Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec at AmCham General Meeting

Good evening,
Chamber of Deputies President Ciolacu,
Prime Minister Ciuca,
Parliamentary President Grosu,
Prime Minister Recean,
Distinguished Guests,

Thank you for welcoming me to the AmCham 2023 Annual General Meeting. I recall that my first formal speaking engagement as Ambassador to Romania was at AmCham’s CEO Forum, where we were also honored by the presence of Prime Minister Ciuca, Romania’s Ambassador to the U.S. Andrei Muraru, and many of you in this room. To Letitia and her team, thank you for convening us all this evening.

It is my profound honor to return to Romania as the U.S. Ambassador. This country’s economy has flourished since I finished my tour here as Cultural Attaché in 2008. I was thrilled to learn that 960 American companies now have a presence in Romania and employ nearly 110,000 people. That said, I know we still have much more room for growth. And AmCham Romania is our most valued partner in driving that growth.

Last week we worked on expanding bilateral cooperation and trade and investment in our eighth-annual U.S.-Romanian Strategic Dialogue. The senior officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, and Defense who participated emphasized the importance of Transatlantic unity in deterring aggression. They highlighted the need for Black Sea countries to reach their full potential as a strategic link between Europe and Central Asia.

To this end, the U.S. will put a focus on energy security, infrastructure development, and digitalization at the upcoming Three Seas Investment Fund Summit.

The strength of our economic ties is a cornerstone priority of our bilateral relationship. As Ambassador, I intend to work to expand the U.S. business presence and American investment in Romania. I will advocate for businesses and investors to be treated fairly, and my team will continue to support Romania’s efforts to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law. We will continue to look for ways to help improve the investment climate as I meet with Ministers and Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum.

Indeed, I am please to announce that just today, Labor Minister Budai and I signed a Social Security Totalization agreement. The Agreement will allow our countries to count periods of social security coverage earned in the other country as needed, to secure entitlement and access to benefits. Henceforth, access to earned benefits – and life for our binational and bicontinental working and retired citizens – will be much easier. The Agreement will eliminate concerns about “double taxation” for the purposes of social security and help prevent any gaps the protection of workers who have directly contributed to both systems.

I applaud Romania’s progress in advancing its candidacy to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As a close partner and friend, the United States will support Romania’s efforts to achieve investment climate and rule-of-law standards that will make it competitive for OECD membership.

As Romania progresses with OECD reforms, and with supporting National Resilience and Recovery Plan reforms, we expect growing opportunities in green energy, health, and IT. I was just in Brussels earlier this week, where I spoke with both EU and Romanian officials about opportunities for the U.S. to support Romania’s further development.

Romania has embarked on these comprehensive reforms while also contending with a geopolitical crisis next door. We are immensely grateful for Romania’s resolute support to Ukraine in receiving and assisting refugees and facilitating grain and other shipments. I know many companies in this room have been active in these efforts, including especially in assisting refugees. This is another area in which standing together as partners has made a real difference.

In this context, it’s worth recalling Secretary Blinken’s words during his visit to Bucharest last November: “Our collective resolve to support Ukraine is and will continue to be ironclad.” An economically resilient Romania – one that readily supports its own defensive needs and contributes to shared security – is a crucial factor to maintaining that resolve.

Our friends in the Republic of the Moldova also deserve an independent, prosperous future… one free from Russia’s malign and coercive influence… one where they can fully realize the economic gains that come with EU integration. I am delighted that we are joined here tonight by Prime Minister Recean and Parliamentary President Grosu from Moldova, which provides an opportunity to expand the already good ties between Romania, Moldova and the U.S.

We know that Europe will not be free unless it is energy independent from Russia. Our partnership to develop additional reactors at Cernavoda and build small modular reactors will help Romania achieve energy independence and lasting energy security for itself and for Europe. The Romanian Parliament took an important step in this regard on March 14th , when it passed legislation to apply a sovereign guarantee to the Cernavoda expansion project, a crucial step towards a clean energy future.

It has been just over year since Putin’s unprovoked, horrific invasion of Ukraine. Despite this unprecedented challenge to Ukraine and the region, the AmCham community here remains strong, and has demonstrated how its members contribute to a diversified, resilient, Romanian economy. With that economic strength and resilience, we will be better positioned to help Ukraine build back stronger when this conflict ends.

In closing, I would like to thank Ionut for your commitment to advancing the U.S.-Romanian economic relationship. Your eloquent advocacy has helped AmCham thrive under the most trying of circumstances, including a pandemic, changes in governments, and a war next door. As AmCham closes this chapter with you as its longest serving President, we wish you the very best in your upcoming endeavors.

I’m thrilled tonight to greet and welcome the new Members of AmCham’s Board. I trust that this will be the beginning of another 30 productive years for AmCham.

To the outgoing board members, thank you for your time, your voice, your energy, and your partnership. We sincerely hope that you will continue to be engaged with AmCham.

Vă mulțumesc tuturor.