Posted at 5:56 PM
Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews delivered remarks at the launch of the American Central European Business Association (ACEBA), a non-profit, one-stop platform for dialogue between American corporate executives and political leaders from Central European countries.
During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews highlighted the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Central Europe, as well as policies related to commercial diplomacy and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
Remarks as Prepared For Delivery
Thank you, Eric, for the kind introduction and for hosting this evening’s terrific event. I also want to recognize all of the Ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps here tonight.
Many of the people in this room have long been valued partners for the Department of Commerce through various different business councils.
The American-Central European Business Council will create even more opportunities for engagement and cooperation. I am excited to work more closely together with all of you through this new initiative to increase our trade and investment in Central Europe.
Central Europe has undergone significant changes since the fall of the Berlin Wall more than 25 years ago. Political and economic reforms have led to greater freedom and prosperity – culminating in EU and NATO accession for many in the region, with other nations on the path to joining in the near future.
American companies have played an important role in this transition, by providing capital, expertise, and jobs to aid in regional development. This increased investment has also supported significant job growth in the United States – a true “win-win” scenario for everyone involved.
One sign of how much progress we’ve made is that more Central European companies are beginning to invest in the United States as part of their global business strategies.
I had the opportunity to visit the region during a trip to Moldova and a cybersecurity trade mission to Romania and Poland earlier this year. On that trade mission, I brought representatives with me from twenty leading U.S. cybersecurity firms – some new to the region, and some looking to expand their operations there.
Already, we have seen some significant wins stemming from our trip. For example, Palo Alto Networks has opened an office in Bucharest and is now selling American technology to Romanian customers. And FireEye has leveraged the trade mission to increase their sales in the region.
The success of our trade mission is a good indicator of how strong the economic ties are between the United States and Central Europe. Though we only visited three countries, many of the people I met talked about the success American companies are finding across the region.
The companies who participated in the trade mission know that Central Europe has much to offer current and potential investors, including: access to the European single market; a strategic location that shortens the distance for export sales to the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia; highly skilled workers; and competitive wages.
The region is also home to entrepreneurial and tech-savvy populations. Indeed, some of the world’s leading tech companies – like Skype and Prezi – were founded in Central Europe.
At the Department of Commerce, we see great potential for U.S. and Central European firms to work together across a wide range of sectors, particularly energy, ICT, and healthcare.
In the Baltics, for example, the Department of Commerce – along with our partners at the State Department – are leading efforts to link our entrepreneurs and start-up communities. Several months ago, Department of Commerce officials spoke at a workshop in Tallinn aimed at connecting Estonian SMEs with American companies and the U.S. market.
But while there are many opportunities for commercial collaboration between the United States and Central Europe, challenges persist. Corruption and the lack of transparency, consultation, reliable infrastructure, and an independent judiciary remain chronic and serious problems.
Companies look for stability and predictability when choosing where to invest and do business. At a time when most international firms can invest anywhere, these challenges limit the region’s ability to attract new business and top talent. As a result, more work remains to be done if Central Europe is to truly realize its full economic potential.
We are working with our partners in the region to address these challenges through efforts like the Romanian Government’s Commercial Action Plans – which aim to make it easier for companies to do business there.
But one of the best ways to grow Central Europe’s economy is through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP. A strong, progressive T-TIP will increase prosperity and economic opportunity on both sides of the Atlantic.
During the last round of negotiations in October, we witnessed an accelerated pace of the negotiations and steady progress. Both sides are committed to a robust agreement that will provide increased market access for our companies.
As we move towards an agreement, I ask that you engage with your members on T-TIP issues and encourage them to work with their governments in this process.
We want to work with your stakeholders to identify concerns they have with the negotiations and help shore up political support for the final negotiated agreement.
Your members are a critical voice in this process. We need them to keep delivering the message to their employees, to their neighbors, and to other business owners that trade agreements mean more jobs for our workers, more customers for our companies, and more growth for our economies.
This Administration remains focused on deepening our relationships with our allies in Central Europe. Enhancing economic cooperation should and will be a key element of this partnership.
We want to make it easier for your companies to do business in Europe, but in order to do that, we need to hear from you. You need to tell us about where you’re seeing progress and where you need our help. Our team in Washington and our Commercial Service offices in the region stand ready to work with your new Council and respective embassies.
As I always like to say, the Department of Commerce is a customer services organization at heart – and you and your companies are our clients. We are here to serve you. Thank you.