"Contribute to growth and job creation in Denmark". That's how the first sentence begin in the performance contract I signed before going to Washington as Denmark's new ambassador to the United States. The days of ambassadors striking diplomatic deals in dark corners of a smoke filled room are long gone. At our embassy, assisting Danish and American companies to do business is a cornerstone in our daily work - alongside the high politics of foreign relations and national security.
Is it a big challenge for a small country of only 5.7 million inhabitants to have a substantial commercial footprint in the U.S.?
Yes and no.
Yes, because we have to work hard to show and to convince partners that Danish companies have the right products to sell at competitive prices. We have to remind stakeholders, that investments in Denmark make sense. I am very proud that Forbes just a few months ago announced that Denmark is the best country in the world to do business in.
In reality, I am in a very fortunate position. Denmark is a small country. Yet, the Danish economy and its private sector are geared towards markets abroad - in particular the United States. The U.S. is Denmark's largest trading partner outside the European Union. The third largest globally just after our two neighbors Germany and Sweden. And closing in. Danish exports of goods to the United States were almost 8 billion USD in 2015. That is an impressive increase of almost 28 percent compared to 2014. This is good news for Denmark.
And it is good news for the U.S.
As a testimony to the growing trade relations, the embassy has, in cooperation with the Confederation of Danish Industries, published a brochure about the commercial ties between Denmark and the U.S. This publication examines the contribution Danish companies' make to the U.S. economy in terms of trade and job creation. Furthermore, it highlights key sectors where Danish companies are global leaders and where opportunities should be explored for the mutual benefit of our economies.
This is a great story to tell.
Danish companies have already invested heavily in the U.S. - they have established more than 650 subsidiaries and offices here. And they are responsible for the creation of more than 60,000 jobs in America.
Still, the potential is even greater.
A few weeks ago Denmark's Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, launched a new "growth plan" with 24 export, investment and innovation initiatives. The ambition is to increase Danish exports to and investments in the U.S. as well as American investments in Denmark.
In 2016, Denmark will launch a number of new export promotion activities in areas like energy and environment, life sciences, and food and agriculture. Furthermore, we will continue our work within the defense industry, design and the maritime sector.
Where can we make a difference? Let me give you a couple of examples:
Offshore wind energy off the Atlantic coast - here I see a perfect match of American potential and ambition and Danish knowhow and solutions. World leading Danish wind energy providers - like DONG Energy - are ready to contribute to the development of offshore wind on the Atlantic coastline. The conditions there are even better than in Denmark were wind-power in 2015 generated a staggering 42% of our electricity production.
Water management in California - severe drought haunts California. You can come a long way in solving this challenge through a more effective water management system. We have developed very efficient systems in Denmark. I accompanied Minister for Higher Education and Science Ulla Tørnæs to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago when she inaugurated the "Water Technology Alliance". This is a public-private partnership, where a number of Danish companies in the water sector are making their expertise on water available to their American colleagues. This California-based alliance serves as the foundation for a close partnership between Danish and American companies, public bodies, and education and science institutions in the water sector.
Of course, it is a two way street.
Denmark certainly also has a lot to learn from the U.S. The unique combination of networks, world leading academic institutions, capital and businesses in Silicon Valley, for example, is a huge inspiration to both Danish start-ups and established companies.
In California I witnessed first-hand the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley. I had the pleasure of congratulating CEO of LEGO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp when he was awarded the 'Danish American Frontier Award 2016' for his leadership and entrepreneurship at the helm of one of Denmark's largest companies. LEGO is in many ways the embodiment of constant innovation.
We are determined to strengthen our cooperation on innovation with U.S. partners through the Danish innovation center in Silicon Valley. We need to do more in order to connect Danish entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley's ecosystem.
Many more - and just as good examples - could be highlighted. Trade and investment in pharmaceutical products and advanced welfare systems will be needed when our two countries are confronted with the challenges of lifestyle diseases and an aging population. Consumers demand quality food- and agricultural products, areas where Denmark has a longstanding tradition. As a world leading maritime nation, Denmark has a lot to offer within shipping and maritime investments. More can be done within the defense sector, building on years of cooperation. And the demand for Danish design, furniture, clothing and other consumer products, is expected to grow even more in the U.S.
So could we wish for more? The answer is always yes.
There is still a significant untapped potential in transatlantic trade. According to studies, the economic boost from an ambitious transatlantic free trade agreement - TTIP - would be experienced widely not just among EU member states but equally on this side of the Atlantic with opening of European markets for American exports. More exports create growth, support jobs and increase income. At a time where global competition is fierce and economic growth is sluggish, this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
All in all, I was not surprised to see growth and jobs at the top of my performance contract. The importance of the commercial relations between Denmark and the Unites States cannot be underestimated. Our two countries have long standing and deep political ties. Still, the presence in the U.S. of Danish companies and vice versa really is the true backbone of a close relationship and bilateral diplomatic cooperation.