Ambassador Pyatt’s Op-Ed for “Ta Nea”

The U.S. and Greece: Partners in the Pandemic and the Day After

Saturday,  May 2, 2020

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team at the U.S. Embassy has been working closely with the Greek government to ensure that we will be able to maintain the momentum in our economic relationship once the crisis is behind us.  Greece’s effective management of the pandemic, including itsinnovative and successful drive to digitize many government processes, has won praise from international partners and from the media, and that will undoubtedly build confidence in Greece as a future investment destination.

American companies in Greece have shown incredible generosity, and their ingenuity has helped Greece respond to the crisis. For example, Google, Cisco, and Microsoft are working with the Ministries of Education, Health, Tourism, and the OAED to ensure that students are able to continue their studies from home, doctors can connect with patients remotely, and job seekers can improve their chances of employment.

Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Enterprise, IBM, Coursera, Envipco, ONEX, Avis, Airbnb, and MAC Cosmetics have all made donations to assist the Greek government, continuing a long tradition of American companies giving back to local communities in countries where they operate.

We continue to encourage American investment in key sectors like energy and infrastructure, including the Alexandroupoli port and FSRU, new wind power concessions, and the Elefsina shipyard: these are long-term projects whose strategic value hasn’t changed.  We also see great long-term prospects in the tourism sector, headlined by the Hellinikon project, which is finally moving ahead.

I’ve spoken frequently with Minister Kikilias to discuss our government’s immediate response to this pandemic, investment in Greece’s health sector, and collaboration with the U.S. private sector on research and testing that will allow normal economic activity to resume.  This builds on collaboration going back to the first days of the Mitsotakis government, when Minister Kikilias met in July with our American companies. Pfizer is one of the flagship examples of American health sector investment in Greece and northern Greece in particular, but there’s much more that can be done, especially leveraging Greece’s strong history in generic manufacturing and great potential in clinical trials.  I’m very proud that the United States’ top infectious disease specialist Dr.Anthony Fauci acknowledged Greece’s leading role in the international clinical trials for Gilead Sciences’ drug Remdesivir at the White House this week. We hope that these kinds of clinical trials will expand further in Greece in response to the Health Ministry’s reform measures.

I’ve also been in regular contact with Chief Technology Officer of the United States Michael Kratsios to conclude negotiations on a U.S.-Greece Science and Technology Agreement, which will enable U.S. and Greek scientists to more freely cooperate on all types of research, including on COVID-19.

In recognition of the Prime Minister’s commitment to procure licensed software for government systems and the issuance of a tender for software in March, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced on April 29 that Greece, after 12 years, was removed from the Special 301 watch list of countries that do not adequately protect intellectual property.  Minister Pierrakakis recognized early on that the protection of intellectual property is an essential component for the development of a vibrant technology sector, ranging from information and communications technology firms to pharmaceuticals and film production.  We are confident that Greek government reforms will lead to further investment in these important, innovative sectors.

We continue to work with groups like the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), which I addressed last week with Deputy Minister Fragogiannis; the American-Central European Business Association (ACEBA), which joined me to meet with Minister Georgiadis in January; and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, to remind investors of the value proposition that Greece represents and the government’s demonstrated commitment to market-led growth and our strong bilateral trade and investment ties. We look forward to increasing cooperation across a range of areas and will continue to firmly stand by Greece as we navigate this global economic shock together.