United States ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin, who presented his credentials to President Plevneliev earlier this year, addressed an American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) business luncheon in Sofia on May 20. This is the text of his speech:
It is a pleasure to join all of you today. Let me begin with a “thank you” to the superb team at AmCham. Your excellent work to promote the interests of American companies in Bulgaria is vital to their success. Although I am a few months late, I do want to congratulate the AmCham on its 20th anniversary. I am really sorry I missed the celebration, which I understand was the hottest ticket in town.
So, congratulations to Krasi and to Valentin and to all of you – in the 20 years since the AmCham was founded – according to President Plevneliev, a group of visionaries over some margaritas came up with this brilliant idea – the AmCham has become Bulgaria’s premier business organization and a valued partner for all of us at the U.S. Embassy. The strong commercial partnership that we have built with Bulgaria over the past 25 years would not be the same without this vision and without your energy. Let’s give the AmCham a round of applause – you all deserve it!
Let me start by saying that promoting economic growth is one of my top priorities as U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria. Indeed, in his letter of instruction to me, President Obama stated: “Our security and prosperity are inextricably linked with those of other countries and people around the world. To strengthen both our national and global economies, we must expand trade as well as financial and scientific cooperation…”
I will do everything in my power to advance this objective, and I want to work with all of you to do so.
Expanding our commercial partnership is important for our businesses, but it is also important to the people of Bulgaria as well. With economic growth come rising incomes and prosperity for all levels of society. And, such growth could also help stem Bulgaria’s demographic decline. We want to see young people stay in this country, and those who have left should feel optimistic about this country’s future to return, start new businesses, and help shape this country’s future.
Every one of you represents an American success story. Your businesses are the building blocks of our commercial partnership and of our two countries’ prosperity. In my three months in Bulgaria, I have had the pleasure to join some of you as you celebrated key milestones – opening new facilities, expanding your operations, or profiling technological innovations. Each time, I was impressed by your success, and each time, I was reassured that the foundation of our commercial and investment partnership is strong.
But that foundation has also required the active engagement of the AmCham and its committees, which have not been shy about raising the difficult issues with the Bulgarian government. You have had an ongoing dialogue with the government about the business climate, transparency, and reforms in various sectors of the economy.
I know that the AmCham joined other business chambers to highlight for the government the need for additional judicial reforms in a January letter.
It is clear that these discussions and advocacy are yielding results. Just ask our two U.S. thermal power plants! In addressing this long-standing dispute, the government had to make some tough – unpopular – decisions. But, in making those decisions, the government also sent a powerful message to investors, domestic and foreign: Bulgaria honors its agreements, and it is committed to reforming its business climate. All of you helped contribute to this successful outcome.
You are also making a difference in the regulatory environment: the Bulgarian government has just made it a law that every proposed regulation must first undergo a regulatory impact assessment to determine its economic consequences before the measure can be considered by parliament. This is huge. Again, AmCham can take credit. In late 2014 the AmCham partnered with our Embassy and others to organize a conference to advance this objective.
To read the of Rubin’s prepared remarks, in which he touches on the topic of Brexit and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), please visit the US embassy website.
(Rubin, right, with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov)