Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 29, 2011 – 2:33 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. It is wonderful to welcome Prime Minister Rutte and his delegation to the White House.
Part of the reason we wanted to make this meeting happen is because we have no stronger ally than the Netherlands. They consistently punch above their weight on a whole range of issues related to global security. Prime Minister Rutte has been a strong supporter of NATO, as was his predecessor, and we’ve been able to work together on a whole host of issues. They’ve made an enormous contribution to Afghanistan; they made a very important contribution to Libya; on anti-piracy. On a whole host of issues, the Netherlands consistently is supportive of efforts for our joint security, and we’re very grateful for that.
In addition, despite the fact that the Netherlands doesn’t have a huge population, they are one of our most important trading partners. The economic relationship between our two countries is deep; it is broad. We are one of the largest investors in the Netherlands. The Netherlands, in turn, is one of the largest investors in the United States. And so, given both of our interests in promoting commerce, growth and jobs, it is very important that we coordinate with the Netherlands.
On that score, obviously, we’re both concerned about the situation in the eurozone, in which the Netherlands has a very significant voice. And I’m going to be interested in hearing from Mark his views in terms of how this issue gets resolved. Because, as I said yesterday during my meeting with Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso, we have a very deep interest here in the United States in making sure that that process is resolved, so that we can continue to grow our economy and put people back to work here at home.
In addition, we’re going to be talking about a wide range of global issues, from the Middle East to the situation in Iran, where we both share a deep commitment to making sure that Iran abides by its international obligations, including in the nuclear area.
On that score, I think it’s important for me to just note that all of us, I think, are deeply disturbed by the crashing of the English embassy — the embassy of the United Kingdom in Iran. That kind of behavior is not acceptable. And I strongly urge the Iranian government to hold those who are responsible to task. They have a responsibility to protect diplomatic outposts. That is a basic international obligation that all countries need to observe. And for rioters, essentially, to be able to overrun the embassy and set it on fire is an indication that the Iranian government is not taking its international obligations seriously.
And so, obviously, we’re deeply concerned about that situation and we expect to see some sort of definitive action sometime very quickly.
Overall, though, I’m pleased to say that the relationship between our two countries is extremely strong, as reflected not only in the relationship between our governments but also the people-to-people contacts. And I’m hoping that I have an opportunity at some point during my presidency to visit the Netherlands, because —
PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: Yes, yes. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: — because all reports are that it is beautiful, and the people are wonderful, and I look forward to enjoying some Dutch hospitality sometime soon.
So, Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: Yes. Well, thank you so much. I’m glad to be here and to meet once again with you, Barack Obama. And I hope very much to welcome you to the Netherlands. That would be a great honor and a great opportunity.
The relationship between our countries is very strong. It goes back a long time. And I came to the United States basically to discuss three issues: jobs, jobs, and jobs.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Those are good issues to discuss.
PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: These are the main issues at the moment.
And, first of all, of course, our excellent economic ties — bilateral economic ties: 625,000 Americans are at work today because of our direct investment in the U.S. and, of course, our trade relationship. And the total investment of the U.S. in the Netherlands is more than the U.S. investment in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. And I believe we can work very hard to have this job engine grow even more powerful.
Secondly, we’ll discuss, no doubt, the eurozone. It’s the intention of my government to keep the eurozone intact, to keep the euro intact, to fight the debt crisis, and at the same time, get growth and job growth going again in the European Union, which is vital for our own — for our future.
And thirdly, we will discuss, I have no doubt, the upcoming NATO Summit, in your hometown, in Chicago —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: It will be a wonderful visit.
PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: — next year, and our transatlantic alliance and its stability, and, of course, the situation in the Arab region, where we pull on the same side, where we are working on progress and democracy in the Arab region and in the Middle East.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good.
Thank you very much, everybody.
2:39 P.M. EST