Economy, Finance and Markets

„We are focused on diplomatic outcomes that have a real effect for middle-class America“

Interview with Under Secretary Fernandez

In an interview with Atlantik-Brücke, Jose W. Fernandez, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, U.S. Department of State, details the Biden administration’s approach to economic diplomacy, transatlantic cooperation on supply chain issues, and how the US and Europe can work together vis-à-vis China. This interview is a follow-up to a virtual briefing with Under Secretary Fernandez and Atlantik-Brücke CEO Julia Friedlander on February 2, 2023.

In office since August 2021, Under Secretary Fernandez is responsible for the State Department’s bureaus and offices working on climate change, clean energy, health, and supply chain security. Under Secretary Fernandez is also the United States Alternate Governor to the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Prior to his appointment as Under Secretary, he was a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York, where he focused on mergers, acquisitions, and finance in Europe and emerging markets.

What are the Biden administration’s economic diplomacy objectives?

We are focused on diplomatic outcomes that have a real effect for middle-class America. This means upholding and enhancing international standards that protect American workers. It also means ensuring our industries can compete on a level playing field in both established technologies and emerging technologies. That is why we see the Transatlantic partnership as vital to those objectives. We have a long-established history of cooperation and shared values. We have our disagreements, just as all friends and family have disagreements, but our systems are built on the same foundations and the same international order to doing business.

How can the United States and Europe best work together to fix supply chain issues and achieve less vulnerability in the future?

I think an important first step was the vision set forth in the Declaration for the Future of the Internet (DFI) for an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet and digital technologies around the world. With these common principles and practices in place, we can begin the work of implementing the early warning system across entire supply chains. We look forward to deepening our cooperation with the EU through this initiative.

Both Europe and the United States are wary of China, yet are far from developing an effective shared China strategy. In Davos, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed many Europeans’ fears of Europe’s role vis à vis the US and China when he said: “Our [Europe’s] own policy should be, first of all, that we have the mindset that we want to be a player and not a playing field.” Are his worries unfounded? And what could be the first steps towards a common transatlantic approach to China?

I think it is the PRC — and not the United States — that looks to try and make Europe the playing field. We seek to work with Europe to support our shared values and defend the international rules-based order that we worked together to build. The PRC does not want to play by those standards. The PRC wants to change the international rules-based order in ways that favor it. It is the PRC that wants to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the PRC, thus leaving Europe in the middle and making it the playing field as Prime Minister Rutte called it. Cooperation is the first step to a common transatlantic approach. We are already doing that through the TTC and the U.S.-EU Dialogue on China. This is not the United States against the PRC. It is upholding our values and the international system we built against any entity that would seek to undermine them.

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