Remarks at U.S.-Spain Council Opening Dinner

James B. Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
July 23, 2010

Well, thank you, Senator, for those kind words. I don’t need to tell this audience about the critical leadership role that Senator Menendez plays on the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate not only on the issues about which he is so passionate – and I think we do welcome your passion, Senator – but also as a firm believer in the importance of diplomacy and engagement around the world, which is so critical to our mission. And so it’s wonderful to have a champion like that in the United States Senate. He plays a critical role, as I said, not least of which is none of us would be here tonight standing before you without the support of Senator Menendez to allow us to take on these tremendous opportunities.

I also want to pay tribute to Juan Rodriguez Inciarte and all the leadership of the U.S.-Spain Business Council. This is a tremendous and important initiative because one of the things that I’ve learned over many years of being in government is that as important as the government-to-government relations are, the broader ties and the broader contacts that we have between our people, our societies, our businesses are so critical to strengthening and providing a firm foundation in these relations. And so the work that the senator and the two co-chairs have done in making this all possible is really critical. It makes the broadest difference over the long term.

It’s great to be here with Spanish friends and colleagues. When the World Cup started, I was very worried about the diplomatic consequences of this because I said everybody’s going to have somebody they’re for and they’re against. And so I suggested that we have a no-rooting rule during the World Cup so that we wouldn’t get into who we favor and who we don’t favor. But I have to tell you honestly that in the finals, notwithstanding these efforts of us all to be very disciplined and restrained, the cheering through the quarters could be heard quite widely. And so congratulations to our Spanish friends. It really is an enormous achievement and we’re all very proud for you and we hope someday that we too will someday hold that cup.

The senator said that the Secretary would like to be here, and believe me, she definitely would like to be here. She is right now about 40,000 feet over Alaska having just finished a series of meetings in Vietnam after an extraordinary series of events, including an important bilateral meeting in South Korea with Secretary Gates and a series of engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan which really reflect the diverse challenges that we’re facing around the world. But as the senator said, what we find in so many places is that our partnership with Spain is critical to dealing with those issues. And I will come back in a minute, but she sends her best wishes and her strong regards for this. She feels a very strong tie here from her own experience, and I’m delighted that there are so many of my colleagues from the State Department who are with us tonight. They’ve been mentioned earlier, but I do want to pay tribute to Bob Hormats and Jose Fernandez, Arturo Valenzuela, Phil Gordon, and so many others who I’m sure I’m missing, as well as our good friend from the White House, Dan Restrepo, who has played an absolutely critical role in so many of the issues that we’re dealing with.

This is an all-government effort, as you’ll hear from the very distinguished group that the Business Council has lined up for you tomorrow. And I think it is critical that you’re hearing from a full range of officials from our Administration that will, I think, make clear to you how much importance we attach to this relationship, and the fact that not only are we interested in a bilateral relationship, but how much we see Spain as a partner on the broader sets of issues. Whether it’s in the G-20 or in the EU Spain is a country that we know we can count on, that we can work together with, and we really can advance a very important agenda that we all have. And we’ve seen this so clearly in the 18 months of the Obama-Clinton Administration.

It’s – I don’t need to tell you about the depth of the economic relationship – you all know this far better than I – but in addition to$16 billion in two-way trade in 2009, the United States is now the largest investor in Spain. And in the last decade, Spain has become a critical investor in the United States. I haven’t checked the latest figures, but I know that last year, at one point, Spain had risen to third on the list of investors in the United States. It’s a critical set of relationships and, as you all know, investment relationships for the long term, they are the things that really build the long-term ties. And so you’ll be hearing a lot tomorrow about how we can move forward to develop even closer commercial and economic ties.

And I’m particularly excited about the areas that we are working on because they’re the issues of the future. We’re not talking about industries or technologies that are in the past, but whether it’s renewables or transportation, these are the kinds of things that guarantee that we’re going to have a long-term relationship on the cutting edge economic issues that allow us, not only the business sector, but in our R&D communities, to work together on the big issues of our time.

And we’re also working together to deal with the very challenging economic environment. You’ve heard that from the previous speakers. We know the challenges that Spain faces. We face them here as well. How, on the one hand, to stimulate economic growth and create jobs for our people while at the same creating a stable fiscal future for all of our environment. The fact that we are a partner in the G-20 reflects a real sense of the importance that Spain plays in this global effort as well as your own national efforts to deal with this economic crisis. This is something that’s as important to us here and, as you know, the President is taking strong steps to assure that we tool and prepare our economy for a vibrant and healthy future. And this really does provide the basis for a strong partnership for us going forward.

