Remarks at Thunderbird European Reunion

Ambassador Bell with Thunderbird Alumni members (photo courtesy of Nacho Escobar)
Ambassador Bell with Thunderbird Alumni members.

Dennis, Chris, Thunderbird Alumni, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning.

It is a great pleasure to kick off this European Reunion of Thunderbird Alumni. When your fellow alumnus Edward invited me to address your group, I was very pleased. During my business career, I developed relationships with partners from many countries. And along the way, I met many talented Thunderbird Alumni. I share your passion for business success based upon cross-cultural relationships. Institutions of higher learning like Thunderbird that are dedicated to preparing entrepreneurs to compete in the global market are crucial to the future of the United States and the world economy. I applaud your commitment and commend your interest in cultivating ties throughout Europe.

Hungary as an investment destination provides many opportunities. The country has excellent communication systems, a skilled workforce, and proximity to growing marketplaces. Since 1989, Hungary has attracted over $9 billion in U.S. investment. There are many success stories of American firms investing in Hungary, from both the manufacturing and the service sectors. Examples include Starbucks, Subway, American Express, Caterpillar, Cicso, Colgate-Palmolive, GE, FedEx, Marriott, and IBM. I recently attended the expansion of the ALCOA plant where I discovered the positive role this company plays in the community. American companies in real estate and financial services are guiding less experienced investors. American entrepreneurs are creating businesses in diverse fields, seizing on opportunities unique to Hungary by leveraging new technologies and social media.

Today’s agenda is the perfect mix for today’s challenges, with presentations from Anita Csorgo of CB Richard Ellis, Norbert Fogarasi of Morgan Stanley, Dennis Diokno of First Med, and Nimrod Kovacs from the Kovacs Nimrod winery in Eger.

Based on my own experience as an international businessperson, I know that attracting investment is all about transparency and predictability. Companies choose investment destinations with transparent laws, rules, regulations, and tax regimes. Further, they need to trust that, as they prepare and execute their investment strategies, the playing field won’t be arbitrarily changed. My job as the U.S. Ambassador is to work with my Hungarian counterparts to ensure a relationship centered on expediting and protecting investment. On this issue, Hungary and the United States agree, paving the way for continued business success.

As many of you know, outside of the European Union, the United States is the largest export destination for Hungarian goods. The U.S. Department of Commerce has just released trade figures for Fiscal Year 2014. Our two-way trade was up 35%, with 7% growth in U.S. exports to Hungary, and 28% growth in Hungarian exports to the U.S.! Total two-way trade is now over $7 billion. This is indeed impressive. But I know we can do better.

Currently we are working diligently to boost trade between the United States and Hungary with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or “TTIP”. Despite differing views on some elements, our two countries continue to forge a treaty that legislatures on both sides of the Atlantic will welcome. Based on our experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement, we know that well-conceived trade agreements can yield huge benefits. In the 20 years since NAFTA’s inception, trilateral trade has grown from $290 billion in 1993 to $1.1 trillion in 2013. We are optimistic that TTIP, once ratified, will produce similar relative growth, with significant gains for both Hungary and the United States.

Let’s be clear. Our success in government implementation of a Trade and Investment Partnership is only the start. Enterprises and entrepreneurs are the real drivers of increased trade and investment. Let’s work together to expand our commercial relationships between the United States and Europe to enhance our mutual prosperity. Thunderbird Alumni can play a pivotal role, and I encourage each of you to consider Hungary for your next business venture. Thank you so much for the invitation, and I look forward to participating in your success in the months and years to come.