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US envoy gets on his bike to back trade deal

Published: 18 Jul 2014 11:22 GMT+02:00

Ambassador Brzezinski's audacious endeavour, aptly dubbed the T-TRIP, was an initiative designed to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a US-EU free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated.
 
As Brzezinski and his crew of burly bikers arrived at the Brooklyn Brewery in Stockholm's Hammarby Sjöstad, marking the end of their Gothenburg-Stockholm journey, they were greeted by family holding home-made "welcome home Daddy" signs, all decorated with shiny colours and sparkling glitter.
 
"It was such an awesome trip," he told The Local.
 
"We met business people everywhere and listened and learned about what their expectations, hopes, anxieties and uncertainties are."
 
 
The 49-year-old son of Polish-born former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski explained that one of the reasons behind the decision to venture outside the comfort of the cities to promote trade was because "trade has local roots but global reach". He especially recalled meeting two women - one trying to build a pig farm, the other a dairy farm.
 
"I remember their dreams and their passion to build a business off the land," he said. "But they are worried and anxious, can they compete?"
 
Despite Sweden's modest population size, the Ambassador pointed out that the country is the 12th largest investor in the United States, making it by some measures the largest trade partner per capita.
 
 
"It's an important catalytic country that can set a great tone in terms of trade and investment," he told The Local.
 
"Also, Sweden is a wise voice on behalf of the West. People listen when the Swedes have an opinion, and Swedes being for the EU-US free trade agreement would be good. And I believe that they are."
 
One of the possible reasons why the rest of the world chooses to listen to Sweden, Brzezinski observed, was the fact that it is historically regarded as a trading country.
 
"Look at the cities we were in: Alingsås, Mariefred, Falköping - those are historical trading cities," he said.
 
"Trade is a part of this country's history and part of this country's future."
 
When faced with questions regarding the concerns that have been raised about potential threats to the environment or impairment of the food product standard, the Ambassador responded firmly.
 
"I will say this: I would never support a free trade agreement that would degrade or diminish the environment."
 
"I am a passionate environmentalist and that's why I'm for the agreement."
 
He added that US President Barack Obama was of the same opinion and would not agree to lowering standards on labour or consumer product safety.
 
 
Brzezinski stated that he thinks Sweden can benefit from TTIP in a lot of ways, especially since there are a lot of small to medium-sized business owners in the country who would be able to expand trade while contributing to trans-Atlantic unity.
 
"That's the kind of world that I want my five-year-old daughter ultimately to be an adult in," he said.
 
During the 580-kilometre biking trip, the Ambassador and his crew had an eventful few days in terms of the wildlife and the weather.
 
"On day one a huge snake went right in front of us. It was one of those poisonous snakes in Sweden," he told The Local.
 
"The hardest day was day four, we'd gone through three hours of rain and truck after truck was going by us. That was easily the toughest moment."
 
Despite the hardships and being the slowest one in the group due to his security detail being much more physically suited for biking such a long distance, Brzezinski was happy with the outcome.
 
"We had so many high-five moments and moments that kind of brought us together. I really appreciate my team for keeping a kind of a pace that I could manage." he said.
 
 
Finally, the Ambassador offered a piece of advice for people wanting to follow in his wheel tracks and bike across Sweden. 
 
"Stay off the main roads, go on the side roads and you will see beautiful Sweden."
 
"Whether the mountains (sic) around Örebro or the fields around Mariefred, or just leaving the port city of Gothenburg, you will see remarkable topography. Get out there and bike."

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Sanna Håkansson (sanna.hakansson@gmail.com)

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