC aims to showcase veteran businesses, with a pitch competition and opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs to connect with the business community across the DC area. The Bunker Labs announcement is part of JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward Program, which will invest $150 million in support of women, minority, and veteran-owned small businesses to more accurately represent the diversity of American entrepreneurs and visionaries.
Lilly Named One of the World’s Most Ethical Companies
Ethisphere, a corporate ethics organization, has named Lilly as one of the world’s most ethical companies of 2019. This is the third year in a row that Lilly has made the list. Lilly has a long history of ensuring ethical corporate conduct, yearly publishing its Red Book — an internal compendium of corporate policies and ethical expectations — which all employees are trained on. Chairman and CEO David Ricks emphasized the responsibilities of a pharmaceutical company in a society, noting, “We must act with integrity to earn society’s trust and the privilege to be in — and stay in — this business.”
The Jumbo Jet Turns 50 – A Golden Milestone for Boeing and Lufthansa
Boeing’s signature 747-100 jumbo jet has turned 50, a milestone in aviation technology. First taking flight on February 9, 1969, the 747 would become the largest jet the world had ever seen. Lufthansa was the first European airline to offer its passengers rides on the 747, second in the world only to PanAm. One journalist at the time wrote that passengers enjoy a “celebrative, champagne mood” upon entrance of the jet. Airlines could offer multiple decks and expanded cabin room for coach, business, and first classes. Boeing’s engineering coupled with Lufthansa’s hospitality launched a new era in the experience of air travel. The Boeing 747 and Lufthansa logo remain icons of the sky.
Save the Date: December 4, 2019
McCloy Awards Dinner Honoring BMW AG and Pfizer Inc
It isn’t too early to reserve a seat or table at the American Council on Germany’s 27th Annual John J. McCloy Awards Dinner on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, in New York City honoring BMW AG and Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management, and Pfizer Inc and Ian C. Read, Executive Chairman of the Board.