March 26, 2020, 18:00
I hope you and your families are all safe and well.
Thank you, Ionut, for the wonderful welcome. And thank you to Anca and the entire AmCham team for all their efforts to maintain the powerful leadership demonstrated by this organization at a critical and challenging time.
I appreciate each and every AmCham member joining us for this event tonight. My only regret, due to the current situation, is that I cannot be with you in person, but I look forward to when we can meet face-to-face again.
Thirty years ago, Romania faced another great challenge: the revolution, which made possible a new era of opportunity based on democracy and free markets for Romanians. American investments, business practices, and values have been key to Romania’s development since then. Those practices and values greatly assisted the country then, and I believe they will do so now and in the years to come. The American Chamber of Commerce plays an important role in this; you are a unified voice in Romania for these values and also a crucial partner of the American and Romanian peoples.
Our meeting tonight is essential to moving the organization forward. Tonight you will give a mandate to your leadership team, with perhaps some new leaders among them, and you will act on the largest review of your bylaws in more than two decades. These are big steps toward further solidifying AmCham’s role in Romanian society and ensuring that AmCham remains a key component of the Romanian-American bilateral relationship.
Today, Romania and the United States face a common threat from the COVID-19 pandemic, a devastating and rapidly spreading disease that imperils the welfare and economic development of our two countries and the entire world. As of today, the Romanian government has reported the country currently has just over two thousand known cases of COVID-19. More than sixty Romanians have fallen victim to this disease. I need not tell this group what this means for Romania’s healthcare capacity, Romania’s economic future, and how dire the circumstances are.
Drastic times call for bold and brave acts. As he took office in 1981, during an international and economic crisis, President Ronald Reagan reminded us of how we persevere in such times. He said such a crisis requires “our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds.” His message rings just as true today.
There have been many bold and brave acts recently. I applaud the prompt and prudent steps the Government of Romania, under the leadership of President
Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, has taken to stem the coronavirus crisis. Without such measures, the crisis Romania faces today would have been far worse at this point.
Isolation, quarantine and a travel ban have helped control the spread of the virus. The Romanian government has also worked with foreign and domestic companies to bring aid and emergency health materials to the Romanian people. The government searched the world for emergency supplies. It found and bought 80 tons of emergency supplies in South Korea. These supplies were brought to Romania with the aid of Romania’s allies and NATO. Twice in the past weeks, a long range heavy lift American cargo plane from NATO Base Papa flew to South Korea and transported these supplies to Romania. The United States continues to assist Romania in scheduling future flights so that more supplies are brought in from Korea and other places.
I also applaud the numerous private and non-profit organizations that have volunteered to assist with Romania’s relief efforts, AmCham among them. Many have quickly initiated their own support efforts and responded to my joint call with AmCham to support these efforts. I am grateful for your generosity in these times of need. AbbVie Romania, for example, donated approximately 4,000 boxes of antiviral medicines to treat COVID-19 patients – enough to treat 8,000 patients in Romania’s infectious disease hospitals. McDonalds has made in-kind donations to support those in quarantine. Avon donated hygiene products to hospitals while Banca Transilvania is purchasing disinfectant, protective masks and equipment to support the healthcare effort. IT leader UiPath has offered their software free to healthcare institutions combating COVID-19. Autonom offered the free use of its fleet to NGOs and foundations fighting COVID-19. So many of you – ARC, Autonom, Banca Comerciala Romana, BRD Societate Generale, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, EY Romania, Farmaciile Catena, MegaImage, Profi, OMV Petrom, One United Partners, Pepsi, Rompetrol, and Vodafone and many others – have contributed financially or offered your products, services and assistance to help win this battle. I thank you very, very much. NGOs among your membership such as OvidiuRO, Hospice of Hope, the UiPath Foundation, TechSoup, Teach for Romania and World Vision all continue carrying out their work on health and
education despite their strained resources.
To supplement AmCham’s efforts, I called on all Romanian companies and organizations to join forces and contribute. The Romanian Association of International Medicines Producers provided in-kind donations to the Red Cross. The Romanian-American Foundation – another of our key partners, was created with seed funding from the American Government in the aftermath of the
revolution to address Romania’s vital social development needs. It is now working through community foundations and coordinating civil society efforts in Bacau, Buzau, Galati, and other communities.
At this critical juncture in the life of this nation, you will see acts of bravery and boldness everywhere. They will be long remembered, as will those who failed to answer the call. Now is the time for all companies, not just American ones, who also share our commitment to carry out the best American business practices and corporate social responsibility, to lead by example as many of you already have. Your generosity does make a difference.
Sadly, predators and bad actors still lurk in these times of vulnerability. Russia and China have sought to use this opportunity to spread lies about the
United States, Romania, COVID-19 and their own governments’ conduct. That the Chinese Communist Party would use the deaths of thousands of Europeans to hand out Huawei-branded masks disguised as humanitarian donations is an outrage. I have warned my Romanian friends before and I will again now – this is a company that cannot be trusted with your national security and will jeopardize your freedom. The Chinese Communist Party’s conduct of deception, obfuscation and lack of transparency has exacted a deadly price on the world. This pandemic in which we find ourselves highlights the importance of transparency when it comes to human health, good governance and the global economy. When information is restricted, the consequences are devastating. Thanks to the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up, Chinese and international experts missed a critical window to contain the outbreak of this virus within China and stop its global spread. Those of us who bear the scars of Communism need not be reminded of the high human toll of Communist lies.
This is a time for fortitude. A time during which we should deepen our commitments to enduring principles of decency, integrity and human values. The values that must survive such tough chapters in the human story. Romania is blessed with significant natural resources and a talented workforce which will help Romania emerge from this crisis as a stronger more prosperous country. Romania will provide the benefits of democracy, security and economic opportunity to its people for years to come.
When I agreed to serve as Ambassador to Romania, I committed to further develop the U.S.-Romania Strategic Partnership and was determined to strengthen our already impressive security cooperation to ensure freedom for both of our countries. I am equally determined to strengthen our joint commitment to fostering our mutual economic prosperity.
Twice President Trump has met with President Iohannis at the White House, and I can assure you that the people of Romania have no better friends than the people of the United States. Our two leaders are in lockstep on security issues. They also agree to prioritize our economic cooperation in key areas that are certain to secure Romania’s freedom and prosperity for years to come.
When Romania emerges from this crisis, it will be well-poised to become a European and global leader in the arts, sciences, finance, healthcare, information technology, agricultural production, energy production and industry. Romania’s future as a prosperous nation in which its human talents and natural resources provide great bounty to its people is close at hand. This can only be achieved by enacting common-sense business laws and regulations, putting an end to endemic corruption and increasing transparency, all of which will lead to enormous economic benefits and prosperity.
AmCham and its members stand for American values and a commitment to the fundamentals of democracy, the rule of law and transparency. AmCham’s robust advocacy on taxes and fiscal matters, the investment climate, business regulations and labor conditions must continue. Many of you are leaders of the largest companies in Romania. Your examples in these times of trial will be emulated and multiplied.
President Trump recently highlighted how General Motors, Ford, 3M, Google and other U.S. companies are adapting to the crisis and finding ways to contribute to the fight in ways that are beyond their ordinary day-to-day businesses. As business leaders, you share in that “can-do” spirit of innovation and problem-solving. So keep doing what you have always done well and already know how to do – adapt, innovate, overcome, get it done and find the right way to give back.
We must all join in this fight against the pandemic and rebuild the Romanian economy. Together we will make a brighter future for Romania.
Thank you all, stay safe, and may God bless you.