Blog article interview guest:
Robert W. Gerber
Director for Europe,
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

Quick Key Points

  • Amcham Finland has good relationships with American government officials while remaining politically independent.

  • The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing trade policies and strategies for the President of the United States, conducting trade negotiations, and coordinating trade policy with the executive branch.

  • The Office of the USTR acknowledges Finland’s unique opportunities for partnership and trade expansion in industries such as new technologies, life science, and manufacturing.

  • The U.S. aims to deepen and and balance the U.S.-EU relationship through a process launched last summer following a meeting between Trump and EU Commissioner Juncker.

  • The United States, the EU, and Japan are engaged in trilateral discussions to jointly respond to China’s unfair trade practices, which include forced tech transfers and market-distorting state subsidies.

  • Amcham believes many Finnish companies still need to be better prepared to manage these challenges, and we will follow up with USTR as Finland’s EU presidency term continues and any formal negotiations get underway.

Amcham Finland has good relationships with American government officials while remaining politically independent. We enable our community to learn directly from decision-makers and understand the inner-workings of complex, sometimes outwardly confusing situations related to trade and economic policy.

We recently welcomed Robert Gerber, Director for Europe, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) at Amcham Finland’s offices to discuss American positions on key trade policy issues, as well as outcomes of his meetings with Finnish policy leaders and thoughts on the Presidency of the EU Council. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing trade policies and strategies for the President of the United States, conducting trade negotiations, and coordinating trade policy within the executive branch. Robert and his USTR colleagues engage frequently with counterparts in the European Commission in Brussels and with representatives of EU member state governments.

Robert was excited about his visit, acknowledging Finland’s unique opportunities for partnership and trade expansion. He explained, “We are exploring ways to strengthen the U.S.-Finland trade and investment relationship. There are, as you know, great opportunities for U.S. and Finnish firms to partner in new technologies, life sciences, and manufacturing, just to name a few examples.”

The U.S.-EU trade and investment relationship is the largest in the world. Robert described that the United States aims to deepen and balance this relationship through a process launched last summer following a meeting between President Trump and European Commission President Juncker. During his visit to Helsinki, Robert briefed Finnish officials and diplomats on U.S.-EU trade talks, a matter of high importance due to the start of Finland’s EU presidency term in July.

“Hearing their perspectives and goals and deepening our bilateral communication has been extremely valuable. I met with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, and Ministry of Transport and Communications.”

Speaking about current efforts to bolster overseas trade, Robert told us, “We are holding a series of meetings with European Commission experts to address trade barriers of a non-tariff nature that, if resolved, could yield more competitiveness, growth, and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.” In addition, U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer has informed the U.S. Congress that the administration intends to launch formal negotiations with the EU on a free trade agreement.

Alongside bilateral discussions, the United States, the EU, and Japan are engaged in trilateral discussions to jointly respond to China’s unfair trade practices, which include forced tech transfers and market-distorting state subsidies. These practices undermine the market-based system and hurt both U.S. and EU companies, and Amcham believes many Finnish companies still need to be better prepared to manage these challenges.

In conclusion, Robert noted, the Trump administration views Finland as a vital partner in terms of the overall U.S.-EU trade relationship.

Amcham Finland will follow up with USTR as Finland’s EU presidency term continues and any formal negotiations get underway.

*Please note that Robert has since departed his position at the Office of the USTR and now holds a position at the U.S. Embassy in Iceland.