President Obama with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt following… (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty…)
PRIME MINISTER FREDRIK REINFELDT: So it’s a great honor and pleasure for me to welcome President Barack Obama to Sweden. As you all know, this is a historic event, the first bilateral visit ever by a president of the United States to Sweden.
We have had a very constructive meeting. There are many reasons why the relationship between the United States and Sweden is special. Many Swedes emigrated to the United States at the end of the 19th century. And somewhere around 4 million Americans today claim Swedish heritage.
Business times flourish between our two countries. Sweden is, in fact, one of the largest investors per capita in the U.S. And we have considerable American investments in Sweden. The United States is the most important foreign employer in our country.
Our societies are founded on the same core values -- democracy, respect for human rights, and rule of law. All these values are at the heart of the deeds of Raoul Wallenberg. And I’m looking forward to the possibility to pay tribute to Raoul Wallenberg this afternoon, a man who chose not to be indifferent and who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.
The United States and Sweden also share ambitions when it comes to the opening of global trade flows. Trade has laid the foundation of Sweden’s wealth and prosperity. Around 50 percent of our GDP comes from export. And Sweden strongly supports open trade regimes, and in particular a free trade agreement now being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. This will not only bring more jobs and growth to both our continents, it will also strengthen our political and economic partnership.
We also touched upon the economic situation in Europe and in the United States. I mentioned that the crisis has hit countries in Europe differently, Sweden being one of those countries that has done relatively well during the crisis. But the need for structural reforms exists throughout Europe to stay competitive and at the same time preserving all our welfare ambitions.
We have also discussed climate change and its consequences. It just represents one of the most important challenges to our societies. Sweden has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 1990, while GDP at the same time has increased by 60 percent. So there is no contradiction between economic growth and the protection of environment.
I welcome President Obama’s ambitious new climate action plan. U.S. emissions have, in recent years, already fallen substantially, and your new plan will help United States to make even further reductions. We have agreed to work together in the international climate negotiations to make sure that other countries also are prepared to cut their emissions. This is the only way that we can protect our environment.
We have discussed a few foreign policy issues as well, the most topical of course being the situation in Syria. Sweden condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria in the strongest possible terms. It’s a clear violation of international law. Those responsible should be held accountable.
Sweden believes that serious matters concerning international peace and security should be handled by the United Nations.
But I also understand the potential consequences of letting a violation like this go unanswered. In the long term, I know that we both agree that the situation in Syria needs a political solution.
So thank you once again, Mr. President, for coming to Sweden. I look forward to our program together this afternoon.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you so much.
“Hej.” (Laughter.) I’ve just exhausted my Swedish. (Laughter.)
Thank you so much, Prime Minister Reinfeldt, for your very kind words in welcoming me today. I’m proud to be making the first ever bilateral visit by a U.S. president to Sweden.
It’s only been a short time, but I already want to thank all the people here for the warm hospitality that’s been extended to me and my delegation. This is truly one of the world’s great cities. It is spectacularly beautiful. The prime minister tells me that the weather is like this year ‘round. (Laughter.) And so like so many who come here, I feel Stockholm in my heart, and I’m sure that I’ll want to bring back my family to have a visit sometime in the future.
I’ve said before that it’s no accident that democracies are America’s closest partners. And that includes Sweden. And that’s why I’m here today. As free peoples, we recognize that democracy is the most effective form of government ever devised for delivering progress and opportunity and prosperity and freedom to people. And as two of the most innovative economies on Earth, we cherish that freedom that allows us to innovate and create, which is why we’re leaders in science and research and development, those things that pioneer new industries and broaden our horizons.