I think that you’ve seen over the last 18 months the importance that we attach to the relationship between the United States and Spain. I was privileged to participate in President Obama’s meetings with President Zapatero last year, and the warmth, the personal ties, between the two as well as the strong ties between our two countries is very evident. And I can tell you, having had the opportunity of being in a lot of bilateral meetings over the years, that that sense of personal connection is so strong, and probably leave this to Dan to tell you a little more about this, but I had this strong sense of two partners who were working together across a broad range of issues. And not only in that bilateral meeting here in Washington, but at the G-20 summits and at the Nuclear Security Summit, we’ve been working together to address the big issues of our time.

And it’s been especially poignant over the last six months that Spain has had the presidency of the EU and for me, personally, to have the chance to work with Foreign Minister Moratinos, an old friend, a good friend, a partner of the United States for a long time, on the big issues that we are working on in the transatlantic relationship, in Europe, and around the world. I’ve spent quite a lot time with the foreign minister over the last six months. We were recently together in the Balkans at a critical meeting that he convened on the future of the Balkans, which was the kind of visionary leadership that Spain has shown in so many other times not only in helping Bosnia move forward on its transatlantic future, but the whole of the Western Balkans, which is so critical to the future and stability of Europe. And for a long time, Spain has been at the core of this transatlantic relationship. I’m glad to see my good friend Ambassador Gardner here.

I am very honored to have been a part, 15 years ago, of helping to develop the Madrid Declaration, which played such a critical role in that transition of our developing a long-term relationship between the United States and the EU, and the critical role that Spain played in cementing that relationship with the European Union, as well as having had a great partner for more than a decade with Javier Solana who, both as Secretary General of NATO and then as the high representative at the EU, represented the highest and best of Spain contributing to the broader sets of agendas that we have.

Spain plays a critical role, a global role in development issues. It’s one of the great, one the leading donors globally. It’s played a magnificent role in its support for humanitarian assistance in Haiti, in its strong commitment at the L’Aquila Summit last year on food security where Spain pledged almost $700 million, and its spearheading the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.

There’s always been a deep interest in Spain in the Middle East and the support and our partnership and trying to move forward the common agenda for peace and security in the Middle East and trying to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution. We’re enormously advantaged by having the foreign minister there who’s had such great experience in the region.

The role that Spain has played in hosting the U.S.-EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial that Attorney General Holder and DHS Secretary Napolitano participated and your strong support for forging a partnership in dealing with the common challenge of terrorism, something that you have experienced, as have we here in the United States, which has brought us closer together, and perhaps not most importantly, but very poignantly, in our common efforts in dealing with the challenges of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And you’ve heard earlier about the enormous contribution that Spain makes to that effort, both military and non-military. The recent deployment of 500 additional military personnel brings Spain’s contribution up to about 1,500 troops in Western Afghanistan. Its pledge to increase police trainers for the Afghan national police and its critical support for crucial Afghan-led integration efforts, such as the London Conference pledge on Afghan Reintegration Trust Funds and the support for economic and agricultural development are all part of that strong commitment that Spain has made as part of our broader NATO effort.

This is a transatlantic effort that we are working on together. Vice President Biden had the chance to personally thank the Spanish soldiers who had served in Afghanistan during his visit this past year. And as I said, not just Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, Spain has participated in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, helping to build a strong and vibrant society there.

And you can look around the world and see the Spanish contributions in UNIFIL, Lebanon, in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, in stabilization forces in Bosnia, training Somalia security forces in Uganda. All of these are an example of a country which, as our British friends say, “Punches above its weight,” which understands that security is not just being about consuming security, but contributing to the security of others. And Spain is always there when you need to do this.

And as you’ve heard, the presence of Arturo Valenzuela and Dan Restrepo here is a reflection of the fact that we work so closely together on our common agenda in Latin America. And given Spain’s tremendous credibility and respect in the region, we can think of no better partner to move forward on our agenda of development, democracy, human rights, and prosperity, of social inclusion, and the values that we all share. So it’s hard to imagine a better partnership.

There’s always a lot of worry in Europe and with our European partners about whether Europe has fallen down on the list of American priorities and whether we don’t care as much as used to. The problem is you’re not in the headlines; it’s because the relationship is so strong and is so good. We don’t have deep conflicts. We don’t have terrible things that get above the fold.

But I want to assure you that from the perspective of the President, Secretary Clinton, and all of us here at the State Department, we don’t take this for granted. We know how important it is to have partners. We know that there are no big challenges that the United States faces that we can meet alone, that we need countries that have the capability and the will to be our partners to deal with this. And Spain is there when we need it. So thank you for being part of this and I hope that we will continue to build – going forward an even stronger partnership for the future.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)