For 375 Years, Close Partners

Fredrik Reinfeldt and Barack Obama 2009

Innovative – entrepreneurial – audacious – these words apply to this region just as much today as they did 375 years ago.

On an early spring day in March 1638, Swedish and Finnish settlers arrived near present-day Wilmington, Del., and established the tiny settlement of New Sweden. Led by Capt. Peter Minuit, who a decade earlier had purchased from the Dutch what we now call Manhattan, these early pioneers braved a dangerous voyage across the Atlantic to found a colony that included parts of what are now Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

With innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and audacity, those early migrants planted the seeds of a deep-rooted partnership that continues to flourish to this day. The settlers built Fort Christina near downtown Wilmington, constructed churches that still stand in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and introduced the log cabin to North America – an innovation that has become symbolic of the American frontier.

Their colony existed for only 17 years, but it marked the beginning of nearly four centuries of strong ties between Sweden and America. Today, more than four million Americans claim Swedish ancestry, and nearly every Swede can tell you stories of someone in his extended family who migrated to the United States.

If the words innovative, entrepreneurial, and audacious characterized those early Swedish settlers, then these three words even more aptly describe today’s partnership between Sweden and the United States. Bound by common values, our two countries share the same interest in addressing some of the globe’s most critical challenges.

In a world of ever closer economic linkages, Swedish and American innovation and partnership have translated into job growth and greater prosperity for both our countries. About 1,200 Swedish companies in the United States employ nearly 176,000 Americans. Similarly, in Sweden, American trade and investment account for roughly 72,000 jobs. Sweden, like the United States, is synonymous with innovation.

It is widely known that IKEA and H&M are Swedish creations, but so is Spotify. With new technology being a driving force in both of our economies, the United States and Sweden are also working closely together to find the important balance between Internet freedom and data privacy and security.

The United States and Sweden also work closely together to address climate change and air pollution through international climate negotiations, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and the Arctic Council. We are also achieving tangible results at home: Carbon emissions in the United States have fallen by 8 percent since 2006 – more than any other country – and Sweden has pledged to have no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

Entrepreneurship is at the heart of our efforts to promote environmental sustainability. Corporations, research facilities, citizen groups, schools, and other institutions across the United States and Sweden are employing new approaches to build cleaner communities in a cost-effective and sustainable way. To highlight such efforts, our two governments established the Swedish-American Green Alliance.

The United States and Sweden agree that transatlantic economic relations should be further deepened to promote jobs and growth. While our two economic areas are well-integrated, there is still a lot of potential for further cooperation. This is why we are extremely pleased that the United States and the European Union will pursue a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the aim of boosting economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Finally, the United States and Sweden share an intrepid vision of our world defined by peace, security, and respect for human rights. Relative to its economic size, Sweden gives more overseas development assistance than any other country. Likewise, in total money spent, the United States is the world’s largest single contributor. At the same time, the U.S. and Swedish militaries have worked closely together to promote peace and security in Afghanistan, Libya, and Kosovo. Across the globe, we sound a common voice against human-rights abuses and corruption, and work tirelessly to advance the rights of women, children, and ethnic minorities.

Those early settlers could have hardly known that New Sweden would give birth to the vibrant and dynamic relationship that the United States and Sweden enjoy today. Today, 375 years later, our interests have never so closely meshed. And this provides a firm foundation to pursue an audacious vision of a better tomorrow, with the United States and Sweden being highly effective partners in addressing global challenges.

Mark Brzezinski is the US ambassador to Sweden, and Jonas Hafstrom is Sweden’s ambassador to the United States. This piece first appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Photo credit: Gunnar Seijbold/Government Offices of Sweden

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