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View All Transcripts: Ask the Ambassador | Ask the State Department

Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

U.S. Ambassador to France Craig R. Stapleton, discussed France and the United States' close ties and issues of interest to the transatlantic and bilateral relationship.

Craig R. Stapleton, U.S. Ambassador to France
Craig R. Stapleton
U.S. Ambassador to France

Event Date: 5/3/2007

Lieselotte from Germany writes:

What do you regard as the main priorities within the bilateral relations between the United States and France? Are there general aspects which ought to be improved?

Ambassador Stapleton:

France and the U.S. enjoy a healthy and robust relationship. The United States and Europe share a rich and intertwined history. Our economies are intertwined, as are our future destinies. We share the same fundamental values, and have the same fundamental goal of spreading prosperity, democracy, and the rule of law throughout the world. Continued dialogue is essential to strengthening our understanding and resolve. Europeans are not shy about speaking up when they disagree with America and Americans are not shy about expressing their views either. Friends and allies debate and sometimes disagree, but at the end of the day, we come together to pursue common interests with mutual respect. Economically, the United States and the EU share the largest trade and investment relationship in the world. Two-way flows of goods, services, and foreign investment exceed $1 trillion per day. U.S. and European companies are also the biggest investors in each other's markets; total stock of two-way direct investment is over $1.6 trillion. We work with France and the EU to create conditions that enhance mutual and sustainable prosperity, both in the trans-atlantic area but also around the world. There will always be places where we could improve things, but overall I would say our relationship is in pretty good shape.

Aimee from France writes:

What actions is the government taking to increase cultural exchange between France or other European countries and the United States? Being an exchange student here has made me see that we need more exchange between our countries, is there any encouragement coming from the current administration, and if so, can we someday look forward to a scholarship similar to that which we have for exchanges with Germany?

Ambassador Stapleton:

Roughly 600,000 foreign students study in the U.S. each year, many thousands of them from France. In addition to the premier exchange program, Fulbright, we support a number of bilateral educational programs and exchanges that further mutual understanding; stimulate students and teachers' interest for reciprocal study and understanding of each other's culture and language; develop the use of new technologies, and promote long-term, structured partnerships between French regional school academies and U.S. Boards of Education. Aside from these official exchanges, there are many other agreements and exchanges between French and American institutions -- the Embassy's Public Affairs Section can help you find programs of interest in your area.

Vivian from Kentucky writes:

How is the United States going to prepare for a change in the French government?

Ambassador Stapleton:

We look forward to working with the new government of France, no matter which of the two candidates is elected as president. The United States and France each have a long tradition of smooth transitions of power following democratic elections; our mutual interests don't change significantly with changes in administrations or governments. For example, our extensive economic ties, our close cooperation on counter-terrorism, and our work together on other issues will continue regardless of who governs our two countries. The relationship between our two nations is a partnership between two stable and vibrant democracies, blessed with well-educated and diverse citizens who freely choose the people who lead them.

Jurate from Lithuania writes:

Opinion polls show, that anti - Americanism in the "old Europe" has reached high levels and doesn't seem to go down. Do you consider anti - Americanism in France to be a serious threat to U.S.? If yes, what damage could it possibly inflict on U.S. foreign policy and/or national security? What does U.S. embassy in France do to change the image of U.S. in the eyes of the French?

Ambassador Stapleton:

All of us in the Embassy engage the French public every day -- when I give a formal policy speech at a major event, meet with students to hear their concerns, talk to journalists who cover key issues in our relationship, or when our more junior staff address school classes on topics such as everyday life in America, or when we arrange for an American expert to speak to French audiences on topics such as everything the U.S. is doing for the environment. On the topic of climate change, we engage tirelessly with the French media and public. Recently, for example, we hosted a specialist from the Congressional Research Service who spoke on a broad range of environmental issues. It was an opportunity to reach a French audience to show them that Americans care deeply about the environment and the U.S. government is deeply concerned about the challenge of global climate change. We agree that human activity contributes to global warming and we are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we have made tremendous investments aimed at reducing emissions both at home and abroad; our efforts to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are producing results that stand up to those of any nation in the world. We have an important message to get to the people of France, and we take advantage of every opportunity to make our point.

As to anti-Americanism, I would only say that it is important to distinguish between anti-Americanism per se and opposition to some U.S. policies. I have traveled extensively in France and never felt a bias against the United States. Given the cultural, economic, educational, political and simple people-to-people ties between the U.S. and France, it's hard to argue that the French are anti-American. Nor do I believe they have forgotten that American soldiers died alongside French soldiers in two world wars. But I don't doubt that there are differences in opinion about how to deal with certain issues, even if our fundamental values and goals are the same.

Martin from Germany writes:

Do you consider France to be an essential partner in the war on terror? Are there any different ways of coping with the global terrorism in general?

Ambassador Stapleton:

Yes. We cooperate very closely in the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons and France is a partner in our counter-terrorism efforts in other regions. French officials fully recognize the threat to French and U.S. interests posed by radical, transnational Islam; our bilateral cooperation is ongoing, intense, tactical as well as strategic, and military as well as civilian. The fight against terrorism is a struggle to uphold universal values and principles, those same inspired principles outlined in our Declaration of Independence or France's Declaration of the Rights of Man. Much more unites America and France as citizens of the world than divides us. The key point for all of us to remember is that global terror affects all of us, and only together can we defeat it.

Kelsie from Texas writes:

Do the French people truly have an overall negative perception of the United States? How could we improve this perception, and what is the State Department doing to strengthen not only political, but also cultural ties between the United States and France?

Ambassador Stapleton:

No, I haven't found that the French have a generally negative perception of our country. They may disagree with our policies, but they are a key international partner and ally. When the Americans and the French want to remind ourselves of the nature of our relationship and of the ties that bind us, Lafayette is one of those who come to mind. If Lafayette, a man of letters and of the Enlightenment as well as a Romantic, were to look at the state of the relationship today, he would be pleased. American-French relations are in much better shape and on much firmer ground than a casual glance at our occasional moments of less-than-perfect harmony would indicate. All of our programs at the Embassy, whether classic outreach or student exchange programs or any other of dozens of programs, are aimed at strengthening the already strong ties between our two countries.

Craig from Washington, DC writes:

How important is it for ambassadors to speak the language of the country in which they serve? What kinds of initiatives are available to support more foreign-language training and education?

Ambassador Stapleton:

It's important. Speaking the local language helps us understand the culture and mind-set of the nation in which we serve, and gives us access to those who do not speak English. It's also viewed as a sign of respect. All of us benefit from the time that we put into improving our language skills, and I personally enjoy using French at every occasion I can. I think every ambassador would like to be able to speak the language of the country in which he or she serves with near-native fluency -- for practical reasons this is not always possible. The Department of State has a language training program for many of the diplomats it sends abroad, and once employees arrive in an Embassy or Consulate, many of them do as I do, and take advantage of Embassy language training programs as part of their days.

Stephan from Utah writes:

Do you like your job?

Ambassador Stapleton:

This is the best job in the world, and I believe you'll find that nearly any Ambassador would tell you the same. I have the opportunity, together with my team, to work with our close ally on key bilateral and multilateral issues and to reach out to the French public on a wide range of topics. I've had the chance to visit every region of France and to speak with people from all walks of life, and I have to tell you, the French genuinely like Americans, even if they occasionally disagree with some of our policies. The French and the Americans have been close friends for more than 200 years -- and it's great to be able to contribute to writing additional chapters in the story of our friendship.

Ryan from Pennsylvania writes:

How did you get started working in international politics with the United States Government? I'm extremely interested in this as a career, and want to know where I should head.

Ambassador Stapleton:

I've always been interested in learning about other countries -- their people, their culture, and their history. I was fortunate to spend time in France as an exchange student, and I firmly believe that exchanges of all kinds are an important means to explore and appreciate other nations. So what I recommend to you is to go out and learn as much as you can -- and if you are interested in becoming a diplomat, consider taking the Foreign Service Exam.

Tait from Denver writes:

What sports/teams do you still play/do/follow?
What sports/teams do Sarkozy, Bayrou and Royal still play/follow/do?
What sports/teams, if any, do you play/do or talk about with each of these candidates? Can you comment on how these types of things emerge in your daily professional life and capacity as Ambassador?

Ambassador Stapleton:

As you may know, I'm a great baseball fan, and it won't surprise you that I follow the Texas Rangers with special interest. I haven't actually discussed sports with any of the presidential candidates, so I can't comment on their preferences, but soccer -- called "football" -- is very big here. The French also follow American basketball; there are several French players in the NBA. What I can tell you is that sports diplomacy is a great way for us to reach young, active audiences -- I'm a firm believer in taking advantage of each opportunity to tell the American story!

Djilali from France writes:

Hello, Do I need a biometric passport for a student visa?

Not necessarily, it depends on when your passport was issued. Our Consul General in Paris recently held a webchat that answered this question as well as many other questions about visas and travel to the United States. I invite you to read the transcript of this chat at http://france.usembassy.gov/chat/041307/transcript.htm and to go to the Consular pages on our Embassy website at http://france.usembassy.gov/index.htm

Megan from Oregon writes:

If it is at all possible do you think that you could explain to me more about what the State Department does?

The State Department's mission statement is to "Create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and all of us in the Department support the U.S. government's foreign policy objectives by building and maintaining strong bilateral and multilateral relationships, by using diplomatic tools to protect our nation, our allies and our friends against the transnational dangers and threats from tyranny, poverty, and disease, and by combining our diplomatic skills and development assistance to foster a more democratic and prosperous world integrated into the global economy.

Twila from Indiana writes:

In your opinion, how important is it for young Americans to study foreign languages and why?

Ambassador Stapleton:

The best way for Americans to be able to communicate our messages of freedom around the world is to be able to communicate in the language of the people. In order to show respect, we've got to understand their language and show them we care about their culture. Learning a language is a gesture of interest, it really is a fundamental way to reach out to someone and say, I care about you. This is why I spend time every day working to improve my own French language skills -- and why I would urge every young and not-so-young person to learn a foreign language. Knowing foreign languages opens doors and hearts.

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