‘Denmark needs an open America’

Denmark and the rest of the world need the United States to keep the political free trade banner flying, writes Director General Karsten Dybvad of the Confederation of Danish Industry.

'Denmark needs an open America'
American voters will make their final decision between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Tuesday. Photo: Jewel Samad and Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Scanpix
When American voters go to the polls on November 8th, they will decide who will be the 45th president of the United States: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. 
The candidates are far apart on a number of important issues, but as far as trade is concerned, they have both made similar – and very worrying – statements.
Over the past 25 years, the United States has lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs. Those jobs have mainly disappeared because new and more efficient manufacturing technologies have been introduced. 
In the United States, this has led to a situation in which the lost manufacturing jobs have been replaced by new, but often lower paid, jobs in the service sector.
That is why many Americans – in contrast to the majority of Danes – do not feel that globalisation has benefited them. This has led to Clinton, and not least Trump, speaking very critically about free trade.
The main question from a Danish and European perspective is: will the next president engage with the world outside the United States and contribute to promoting an open and liberal world order or will he or she pull the country in a more isolationist direction and detach the United States from global challenges?
The answer is very important to a trading nation like Denmark. 
The United States is Denmark’s third most important market with exports that accounted for just over 101 billion kroner in 2015. 
Danish businesses have investments in the United States of more than 90 billion kroner. The United States has also traditionally been the standard bearer of free trade in an international context, not least within the World Trade Organisation.
Much is at stake for the Danish business community if the United States decides to take a more isolationist route.
When Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, he continued the free trade agenda that can broadly be traced all the way back to the Marshall Plan following World War 2. But this progressive line risks suffering a severe setback. 
The question is how bad the setback will be. Making protectionist statements is often popular in election campaigns. It makes politicians look decisive in the eyes of many voters – especially when the downsides are left unsaid. 
Experience shows that presidential candidates usually steer a more pragmatic course after the election. Because no one ever became richer through less trade.
For Danish businesses and their employees, we must hope that this will be true of the next president of the United States. Because Denmark and the rest of the world need the United States to continue to fly the free trade banner. 
This is true not least because we need to complete the negotiations of the trade agreement between the United States and the EU which has the potential to become the world’s most far-reaching free trade agreement in history.
It is important that Denmark exploits the strength of the European partnership and uses the EU to continue to fight for free trade and open competition. 
Denmark’s success and prosperity is based on the fact that we have been able to grasp opportunities abroad and generate growth and jobs at home. We need an open United States to come out fighting on the same side as us. 
Karsten Dybvad of the Confederation of Danish Industry. Photo: Sif Meincke
Photo: Sif Meincke
Karsten Dybvad is the director general of the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri – DI), an advocacy group representing some 10,000 Danish companies. This piece was originally published on DI's website and has been republished with permission. 

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Danish PM’s Trump remarks could signal new course: expert

Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has criticised Donald Trump over the US president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a move considered a “significant break” with the Danish government’s established pro-US foreign policy.

Danish PM’s Trump remarks could signal new course: expert
Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen gives a speech at Ejer Bavnehøj near Skanderborg, 5th June 2017. Photo: Bo Amstrup /Scanpix

During a speech given to mark the Scandinavian country’s Constitution Day Monday, Rasmussen said that Trump had made the “wrong decision.”

At the speech in Skanderborg, Rasmussen said that Denmark, though not perfect, was one of the world’s best countries, before quoting Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, who said “If we could all be like the Scandinavians, everything would be a lot easier,” reports broadcaster DR.

Rasmussen – who was one of the first European leaders to meet Trump when he visited Washington in April – then made the unusual step of criticising the US president.

READ ALSO: Danish PM: 'First and foremost I want a good meeting' with Trump

“Last week we saw a saddening example of how global leadership can be jeopardised. President Trump announced that he is pulling his country out of the global climate agreement. That is the wrong decision,” said the PM, who was himself a signatory to the December 2015 agreement, though his government was criticised at the time for cuts within green innovation and a lowering of national climate goals.

With Trump’s announcement, the United States joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not signed up to the accord – Nicaragua did not sign in in 2015 as it said the terms did not go far enough, and Syria due to its ongoing civil conflict.

Rasmussen added that he remained confident in global green energy despite the US withdrawal from Paris.

“The global movement in favour of green energy conversion is only going one way – forwards. And even though the United States is now choosing to become a member of the lonely club that is outside of the Paris Agreement, development will still continue within the USA. The president may be the world’s most powerful man, but not all decisions are made in the White House” the Danish PM said.

READ ALSO: Danish PM on Paris agreement: I can't dictate to Trump

Rasmussen noted that the states of New York, California and Washington have already established an alliance for continued commitment to the agreement.

But the Danish PM said that he considered the consequences of the Trump announcement for the value of international agreements to be an even greater concern that its effects on climate change.

“It is a decision that I believe is based on a misunderstanding of what the United States’ own international interests are. It is a decision that threatens to undermine the United States’ global leadership,” Rasmussen said.

The United States is giving other countries the opportunity to step into the role of global leaders by taking a backwards step on climate, according to the PM.

READ ALSO: Climate denier Trump has Danish minister worried

Rasmussen’s words represent a “significant break” with the consistently pro-US foreign policy position the Danish government has previously adopted, according to Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen.

Denmark has not ventured from American foreign policy positions since the end of the Cold War, Vedby Rasmussen told DR.

But the PM’s speech can be taken as a sign that Denmark is now prepared to align itself more closely to Germany, as well as France and the rest of the EU on foreign policy and security issues, the professor said.

“There is a significant break with the course followed hitherto when the prime minister says that what the USA is doing is bad and that Denmark does not want to be a part of it,” Vedby Rasmussen said.

“I cannot remember the last time a Danish prime minister criticised an American president in the Constitution Day speech – if it’s ever happened. This is therefore a clear signal that after years of alliance with the US and Britain, Denmark is now beginning to turn elsewhere to find our security and access to markets,” he added.