May 27, 2016 - 9:00am

Postcard from Germany: Strengthening Transatlantic Ties at Hannover Messe

Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue greets Ulrich Grillo, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Photo credit: Christian Kruppa

I recently returned from a trip to Germany where the Chamber took part in the 2016 Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology fair, and later met with the business community in Munich. The United States was this year’s “Partner Country,” and President Barack Obama was the first sitting U.S. president to attend the fair in its seven-decade history. The U.S. delegation also included Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, among others. 


I participated in the Hannover Messe in 2014 as a keynote speaker.  Following that trip the Chamber worked hard to convince the administration of the value for the United States to partner with Germany on the Messe this year, as such a partnership would offer U.S. officials – and the Chamber – with an ideal venue to promote the transatlantic relationship and the positive outcomes of expanded trade. We’re pleased that such efforts came to fruition.

Our objective was to demonstrate the Chamber’s enduring commitment to a robust transatlantic relationship at a time when bilateral tensions persist and the global security and geopolitical situation appear increasingly tenuous. My op-ed “Renewing the Transatlantic Alliance” speaks to the three issues on which I focused during the visit:

  1. The imperative of securing a robust Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with the understanding that getting the agreement’s substance right is more important than concluding the negotiations within any particular timeframe.
  2. The vital importance of uninterrupted cross-border data flows for U.S. and European businesses of every size and sector.
  3. A pro-growth European energy strategy that promotes responsible development of Europe’s own resources, enhances the continent’s diversity of supply, and emphasizes efficiency.

After the opening ceremony, I joined two dozen CEOs at a dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama. We had an in-depth and thought-provoking conversation on a range of topics, including the need to stimulate economic growth via investments in digital and physical infrastructure; the world’s energy challenges; the role of the private sector in addressing the migration crisis; and, of course, TTIP.  I also had the chance to catch up with executives of a half dozen American Chambers of Commerce in Europe. As you can imagine, TTIP and the need to promote growth on both sides of the Atlantic were topics of significant discussion.

The Chamber and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) also organized a bilateral business summit on “The Future of Transatlantic Relations.”

During the summit, BDI President Ulrich Grillo and I presented a joint TTIP declaration to the participating U.S. and European officials. The message was straightforward: We seek a substantive and commercially meaningful accord, and the substance of the agreement matters more than its timing.

Public worries about trade and globalization were much discussed in Hannover and Munich, including the need to improve government programs to assist workers displaced by technological change, trade, or other factors — and to coordinate these programs more effectively with the business community.

The trip was a strong reminder that America has no partner in the world like Europe. Our shared values and shared interests are without peer. The Chamber is committed to keeping this unique alliance for prosperity and security strong.

About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.