Minister Oprea, State Counselor Deca, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Forbes has always had a focus on bringing people together and creating that dialogue, especially in talking about what we can do in supporting a free market system, both in the U.S. and in Romania, and around the world.
From the U.S. perspective, since we are talking about Romania, we see Romania as a vital NATO ally and a strong partner. The United States and our NATO alliance and this region benefit from a strong Romania, an economically prosperous Romania, and Romania has a lot to offer – significantly talented workforce, significant natural resources.
One of the key priorities for us in the 21-year-old U.S.-Romania Strategic Partnership is to foster that mutual economic prosperity.
Just last month, President Trump hosted President Iohannis for his second visit to the White House and they issued a joint statement that affirmed the partnership and talked about some priorities for the near future. I want to talk about four of those economic priorities.
First is energy security. Our countries underscored our joint opposition to Nord Stream 2 and the need to provide greater energy security for Europe and to reduce dependence on Russian gas.
Second, we agreed to work together to improve Romania’s business and investment climate – as you just heard from the Minister, the Romanian effort is underway – which would in turn attract more American investment.
Third, we highlighted U.S. support for Romania’s development of civilian nuclear energy and the desire for our industries to collaborate more in this area.
And at last, our countries are committed to working together to counter cyber security threats, especially those posed by Chinese vendors in 5G networks.
This step forward in our bilateral relationship also follows two significant developments in Romania this year. First, Romania’s first Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Romania ably managed its role as a leader and got results on some key transatlantic priorities in economics and security. Then second, in May, the Romanian people sent a powerful message about the importance of democracy, the rule of law and made their voices heard in the European parliamentary elections and in the referenda on rule of law.
When we are talking about this economic relationship of this partnership, that relationship between the U.S. and Romania continues to grow. We are at three decades since the 1989 Revolution, and our bilateral trade has quadrupled to $3.7 billion in 2018. The U.S. is the largest non-EU foreign direct investor in Romania, and the fifth largest overall. Again, what we are looking for is investment in both directions. One example of that bilateral investment is the SelectUSA program when the U.S. posts send investors from all over the world and Romania’s delegation was the largest in Europe. U.S. for the seventh consecutive year has been listed by A.T. Kearney as the most attractive investment destination, a little commercial from our side as well.
But when we are talking about U.S. and Romania’s success, we can think of a lot of examples. One of them and one that has been highlighted by Forbes recently is UiPath. Daniel Dines, the CEO of UiPath, just got named the first BOT billionaire. Daniel honed his programming and management skills after five years of working at Microsoft. He has grown his company to a $7 billion valuation and with more than 3,000 employees. So when you think about somebody who has thrive and leadership and he has taken the best of the U.S. and Romanian and put them together towards the future, this is a great example.
I understand this year’s conference is focusing on leadership so I want to talk a little bit about leadership in Romania and how U.S. business leaders can contribute to growth. I want to talk about three potential areas that could unlock Romania’s economic potential, as I mentioned, and bring some broader prosperity. I want to talk about the rule of law, responsible business conduct, and effective communication.
First, rule of law. Investment depends on trust, it depends on transparency. And Romania’s economic development depends on whether investors see a stable, predictable, and transparent business climate. European Commission’s most recent country report indicates that 85% of businesses see corruption as an obstacle to doing business in Romania. Corruption hurts economic growth potential. So how can we work together to improve the challenge of corruption here in Romania?
When we are also talking about growth and as the accounts for that I just mentioned, we have to talk about our youth and our future. Romania’s youth are trying to decide whether their future is here or abroad. So economic growth in Romania creates those competitive opportunities. At the embassy we want to support that. We encourage Romanians to study in the U.S., to travel to the U.S., to work in the U.S. and get training and then come back, like Daniel Dines did, and invest in Romania.
I want to talk a little bit about responsible business conduct and corporate social responsibility. You, in the business community, and your counterparts should play an active role in making sure that you are setting an example for your colleagues to improve the business climate here, in Romania and we, from the U.S. Government side can help. We have our commitment to responsible business conduct and our companies around the world assist in shaping those global standards. We also have an intra-embassy Responsible Business Conduct team that provides guidance, promotion and support for responsible practices by engaging the private sector, labor groups, NGOs, and other government entities. We promote implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and we have also – for the past 20 years — recognized companies for Corporate Excellence in their operations abroad. This year we are also going to award companies for corporate excellence in sustainable operations and women’s economic empowerment.
And then last, I want to talk about communication and information. We are all challenged by the ubiquity of bad or incomplete information while we keep getting more and more information to filter. So we, at the Embassy, hope to work with political leaders and business leaders like you to empower the public, to empower your clients to separate the incorrect information, to separate the fact from the fiction. In Romania we work with journalists, teachers, and students on media literacy, on critical thinking, on research skills, because again, when we are talking about education, when we are talking about youth, we have to make sure we are shaping them with the tools they need for the future. And this is a role that you can take as well.
So, to conclude, Romania has a bright future. We are very proud of our partnership with the Government and the businesses of Romania and there is a lot that we can achieve together. So I look forward to continued success and we look forward to being that partner.