AmCham Bulgaria Welcomes Ambassador Mustafa and is looking forward for great initiatives together

Full speech of Olivier Marquette, AmCham Bulgaria President at the Business Breakfast with the U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Herro Mustafa, November 22nd, 2019, Sofia Hotel Balkan.

Dear AmCham Bulgaria members,

Dear Ambassador Mustafa,

Let me say on behalf of AmCham: “Welcome to Bulgaria, Madame Ambassador”. It is my pleasure, and it is the pleasure of the entire AmCham Board, membership and team to welcome you to our business breakfast with the American business community in Bulgaria.

We thank you a lot for having accepted our invitation. It is a great honor for us to welcome you today, because we know that you have been extremely busy since your arrival in Bulgaria last month.

AmCham and the US Embassy in Sofia have been working very closely together for many years, and your presence here with us today makes us extremely confident that we will continue the extraordinary collaboration in the future.

Today’s breakfast is focused on exchanging views on our priorities. We are very eager to hear about yours, Madame Ambassador, and I’ll introduce you briefly to AmCham’s priorities and our latest achievements.

But before we start, let me thank the sponsors which made this event possible: America for Bulgaria, AmGen, The American University in Bulgaria, ContourGlobal, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and McDonalds.

All of them are among the finest American brands and we are happy to have their support.

Dear members,

AmCham is focused on 4 key priorities which guide pretty much all our activities:

  • Sustainable business climate, including rule of law and investment climate
  • Transatlantic cooperation on strategic matters, including energy security and defense
  • Innovation and startups,
  • Education.

I would also like to highlight here the importance and the need of a strong Health Care System. The health and the wealth of any nation are fundamentally linked. Healthier populations live longer, more productive lives, leading to greater economic prosperity. We should support healthcare environment and policies that welcomes Innovation in Medicines, Devices, Infrastructure & Medical Practice.

I’ll now elaborate a bit on our achievements and future objectives for each of those priorities.

Sustainable business climate.

For us sustainability has many ingredients: among them are using new technologies, good governance, environment compliance, social responsibility, supply-chain management, and more.

However, the most important one is the rule of law. This is fundamental for prosperity, trust, certainty about our business plans and future. The Rule of law is something that attracts foreign investments, gives confidence to those that follow the law, work according any business ethics, pay taxes, treats their employees and customers well. It protects property – both tangible and intellectual; it punishes those that don’t play fair.

During your hearing at the Congress thus July, we heard your words well, Madam Ambassador. Your concept of “The Three Cs” matches a lot with what we have as priorities. And the fight against corruption is not just a banner, but requires true measures, tangible results, and dedication to both institutions and business.

 U.S. investments in Bulgaria

AmCham today is confident in its strengths; it is in an excellent position to represent its members and to be constructive partner in the dialog with the government. One reason is that year after year we are building successful relationships with our friends at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia and with our membership. The second one is that now we know how big the American investments in Bulgaria are.

For some of you I might repeat myself, but I know it is worth it. 😊

The American investments in Bulgaria represent significant part of the all foreign investments:

  • they are around 5,7% of the overall FDI in Bulgaria totaling around 4,5 billion leva.
  • They are allocated in strategic sectors such with high added value such as manufacturing, energy, ICT, trade and agriculture.
  • They provide nearly 30,000 jobs of highly qualified Bulgarians.
  • They provide technology upgrade of the economic base of the country and add value to many stakeholders.

Being the sixth largest foreign investor, the U.S. companies show their confidence in the sustainable development of the local economy.

AmCham as a platform that provides unique opportunity for positioning and upgrade of businesses. Let me give some recent examples:

  • Late in 2018, together with the U.S. Embassy we presented the proposal of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 to Bulgaria
  • Earlier same year, we were the institutional partner of The Coca-Cola company for the inauguration of its largest IT center outside the United States;
  • In the past period, we partnered with Dell Technologies, HPE, Mondelez, Kamenitza, Dundee Precious Metals, and many other American brands and their Bulgarian partners to add value to their business plans, projects, and positioning.

Select USA 2019

Also, together with the U.S. Commercial Office in Bulgaria we presented the opportunities of the American Market, as well as the experience of some successful Bulgarian companies that made their break-throughs in the United States.

These businesses – both migrants’ and genuine Bulgarian capital – secure around 4,000 jobs and more than 1 billion dollars of sales.

Cyber-security, Data protection, E-Government

I am obliged to mention cyber-security. The international cooperation in this field is the essence of preventive and proactive measures any government can apply. Businesses are here to help when necessary and we have said it many times.

Indeed, it is our common task – for all American community in Bulgaria – to keep pushing and asking any government for better data protection, vast and secure e-governance and for effective technological and institutional cooperation in regional and global level.

Energy

Now I am going to touch a topic that is dear to my heart – Energy.

Ambassador Mustafa let me quote you. Earlier in this month you said something that should be repeated daily in Bulgaria. “Energy security is national security.”

Bulgaria is still heavily dependent on single energy provider in gas, oil, and nuclear fuel. We have witnessed some random deliveries of LNG, and we hope that they will continue in the future.

Good news in the power generation is that the two American power stations – AES’s and ContourGlobal’s – continue to provide electricity to people and stability to the national energy system.

In the nuclear energy, Westinghouse has declared their interest to provide technology and know-how and to contribute to the energy diversification of Bulgaria.

Innovation and startups

Now I am turning to our third priority – Innovation and startups and AmCham activities to foster investments and innovation.

I am certain that AmCham fulfills its goal and mission – to link businesses, to promote both America and Bulgaria, to speak on behalf of the American business in Sofia, in Brussels and in Washington.

Moreover, AmCham pioneered in several topics of national and regional importance to give our input for the sustainable business environment and the creation of new business opportunities.

Let me give you some examples.

InnoStart Forum

A major pillar in our priorities is our digital agenda. Over the past couple of years, we partnered with the Indian Chamber of Commerce and with the Israel-American Chamber of Commerce. Together we explored thoroughly the opportunities of how Bulgaria can become an innovation hub and how we can upgrade the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem.

Digital Sustainability Forum

Also, today we are working on the positioning of Bulgaria in the global digital agenda that includes Artificial Intellect, Intellectual Property protection, Digital services and infrastructure, cyber-security, and many more. Such a complex topic requires close partnership among the United States, the European Union, and in our perspective – the Western Balkans.

Bulgaria can contribute to this process with its solid IT and talent base.

Healthcare

We mention the tangible assets and non-tangible property, and now it is time to focus on people. Bulgarians often say “Let us be live and healthy” – Da sme zhivi i zdravi.

However, AmCham is concern of lagging of the establishment of stronger Health Care System in the country. I said it earlier, and I will repeat it again: We do believe that nation’s health and wealth are fundamentally linked. Currently in Bulgaria some anti-Innovative measures are established that do not support entry of innovative treatments. Therefore, we need to engage in a dialogue how these obstacles can be removed.

Dear Ambassador Mustafa,

On behalf of our more than 350 members I would like to thank you again for being here with us today. We are looking forward to having an excellent start of your mandate. I must assure you that in AmCham you have many friends, supporters, and fans.

At the end, let me address our membership:

Dear Friends, please ask your questions in the Q&A Session. That is why we designed such an event.

Last but not least, I should mention that the holiday season is coming closely. Let me encourage you all to join us at AmCham Thanksgiving Charity Dinner on November 27th at Sofia Tech Park.

This charity event has a great cause, it has stylish entertainment, and it has plenty of tasty food. Moreover, it requires your support to those socially disadvantaged young Bulgarians who strive for success at schools, universities now, and tomorrow will be our great doctors, engineers, and will do many other decent jobs in our economy.

Once again – thanks to all sponsors of today’s event. Your support is much appreciated.

Thank you for your attention.