American Chamber of Commerce Tributes Dinner

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As prepared

March 14, 2019

Boa Noite!  What a wonderful evening to be celebrating the dynamic business relationship between the United States and Portugal.

Ana Filipa, Thank you very much for the warm introduction, and to the American Chamber of Commerce, thank you for hosting this event.

I am honored to be here tonight with the Minister of Economy, Pedro Siza Vieira, who, along with the Prime Minister, is a critical champion of our bilateral trade and investment ties.  Mr. Minister, thank you for your engagement.

While the Prime Minister, unfortunately, wasn’t able to join us this evening, I would like to take a moment to recognize his important efforts to foster prosperity in both our countries.  Last year, I traveled across the United States with the Prime Minister, or as I like to say, I went “Costa to Costa with Costa.”  His outreach has injected new and important energy into our economic partnership that is clear from our growing trade relations.

Congratulations to Outsystems, Amyris, and United, the three companies we are here to honor.  Outsystems epitomizes the type of transatlantic, entrepreneurial success that I would like to be celebrating every day, while Amyris’ collaboration with AICEP and Católica University’s Porto Campus is smartly pairing American and Portuguese ingenuity to drive advances in artificial intelligence, among other areas.  We all know great things will come from this collaboration!  And United, we all thank you for making our passages to and from the United States smoother and quicker but even more for facilitating critical business, tourism, and people to people connections with your direct flights.

Let me also extend my thanks and congratulations to Rodolfo Lavrador, President of the U.S.-Portugal Chamber of Commerce in New York, who has worked tirelessly to nurture trade and investment in the United States and Portugal – and to Francisco Pinto Balsemão of SIC for his essential outreach to the Portuguese community in the United States.

Finally, let me acknowledge all of the members of the American Chamber of Commerce who on a daily basis seek to enrich the economic ties that already exist between the United States and Portugal – and create new ones.

The last AmCham Tribute in late 2017 was certainly memorable for me, as it was the occasion for my first major speech as the U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.  In that speech, I made the point that expanding our economic and trade relationship was a top priority for the United States in the relationship with Portugal, and would be a major focus of my work here.  This is as true today as it was then, and I am glad to say that the trends are very positive and so is the outlook for the future.

The businesses in the room as well as our government partners deserve a lot of credit for the way our economic partnership is thriving.  Not only do we see bilateral trade and investment growing, but we also see U.S. and Portuguese entrepreneurs collaborating to spur innovation.  What will add fuel to this fire is a greater degree of reciprocity as we seek free and fair trade relations around the world.

Bilateral Trade and Investment

My background is in business and I have spent the majority of my career working on investment related issues.  I came to Portugal with the goal of strengthening this pillar and believe together we have a great story to tell so far.

Portugal’s strong economic recovery and its recognition as a world-class tourism destination is attracting growing attention from U.S. companies, while encouraging Portuguese firms to expand abroad.

According to a 2018 Informa Dunn & Bradstreet report, there are an estimated 540 U.S. controlled companies operating in Portugal, generating significant employment.

At the same time, Portuguese companies are active in the United States, investing $1.1 billion in 2017, an increase of 14.4 percent from 2016.

The growth in our bilateral trade clearly reflects this dynamic.  In 2018, trade in goods increased by an estimated 14 percent compared to the preceding year.

Soybeans and LNG have been critical engines of this positive trajectory – putting Portugal at the center of U.S.-EU trade discussions.  As you know, when they agreed to begin this trade dialogue in July 2018, Presidents Trump and Juncker placed a clear emphasis on these two commodities.

But even before this moment, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and President Trump discussed the importance of the Port of Sines for Europe’s energy security and as a gateway for U.S. LNG into Europe.   With the first delivery arriving in 2016, Sines has now received 28.8 billion cubic feet of LNG as of August 2018 and the LNG keeps coming.  Yet there is scope for so much more.  We need to work together to unlock this potential so Portugal can become an Atlantic gas hub and the guarantor of European energy security.

Having born witness to the arrival of a Panamax ship full of U.S. soybeans, I would be remiss if I did not mention that U.S. soybean farmers more than quadrupled their sales to Portugal in 2018.


Yet, trade flows do not tell the whole story.  The interplay of U.S. and Portuguese innovation has invigorated our economic partnership.

Over the course of 2018, both the Prime Minister and President traveled throughout the United States to underscore to American businesses what you all already know – that Portugal has a dynamic, innovative economy with a sophisticated and talented labor pool.

That message was heard loud and clear as the announcements by Oracle and Google, among others, to establish themselves or expand their presence in Portugal highlight.

The Web Summit – such a world-class event – has become a recruitment ground for U.S. state-level Economic Development Organizations seeking to court the impressive cadre of Portuguese startups to their states.  The nine organizations who attended in 2018 left enthusiastic about the innovative environment they visited and the possibilities for trade as well as investment that they discovered.

