American Chamber of Commerce Tribute Dinner

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Boa noite! What a wonderful evening it has been.

Thank you so much, Sofia for that wonderful introduction and to the American Chamber of Commerce for organizing and hosting this event.

I want to start off by recognizing President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.  Your Excellency, thank you for being here tonight and for your constant support of our economic relationship.

I also want to congratulate the three companies who were awarded this evening – Brisa, GEPACK, and Talkdesk.  All three of these companies are being recognized for the strong investments they made in the United States.  I’d like to point out that both Brisa and GEPACK are past participants in our SelectUSA Summits.  The next Summit will be in June, and we’d love to work with any companies who are looking for support in navigating the U.S. market.  And if you are looking for a mentor, perhaps you should talk to Talkdesk.  Tiago, your company’s accomplishments have been remarkable and you are a great story.

And, I want to thank you, all the members of the American Chamber of Commerce here in Portugal.  I’ll be giving a longer speech soon about my mission to Portugal, but for the moment I would like to make clear that expanding our economic and trading relationship is one of my top priorities, right up there with seeing Portugal build up its capabilities and become an even stronger military and security partner for the United States.  I know this group has been, and will continue to be, a critical partner in our efforts to enhance prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

And let me emphasize this point about prosperity for us all.  Because I know some people may be wondering what that means when it is said by, as I have been called, an “America First Ambassador”.

America First does not mean America alone.  It means that, while we will always prioritize the safety and prosperity of American citizens – as all countries should do with their own citizens – we recognize that we will be safest and more prosperous if our allies and partners are safe and prosperous too.  Neither does America First  mean “everyone else second.”  Although, I have to say, I did get a good laugh from the “America First, Portugal Second” video on YouTube.

The Trump Administration has made our relationship with Portugal a priority.  I was the first political Ambassador in the Trump administration to arrive in Europe.  In just the past few months we have had one-on-one meetings between our Foreign Ministers and our Defense Ministers.  And now that I am in place, I am focused on connecting even more of our top officials from all over our government with Portuguese senior officials.

Not that it is too hard to convince Americans to travel to Portugal these days.  As you all know, Portugal is on the minds of investors and travelers from all over the world.  The S&P upgrade was great news – and reflected the blood, sweat and tears that you and so many of your countrymen have put into Portugal’s recovery.

As someone who worked in finance for over 30 years, I know that growth companies can be the hardest ones to manage.  I believe the same can be true for growth countries.  You have momentum.  You’re growing at a three percent clip.  And you do not want to lose it.  I want you to know that I will be more than an ally, I will be a fierce advocate for Portugal’s economic success.  Because, again, when Portugal succeeds, that creates great opportunities for Americans, and it’s a win for all of us.

In fact, next year I want to be back up here not only recognizing Portuguese investment in the U.S.  I want to be applauding American companies that have made new investments in Portugal.  When Novo Banco is an American bank, I want to celebrate it.  When U.S. farmers are growing in Alqueva, I want to celebrate it.  When Starbucks hits the Algarve and Subway opens up a sandwich shop in Porto, I want to celebrate it.

And as we work together to ensure economic success, we also need to remember that our continued prosperity is dependent on our joint security.  Portugal and the United States have both benefitted greatly from our NATO Alliance.  And as Portugal’s economy makes new and impressive strides, it will be important for Portugal to make similarly significant investments in its military.  These investments, by the way, will also promote economic growth.  They can be investments that support domestic production, put Portuguese people to work, and harness Portuguese education and technology.  They can – if an “America First Ambassador” may say so – be “Portugal First” investments.  There might even be a good video idea in it.

So there’s a lot to celebrate, not only in this room, but everywhere in Portugal.  Now, before closing tonight’s celebration help me thank, the American Chamber of Commerce and congratulate Brisa, GEPACK, and Talkdesk for their well-deserved awards.

Thank you all.