Ambassador Randi Charno Levine Remarks at AmCham Dinner Porto

American Chamber of Commerce Event
Porto, Portugal
Remarks As Prepared  

Ambassador Randi Charno Levine
September 29th, 2022   

Thank you, Antonio, for the introduction.

Boa Tarde / Good evening!

Before I begin, let me welcome City of Porto Councilwoman Catarina Cunha and acknowledge António Martins da Costa and his team who – along with my amazing team – have made tonight’s event a great success.

It is a pleasure to share this lovely evening with all of you.  It is hard to believe that it’s been six months since my husband, Jeff, and I arrived in Portugal.  Every day, I am reminded of how wonderful it is to have this once-in-a-life opportunity in this beautiful country.

I have fallen in love with the Portuguese people, the food, and the culture.  And I was dazzled by Porto on our first trip here a number of months ago.  My first thought was – why are we not doing more with the tremendous and diverse business community here?  

These last five months have been extremely busy and productive, and I have met many business leaders.  By now most of you have met the business leader I respect the most – my husband Jeff here with me tonight.  Having built a successful business, I have seen first-hand how partnerships built on mutual respect and shared values can lead to lifelong friendships.  I hope to build those relationships with all of you here both personally and on behalf of the United States.

As you may know, I joined President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa a few months ago to highlight our partnership with over 250 business leaders in Lisbon.  On this visit I am meeting with leaders in Northern Portugal, to whom I have the same commitment – strengthening American-Portuguese trade and investment ties. 

But first, allow me to acknowledge what we are all seeing every day – right on the doorstep of NATO Allies and EU member states, Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine brings devastating consequences.  In addition to the unnecessary and tragic human toll, Putin has used food insecurity and energy as a weapon against those who would defend the right of free nations to choose their own destiny. 

Skyrocketing energy costs contribute to inflation and make it difficult for businesses to remain competitive.  For the United States, this is not a war in some remote corner of Europe.  We have all learned the hard way that we cannot allow autocratic regimes to gain strongholds in sensitive sectors and critical infrastructure. 

As we eye our business partners for the future, we should continue to strive to create partnerships with nations that share the same democratic values and respect for the rule of law.  We are proud to continue working closely with Portugal and other EU member states to confront Russia’s unprovoked aggression.

I want to congratulate Portugal for hosting a successful UN Oceans Conference this summer.  We had amazing attendance by our Special Climate Envoy John Kerry, Assistant Secretary for Oceans Monica Medina and a delegation of more than 80 U.S. representatives.  Both the United States and Portugal are focused on developing renewable energy to combat current and future shortfalls as well as address global warming.  I have met business leaders in Portugal’s energy sector to emphasize our commitment to European energy security, create partnerships that address climate challenges using transitional fuels, and evolve to renewable sources such as green hydrogen.  

And now our President has signed a historic piece of legislation that includes the biggest, most important climate commitment we have ever made in the history of our country: $369 billion toward climate change.  That includes tens of billions in new investments in offshore wind and solar, doubling down on zero emission vehicles, increasing energy efficiency, supporting clean manufacturing.  I know many Portuguese companies including EDP Renewables are a big part of this story. 

Another important policy of the Biden-Harris administration is the support for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in order to build an inclusive economy.  This is one of my highest priorities as an Ambassador.  With AmCham’s partnership, we welcomed 12 minority-owned small American businesses to Portugal, the first official U.S. government trade mission in recent memory.  Over 80 B2B meetings were conducted in a single day at the prestigious (FLAD), an important Portuguese partner who supported our trade mission.  This resulted in several significant agreements between the mission delegates and their Portuguese partners.  

In November, we will host another U.S. government trade mission led by Under Secretary of Commerce Marisa Lago featuring women executives in technology during the Web Summit.  I have been pleased to follow the initiatives here in Portugal to create gender parity, especially in  the government and I applaud these shared values.  I believe that everyone wins when everyone gets a seat at the table.

I see Portugal as the ideal place for U.S. businesses.  Many of them are here and are already an indistinguishable part of the Portuguese community, creating jobs, supporting innovation, and creating economic prosperity.  They chose Portugal because it offers extraordinary opportunity – which American companies like Accenture, AON, Boyden, Cisco, Deloitte, Delta, Google, Microsoft, and other leading businesses have recognized.  And here in Northern Portugal, Vishay, Velocidi and BorgWarner have also integrated into local economies.

The Portuguese economy has shown itself to be incredibly resilient, and I am so happy to say that U.S. – Portugal bilateral trade in goods and services reached US$10 billion in 2021, well past the 8.5 billion of 2019.

Portugal’s “Unicorns” look to the United States, not just for funding but for networking, knowhow, customers and expansion.  Our unique startup ecosystem has created jobs and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.  I am proud to say that U.S. investment in Portugal is the most significant outside the EU; our companies in Portugal create jobs, fuel innovation, and become inseparable parts of your communities.  

As someone passionate about developing people-to-people exchange, I believe in the benefits of developing transatlantic data flows.  Indeed, improved connectivity and access to digital technologies provide significant economic and social benefits and are key enablers of sustainable development. 

They also help increase the availability of digital government services, particularly in education and health and provide businesses and households with improved access to services, information and trade, and employment opportunities.  Our companies working together in the digital space truly enhance our transatlantic relationship and economies. 

Economies that successfully manage the digital transition will have a distinct advantage.  As I discussed earlier, we cannot underestimate the importance of using trusted vendors based in countries with due process and respect for the rule of law to build secure future communication networks. 

Just like 5G networks, undersea cables and other critical infrastructure like ports are essential to our security.  It is to our benefit, especially as NATO allies, to use trusted vendors in our future communication networks and to ensure the free flow of information aligning fair and transparent data regulations that do not discriminate against American companies. 

I believe that Portugal can become a leading European hub for digital investments by fostering innovation, streamlining regulation, and creating a business environment that attracts investments. 

Thank you so much for hosting me this evening.  Over the next few days, my job will be to listen and learn about your businesses and their relationships with the U.S. market.  I know we can work together to build upon the U.S. – Portugal success story.  The fundamentals are strong, our friendship enduring, and our relationship unbreakable. 

Thank you, António and the AmCham, and thank you all for being part of this important conversation.