May 7, 2018
Καλημέρα, good morning, everybody. First of all, let me thank Anastasios Tzikas and the whole team at SEPE for organizing this event today. The agenda you’ve arranged is top-notch, but more importantly, it focuses on a set of issues that I’ve spent much of my career engaged on.
As a Californian who grew up around the technology revolution, I have a personal sense of the transformative power of technology and the importance of this sector to our futures. Now, as American Ambassador to Greece over the last two years, I’ve witnessed, from Thessaloniki to Crete, from Ioannina to Patras, that Greeks are building and expanding globally-competitive companies in a variety of sectors, from agriculture to tourism, all involving advanced technology. The creativity and innovation of these entrepreneurs in the start-up sector is one of Greece’s great untold success stories – although I was glad to see over the weekend Reuters ran a good pair of stories putting a spotlight on the real growth of the Greek startup sector.
I saw this just last week when I was in Thessaloniki and had some time at the INTEC Technology Park. I saw first-hand the amazing innovations and market-oriented research going on there. It’s truly world class, and the story of the Greek knowledge economy is one that I’ve seen repeatedly across the country, but relatively few here in Athens know about it.
With its exceptional human capital and entrepreneurial spirit, Greece has tremendous untapped potential. Several U.S. investors have recently told me that they are taking a fresh look at Greece, and that they believe that now, as Greece exits the crisis, is the time to take advantage of emerging opportunities here. I’ve said before, Greece’s future economic success depends largely on its talented workforce and human capital and the capacity to generate high-quality innovation and investment.
This dynamic was illustrated, for instance, in the recent decision by Tesla to open a new research and engineering lab here in Athens. This investment in Greek research and innovation will create more opportunities for Greece’s best and brightest workers to build their careers at home and not leave for greener pastures abroad and maybe even come back.
In addition to having a dynamic workforce, one of the key ingredients for supporting innovation is the protection of intellectual property rights. In this regard, the U.S. Trade Representative recently released its worldwide report on the IPR environment in every country. The USTR report acknowledges positive developments in Greece that the government has made over the past year, including the enactment of a robust internet piracy law.
It also points out areas where the Greek government should make continued improvements, and I encourage all of you, as industry stakeholders, to read the report and work with the Greek government to address these shortcomings so that Greece can reach its full potential as an innovation hub.
On our end in the United States, of course, robust IPR protection has allowed us to develop the most advanced software and information technology services sector in the world, accounting for $1.14 trillion of U.S. GDP.
The United States has a strategic interest in Greece’s economic success. We stand ready in the technology sector as in others to support Greece as it emerges from its long economic crisis and from the third review in August. In this context, we are placing special focus on some of our upcoming bilateral economic initiatives.
Next month, I’ll be travelling to the United States at the head of what I expect to be a strong delegation of Greek companies to the U.S. Government’s SelectUSA summit in Washington, DC. Through this program, we offer Greek companies interested in expanding to the United States market the opportunity to meet with regional economic development organizations who can explain first-hand the specific tax and investment incentives their cities and states can provide to foreign investors. And I encourage you all to consider making the trip with me next month.
In June, I will also be in New York with our partners from AmCham and the Athens Stock Exchange for a roadshow intended to get the word out on Greek economic recovery and opportunities here.
Then, in September, we have the Thessaloniki International Fair where the U.S. will be the honored country, just after Greece completes its third review and, we hope, returns to global markets. The timing is not a coincidence.
We look forward at TIF to sharing and celebrating the very best in American technology, American innovation, American entrepreneurship—the characteristics which mark the competitive and dynamic parts of the U.S. economy, but also using TIF to get the message out to the international audience that Greece is back, that Greece is open for business, that the economy has started to turn around, that there are real opportunities here in terms of American and international investment. And I am very pleased that we expect a strong presence at TIF from leading American technology companies, like Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook and many others.
President Trump has committed to sending a senior-level U.S. delegation, to be headed by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and we are working with U.S. Embassies around southeastern Europe to spotlight the networking opportunities that TIF 2018 will provide.
In sum, the United States is committed to making 2018 America’s year in Greece, and I am confident that this is the year that Greece really will turn the page on its crisis period. Technology and knowledge based industries will be key to this recovery, and I, and the U.S. Embassy, are commited to doing all that we can to support them.