Monday, April 26, 2021, 4:00 p.m.
Thank you so much, Betty, and let me start out by saying a huge thank you to our partners at Enterprise Greece for working with us on this event and this opportunity. It was fantastic to hear Minister Fragogiannis and his presentation of the outward orientation of this government and his perspective on the opportunities that SelectUSA represents to continue to deepen the very important trade and investment ties between our two countries.
I’ve had the opportunity twice now to participate in SelectUSA in real life in Washington DC, in 2018 and 2019. I particularly remember 2018, because I think that’s the year Greece had the largest delegation of every country, which is quite an accomplishment, and I think it goes to a point that the Minister alluded to, which is the fact that Greece is changing very rapidly.
Coming out of a difficult decade of economic crisis, Greek companies are looking outward, are demonstrating the entrepreneurial ingenuity that Greeks are known for around the world and are looking to the United States as a preferred partner. So that’s fantastic. I wish we were doing this here in real life, but doing it virtually is certainly the second best thing, and I’m really delighted that we have Enterprise Greece as a partner in that regard.
These are issues that were a focal point when Prime Minister Mitsotakis spoke to President Biden a few weeks ago, emphasizing that the United States is committed to working with Greece to pursue sustainable economic recovery as we see our way through the pandemic. There’s no doubt in my mind that we have fantastic opportunities ahead of us.
Technology is one area that’s especially promising, and you can see all that’s already happening with U.S. technology companies like Microsoft making an enormous commitment to a cloud computing center here in Attica. But many other U.S. tech companies as well are coming to Greece.
But there are also great opportunities in the United States. Total Greek investment coming from Greece to the United States in 2019 reached $1.1 billion, with almost $5 million in R&D spending. I’m convinced that that will grow in the years ahead. And I think this partnership between Enterprise Greece and the U.S. Commercial Service is a fantastic way to bootstrap and lift up that effort.
I especially want to encourage Greek startups to look at the opportunities in SelectUSA this year. The SelectUSA Tech Program is specifically designed to connect early stage and startup technology companies with their partners in the United States, the global center of the technology industry. And this year’s virtual platform is designed to give tech and startup companies maximum exposure.
I’m also very proud that we’re launching the Select Global Women in Tech mentorship network this year, which builds naturally on all the work that the U.S. Embassy in Athens has been doing to work on issues of women’s economic empowerment, and frankly to build on all of the fantastically impressive women-powered startups that I’ve met in Greece over the past five years.
This afternoon, we’re going to hear testimonials from Greek companies that have been part of previous SelectUSA summits, some of which I was part of. And, of course, AmCham has been a fantastic partner in all of these efforts, going back to the really game-changing impact of the Thessaloniki Fair in 2018. And I’m really delighted that we’ll be hearing later from my friend and partner Niko Bakatselos to talk about his experience with SelectUSA and his company. But also, I’m deeply grateful for the ongoing partnership that the Embassy has with AmCham. We have no more important institutional partner in Greece than the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.
Let me finish with a couple of reflections. This has been a very long year for all of us, a difficult and challenging one, but I believe it’s also a moment of great opportunity. You can see what’s happening in the United States today. President Biden’s smart policies and his prioritization of the battle against COVID, including vaccination, is clearly paying dividends. I’m deeply grateful for the role that my friend and colleague Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, has played in this global effort, but it’s also a fantastic reminder of the people-to-people ties, which are such an important part of our overall relationship.
As the United States emerges from the pandemic, in part because we’re leading the way in vaccination, I think one of the things that everybody expects in 2021 is that the United States economy will be the single most important driver of global economic recovery. And so there are great opportunities for Greek business to leverage the growth that is returning to the U.S. economy, and to use that opportunity here in Greece. There’s a natural synergy. Building that synergy is the mandate that I have been given by President Biden and his administration, but I know it’s also the goal that Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his government shares.
You have my commitment that we at the Embassy will do everything that we possibly can with commercial organizations like AmCham and Enterprise Greece to continue to facilitate trade and investment opportunities between our countries and to drive the relationship to greater heights.
Thank you very much, efcharisto poli for the opportunity, and most importantly, Kalo Pascha to everybody as they celebrate this week. There’s probably never been a more appropriate season to celebrate the idea of rebirth and a new beginning than this year of 2021 as we begin to see the end of this global pandemic.