Assistant Secretary Donfried’s Remarks at AmCham Business Breakfast with PM Petkov Thursday, May 19, 2022

Assistant Secretary Donfried’s Remarks at
AmCham Business Breakfast with PM Petkov
Thursday, May 19, 2022

It is wonderful to be here!

Mr. Prime Minister,
Mr. Olivier Marquette,
Ministers of the Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It really is an honor to be with you all this morning.

And I am delighted to share the stage with the Prime Minister. As mentioned, he was in Washington last week, so we were joking that maybe we need to make this a weekly occurrence. Where will we meet next week?

The attendance, also, so many senior members of the Bulgarian Government, makes clear how important the bilateral trade and economic relationship between our two countries is. And our shared desire to deepen this relationship even more.

I understand that the Prime Minister last spoke to the AmCham membership in 2019 as a private citizen. Apparently, he gave an inspiring presentation then about starting a successful company as an entrepreneur in the United States and how he partnered with leading universities in the United States and Bulgaria to develop a patented yoghurt product named after Bulgaria. I was most interested to learn that if you use this product, you can live to be more than a hundred years old. You just need to eat it every day. And I am trying to decide if I want to live to be more than a hundred years old.

But I do believe the Prime Minister’s story is a great example of combining American and Bulgarian know-how to create a successful company that leads to jobs in both countries. It is a concrete example, but it is also a metaphor for what we all are striving for together.

I also very much want to thank our host this morning, AmCham President Marquette and AmCham CEO Ivanov. Ambassador Mustafa tells me that you have been incredible partners and I know that you couldn’t have а more incredible partner on our side than Ambassador Mustafa.

So, it has been a terrific alliance and we are grateful for it. Your vision and leadership combined with that of the AmCham Board truly has been exemplary. Today I wanted briefly to give you an overview of President Biden’s vision for a reinvigorated and revitalized Transatlantic Foreign Policy.

As both President Biden and Secretary Blinken have emphasized, the strength of America’s alliances is one of our country’s greatest assets. We are most effective when we are coordinating closely with you – our allies. This is true whether we are confronting COVID-19, economic and social inequality, climate change, corruption, threats to energy security, an increasingly assertive China, cyber threats, technological competition or, most recently, renewed Russian aggression.

To all of this, my team and I are focused on four goals:

First, we must continue to reinvigorate our European alliances and partnerships. The power of Transatlantic cooperation is a force for good. And we are stronger when we work together. Our engagement with the European Union, NATO, the OECD, and other partners is vital to our success and our prosperity.

And we are committed to a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. It is our aim to see countries throughout the region advance along their Euro-Atlantic paths and further contribute to unity. Ukraine, as we have seen, has demonstrated the power of our unity. In supporting Ukraine as it defends itself against this unprovoked renewed Russian invasion.

Second, we must coordinate with our European partners to strengthen democracy and the rule of law throughout Europe and Eurasia. We must reject antidemocratic tendencies and show that democracies can deliver for their people. Together we can –and we must– fight against authoritarianism, corruption and disinformation that contribute to democratic backsliding.

Third, in order to build back better and grow the Transatlantic economy, we need to promote deeper trade relations, foreign direct investment and energy cooperation. There are countless opportunities to expand and diversify our partnerships. Let’s move on those opportunities. Above all, let’s assure that in the future none of us, none of our partners and allies will be subject to the kind of energy blackmail that we have seen this year.

Fourth, it is imperative that we address the range of 21st century global challenges that threaten stability and prosperity at home and around the world. These include regional conflicts, terrorism, including radically-, racially-, and ethnically-motivated extremism and violence, that are escalating in the United States as well as in Europe. This, too, must be done in coordination with our partners. We cannot do it alone. We all find ourselves living in exceptional times and we are facing significant challenges along many fronts. But we are also presented with tremendous opportunities to strengthen our relationships, reinforce our partnerships with like-minded nations and protect our shared values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human dignity and human rights.

Chief among the challenges at the moment is Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine. And, Petar, you spoke so movingly about the heartbreak of this war. It has been almost three months since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what is a truly brutal war. His actions have directly led to millions of displaced persons, a world-wide energy crisis and a looming food security tragedy beyond the immediate tragedy of what is happening every day in Ukraine. We think allies like Bulgaria that have provided vital assistance to Ukraine are critical to this coalition and we thank you for the unity. We have seen Bulgaria generously welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees and provided a range of technical and humanitarian support to Ukraine. Through NATO we have cooperated closely to stand up a new battle group here in Bulgaria to also ensure Bulgaria’s security at this time. During the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington last week, Vice President Harris expressed her appreciation for the strong friendship between our two countries. She thanked the Prime Minister for Bulgaria’s support to Ukraine and affirmed U.S. solidarity in the face of Russia’s latest attempt to use energy as a weapon.

The Prime Minister announced Bulgaria had secured two shiploads of liquified natural gas from the United States. While Russia slams the door on Bulgaria, the United States extends a helping hand. That is the definition of friendship.

I also want to commend AmCham which has joined forces, as Olivier mentioned, with the Embassy and NGOs to assist displaced Ukrainians by providing job opportunities, housing, legal services and much more. This United with Ukraine campaign is not only an innovative and timely way to support the Ukrainian people. It is also a terrific example of corporate social responsibility. So, thank you, to all of you, who have joined this important initiative.

In closing, I want to thank the members of AmCham for your tireless work to support strong partnerships between Bulgarian and American companies and help transform Bulgaria into a gateway to all of Europe.

I think there is so much more we can do together, and I look forward to watching all of us in this room do it.

Thank you for the invitation!

It is wonderful to be with you!