And just two days ago, we once again played host to another thirteen state-level economic development organizations in Porto for a business investment event ahead of our SelectUSA summit in Washington, D.C. in June.  There was so much interest in this Porto event, we actually had to turn several U.S. state representatives away!  But we will find another opportunity for them to visit – it certainly won’t be hard given the pace of economic activity in Portugal these days.

Similarly, California almond growers are finding a land of opportunity in Alqueva, sharing their production expertise while responsibly using the great natural gift of this region’s water resources that is born of Portugal’s innovative approach to irrigation.

2019 – The Year of Reciprocity

2018 was certainly an active and exciting year with important developments in our economic relationship.  But as I have said before, we can and will do better!  2019 will be a year of reciprocity.

My team and I will continue to work tirelessly to promote prosperity at home and in Portugal – a strong Portuguese economy creates opportunities for the United States and vice versa.

An important part of prosperity is ensuring our youth have the right skills to contribute to the innovation economy.  With this in mind, Portugal and the United States signed an MOU to establish a pilot program that will offer American and Portuguese students and entrepreneurs an opportunity to gain valuable work experience in innovative organizations.

Over the last year and a half, I have cultivated strong relationships with Portuguese officials across the spectrum.  I’ve always enjoyed the support and cooperation of the Prime Minister and his team during my time here, and I am very grateful for that.  My staff at the Embassy tell me often that we enjoy better access here than in any of the other countries where they have worked.  So I want to be clear that I understand and appreciate the special nature of our partnership.

This year I am focused on engaging with communities across the country to see first-hand the industry that drives Portugal’s economic dynamism.

Several weeks ago, I visited The Navigator Company, with whom the Administration worked efficiently to address a trade issue affecting the company’s exports to the United States late last year.

Earlier this week, I toured Amorim’s cork factory in Porto.

And on Tuesday, EDP, which now has 5.5 GW of wind and solar assets in 14 U.S. states through subsidiary EDPR, renewed its already strong commitment to bringing clean energy to Americans.  It plans to invest more than $5 billion in renewables in North America through 2022, the lion’s share of which will flow into the powerful U.S. market – where it has already invested $9 billion.

These are three innovative Portuguese companies with strong ties to the United States.  I know there are many more.

Going forward, I will be looking to meet with diverse Portuguese communities and through these interactions to champion our economic relationship. Of course, no one can lead the way better than the U.S. private sector in this regard and we stand ready to assist. Energy, transportation, tourism, and technology companies on both sides of the Atlantic are working with both our governments to build the linkages, connect the right people and capital, and ensure that policy remains a vehicle, and not a hindrance to advancing the next generation of growth.

The Trump Administration is focused on establishing free, fair, and reciprocal trade relations around the world.  Most importantly for the U.S.-Portugal partnership, as I mentioned earlier, we have begun a trade dialogue with the European Union.  I am confident these trade discussions will ensure policy is a vehicle for rather than a hindrance to growth by addressing many of the non-tariff barriers affecting trade flows. But a greater challenge to free, fair, and reciprocal trade – as well as a potential threat to national security – for both Portuguese and American companies stems from China’s unfair trade practices and the influence its state-owned enterprises exert over the companies and economies in which they invest.

Let’s be clear.  The United States has never been anti-China.  The United States led the world in welcoming and promoting China’s economic growth and opening to the world and China has benefited handsomely, especially from having sent so many young Chinese to the United States to study.

And I want to be doubly clear that I am not questioning Portugal’s historical relationship with China, nor its desire to attract capital, which of course makes economic sense. But we need to be clear-eyed and recognize that while China has talked a good game about becoming a real market economy, the promise of reform has been an illusion and the state directly controls the most important sectors and companies in that economy. We must also be alive to the fact that China has fueled its economic growth with a ruthless strategy of industrial espionage and outright theft.  This is only one example, but look at the indictment in the United States of Huawei for its underhanded scheme to steal T-Mobile’s most important proprietary innovation, a robot used to test the features of mobile phones.

Europe and the United States need to work together to protect our strong economies built on the ingenuity and intellectual property of our citizens – ingenuity we see in companies like Outsystems and Amyris.

I see only significant opportunity ahead for the U.S.-Portuguese economic relationship, with more signature American companies following Amazon Web Services, among others, into Portugal and more Portuguese firms, like EDP or Talkdesk, which received $100 million in financing from New York-based Viking Global, doubling down on the thriving American economy.

To conclude, I want to thank AmCham once again for giving us this opportunity to celebrate the growing, innovative, and reciprocal U.S.-Portuguese economic partnership.  2019 is off to a strong start and I am looking forward to working together to support prosperity in the U.S. and Portugal.   Thank you.