Dobro veče i dobro došli u Sarajevo!
Welcome to our reception this evening in honor of the American business delegation to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Annual Meeting.
Welcome to the many business and government leaders from across Bosnia and Herzegovina who join us today, and welcome to the U.S. government delegation attending the EBRD Annual Meeting.
We are very fortunate to welcome a substantial visiting American business delegation, which includes 22 representatives from 13 organizations: Bechtel, BNY Mellon, Citi, , the Center for International Private Enterprise, Deloitte and Touche, E3 International, GE Transportation, International Management and Marketing Associates, the Minnesota Trade Office, Nathan Incorporated, S2 Global, Stantec, Trimble, and Xylem Water Solutions.
I am also very glad that local business representatives, including from the American Chamber of Commerce, and the Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar business communities are here to engage with our visitors, as well as visiting representatives from Amcham Kosovo.
I would also like to thank you National Museum for allowing us the great honor of hosting our reception here tonight. This museum houses some of the most remarkable artifacts from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history.
Our primary goal for today is to help facilitate introductions between American and Bosnian and Herzegovinian businesses and government officials for the sake of exploring possible business opportunities and increasing business links between our two nations.
As you can see, we have placed signs throughout this hall, indicating where parties can gather to discuss specific topics of possible collaboration, including energy, transportation, technology, finance, and the American Chamber of Commerce- “Amcham.”
In the middle of it all, you will find a sign for the U.S. Embassy, where you will find my team ready to act as guide, advisor and facilitator. That’s what we’re here for, tonight and every day.
One of my primary objectives as Ambassador is to advance prosperity for the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The U.S. mission here is deeply interested in seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina prosper and become a great partner for even more American companies.
We hope to increase investment and business partnership opportunities for U.S. and U.S.-affiliated companies in BiH. There are currently about 30 U.S.-incorporated businesses, U.S.-branded franchises, and U.S.-owned companies operating in BiH, and almost the same number of local companies that have a significant portion of U.S. products in their product portfolio.
U.S. investment has had very positive results in this country. KKR, the American private equity fund, through its ownership of Telemach, invested approximately $200 million to help develop BiH’s telecommunications market. Another significant U.S. investor, private equity firm Advent International, owns Addiko Bank and serves over one million customers in BiH, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Montenegro. Their path has not always been easy, but they have shown that American investment in Bosnia and Herzegovina can succeed.
We are working with BiH to make it easier to do business here. We are promoting economic and fiscal reforms, security and stability, as well as working to improve rule of law and combat corruption. A stable, secure Bosnia and Herzegovina that is firmly on the path to EU and NATO integration is key to improving the country’s business environment and attracting American and other foreign investors.
I encourage the local government officials and local companies present here this evening to keep up momentum on reforms; and to value the security and stability that the NATO partnership provides. That will make these and more U.S. companies want to take a deeper look at Bosnia and Herzegovina as a place to do business.
Finally, allow me to salute the EBRD. They are a key partner for the U.S. and BiH. The U.S. is the largest single shareholder in the EBRD, and EBRD has a current portfolio of over a billion dollars in Bosnia and Herzegovina. EBRD plays a key role in building the country’s infrastructure, especially the Corridor VC (five “c”) highway project
and key investment in energy and banking. In addition, U.S. government bilateral assistance is around $40 million annually, mostly through USAID, placing us as the leading bilateral donor to BiH. We want to see this assistance help transform the economy of BiH and open up opportunities for greater private sector growth and expanded U.S. – BiH trade and investment.
We are especially proud that EBRD and USAID will be signing a project agreement tomorrow to help diversity the natural gas mix in BiH and reduce dependence on a single pipeline and supplier. Our joint efforts are an important part of the larger picture of European energy security.
I would also like to note the embassy will host a visiting delegation from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office later this month for a presentation on the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program. This program allows companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina to export certain products duty-free to the United States. The delegation will make a presentation in Sarajevo on May 28th and Banja Luka on May 29th.
Thank you for your attention. Now let us begin helping you meet each other to explore potential areas of business cooperation.
I would like to turn it over to John Ashworth, our Economic Section Chief, to run through our setup this evening.