Remarks at Central European Institute (CEI) Event

Hello everyone.   I’m pleased to be here with this impressive group of business leaders, academics, government officials, and community organizers – each of you dedicated to enhancing and expanding relations between Hungary and the United States.

First of all, Chris: thank you for the invitation to be here today.  Your work and the work of the Central European Institute are well known at the U.S. Embassy, and we greatly appreciate your efforts to build bridges between our two countries.  Second, congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients – I know you will find your experience in the United States valuable, and I’m confident you’ll return with fresh perspectives for your business career.  Finally, I’d like to give special thanks to our gracious host, Christian Sauska.  It is my privilege to be invited to join you at your lovely home.

As a Californian, I am no stranger to good wine.  Clearly, the same can be said for our host.  As Christian knows, today people can buy fine Hungarian wines from vineyards in Tokaj, Villány, and Balaton – in neighborhood shops and fine restaurants all over the world.  King Louis the Fifteenth of France called tokaj wines “the wine of kings, and king of wines!” – and I think he knew what he was talking about.

As a Californian, I also owe you a debt of gratitude.  The great California wine regions, Napa and Sonoma, borrowed the tradition of winemaking from Hungary. It was a Hungarian who settled there in the nineteenth century and literally planted the seeds of one of California’s greatest industries.

But in today’s increasingly competitive business climate, the stories and accolades of the past are not enough to ensure success today.  Managing any business – whether it’s a vineyard, a bank, a media conglomerate, or a factory – it requires agility, creativity, and transparency.  Putting out a great product or service once in a while is not enough – doing so day after day, year after year – that is what makes all of you leaders in your fields.  That’s how you create trust – the glue that binds together business and customers.

As you all know, and as I can tell you firsthand as a former businesswoman, smart investors don’t decide where to invest their capital based on promises or guesses; they look for patterns of success, predictable gains, and stability. They want an environment that they can trust. American companies are no exception – as they expand, U.S. businesses search for reliable partners in countries with a predictable investment climate.  I know the same is true for Hungarian businesses.

I also know those rules of consistency, transparency, and trust  are every bit as important in government as they are in business. As the world and our businesses become more interconnected, there is greater pressure on governments to protect investors through sound legislation, transparency, and fair tax codes.  Thanks to that work, many countries once considered overly risky are now ripe for investment.

Trust is the most precious commodity in any business. When governments change the rules of the game on a whim, they erode that foundation of trust. They take away one of the most important ingredients for long-term growth. And that means they stop attracting trade, investment, and ultimately jobs and prosperity.

As an Ambassador, one of my most important jobs is to build and maintain trust. That has been especially true in my recent work on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP.  T-TIP will be more than the largest trade pact in the history of the world – I’m proud to say that T-TIP is also the most transparent trade agreement ever negotiated. There is no trust without transparency. As we work with our EU partners to build more trust in the negotiations, we’re working to reduce regulatory duplication, to eliminate tariffs, and to open new doors for small businesses. We are making the business climate between the EU and U.S. more predictable and more accessible – which we all know means it will be more successful.

The Hungarian and U.S. governments agree that T-TIP will be a boon to both countries. It will put more money in the pocket of every Hungarian and lead new businesses to open their doors and hire. The European Center for Economic Policy did some research and put it in tangible terms: with T-TIP, the average European family of four will see their disposable income increase 545 Euros every year. You might have heard Foreign Minister Szijjártó say T-TIP will benefit the local economy by creating as many as 30,000 new jobs here in Hungary.  This will increase competition throughout the EU – and that will create an even greater need for transparency and stability to attract investors from across the Atlantic.

The story of business has always been an international one – whether it is the story of a 19th century vintner bringing a Hungarian tradition to California, of a Hungarian business student traveling to learn in America, or a businesswoman here in Zebegény who sells wines from Napa and Tokaj next to each other on the shelf of her store.

The old saying goes “in vino veritas” – there is truth in wine.

The truth is, it’s up to us to continue that centuries-old example of American-Hungarian partnership – with trust and transparency, through the rule of law and democracy, and driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship – common values Europeans and Americans share – values to which we stay true. It is our job to protect those values in business, in government, and in our global community.

Thank you all for the work you are doing to build your businesses. And thank you, once again, for inviting me to join you today. I look forward to your comments, as well as the opportunity to get to know you a little better during the reception.

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