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Amb. Alan D. Solomont

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El Huffington Post: A Bold and Innovative Conversation Between the U.S. and Spain

Posted: 06/08/2012 10:57 am

Times of economic crisis call for innovation and bold action. The launch of El Huffington Post represents yet another way that today's global challenges are pulling us closer in partnership. This American-Iberian joint venture brings together a United States phenomenon, the Huffington Post, and a Spanish media institution, El Pais, in an exciting new forum for grappling with the tough issues of the day and our aspirations for tomorrow. Thanks to the international reach of both organizations, this collaboration will contribute to better informed and richer conversations across the Atlantic, throughout Europe and with Spanish-speaking communities around the world.

We are living through very difficult and challenging times, with much attention on Spain as this country struggles to get its economy moving again. Spain's government has taken unprecedented measures to address the crisis, and we all feel the frustration felt in Spain when financial markets do not respond more positively. In the United States, we are concerned about the Eurozone crisis and about Spain's predicament specifically.

Why is Spain so important to the U.S. economy? The United States is Spain's number one trading partner outside of the EU, and in the last few years, Spain was among the fastest growing sources of foreign direct investment in the United States. Spanish companies operating in the United States are creating jobs for American workers in exactly the sectors that President Obama has targeted for job growth. Likewise, Spain benefits in the same ways when American companies invest here, creating jobs and opening up new economic possibilities.

The United States appreciates the tough decisions the leaders of Europe face, and we understand the difficult sacrifices that ordinary Spanish citizens are making in this economic crisis. Our own country has just exited our own economic crisis, and millions of Americans are still looking for work. Although the macroeconomic solutions will come from Madrid and other European capitals, the United States Embassy here in Madrid is benefiting both the U.S. and Spanish economies by helping American companies create jobs in Spain and encouraging policies that will protect and attract U.S. investment, an essential part of a stronger and healthier Spanish economy. We call this work of our diplomatic mission in Spain, the practice of "economic statecraft."

In a speech last October to the Economic Club of New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described economic statecraft as how we "harness the forces and use the tools of global economics to strengthen our diplomacy and ... how we use diplomacy to strengthen our economy at home." The Secretary has placed economic statecraft at the heart of our foreign policy.

At the Embassy in Madrid, we practice economic statecraft in four ways. We work closely with Spanish authorities to ensure that U.S. companies in Spain can compete on a level playing field, market their products and grow their businesses here. We collaborate with partners in the Spanish government, and with business organizations, to improve the broader investment climate in Spain. We promote trade between our countries in order to boost U.S. exports to Spain, in accordance with President Obama's National Export Initiative. We support economic recovery in both the United States and Spain by promoting foreign direct investment by Spanish companies in the United States. Next week, we are launching a special "business" section to our Embassy's webpage to help Spanish and U.S. businesses learn more about opportunities in both countries.

Our economic cooperation builds on a common historical and cultural heritage, and it is through our strong partnership that we will face the challenges of the future. Next year we will celebrate a truly remarkable date: the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's exploration of Florida. When this former soldier from Valladolid, Spain, set foot on the coast of Florida, Ponce de Leon started a relationship between Spain and the United States that continues today. Through last month's visit of Governor Rick Scott of Florida and delegations from Pensacola and Bradenton later this month, there is already energy building for more interaction and interconnectedness. These exchanges show how deeply connected we are through our shared history, values and even language. There are over 50 million Americans who speak Spanish, more than the entire population of Spain, and my wife Susan and I are trying to increase that number by two.

The ancient Greeks used the agora, a public space serving civic and commercial purposes, to strengthen their democracy. What El Huffington Post offers is a modern-day agora, a virtual marketplace of ideas and conversations, a catalyst for solving the toughest issues of the day, and a bridge across the Atlantic. What the contributors offer are the fresh insights needed to hear and discuss the most difficult challenges we face together. What readers offer is energetic dialogue. It is a dynamic illustration of the power of collaboration between countries, social media and individuals. Allow me to say Felicitaciones/Enhorabuena to El Huffington Post, its contributors and its readers. Let the conversations begin!

 
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