Greece is a pillar of stability in its region. We cooperate closely in advancing freedom and security in the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean and the broader region. And Alternate Minister of National Defense Dimitris Vitsas has been a strong proponent for expanding the excellent cooperation we have at Souda Bay, which strengthens our alliance and every day helps us to accomplish military missions in support of global peace and security.
It is also important to remember that Greece is one of a small handful of countries who regularly meet their NATO defense spending commitments and, because of its strategic location, has a very deep understanding of the importance of maintaining a strong national defense.
So, what’s at stake here is not just the increased business partnerships that arise from our defense relationship and Greece’s gradual economic recovery, but also increased defense capabilities that are mutually beneficial and support our NATO commitments and ability to make the world a safer place. Our interest in supporting Greece’s full exit from the economic crisis of the last eight years is based in our understanding of Greece’s critical role as the region’s pillar of stability. The stronger Greece is, the safer its region will be.
Many American companies, like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and ATK, clearly agree, as they have established strong business partnerships in Greece. And Greek defense companies such as IDE/Intracom, Hellenic Defense Systems and Theon Sensors are already working with American firms and competing globally. However, there is definitely more interest from American companies, hoping to get involved in Greek ports, in the energy sector, and also in civil aviation as the Greek market rebounds.
On Friday, I was at the Thessaloniki Summit, where I spoke about our efforts to support Greece in its economic recovery and, specifically, about ways to support Greek innovation and increase its foreign direct investment, especially from the US. I’d like to reiterate a few of the points I made there.
American and Greek companies alike seek a favorable, predictable and stable business climate, and Greece’s legal and bureaucratic system should support these companies and potential investment. Businesses don’t mind paying taxes, as long as paying taxes affords them stability and an environment to grow. The privatization and sale of public properties is also an important step in the right direction.
Last, to attract reliable and sustainable investment, there must be an expectation of transparency and full knowledge of all the partners in any business deal. American companies are well known for their transparency, for their adherence to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and for their respect for the rule of law in general. I believe that’s a unique and important advantage of doing business with US companies, one that’s not found with some of Greece’s other partners.
In 2016, Greece was the 10th fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the United States, and the United States was the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Greece. We saw that, for instance, last summer, when US funds led the way in Greece’s successful return to financial markets.
Importantly, our economic and commercial relationship is also not just deals in Greece or in the United States. For instance, Mytilineos and General Electric just signed an EPC deal for a power plant in Libya that will help that country reduce power shortages and modernize a critical sector. This illustrates how Greek and American companies together can drive growth and achieve commercial success in regions of strategic importance.
And we are certainly working more and more with Greece both on a regional and bilateral basis. Later this month, Trade Winds, a US Department of Commerce organized trade mission to Southeastern Europe, will bring a delegation of US companies to Athens to explore the Greek market and potential partnership opportunities.
* Geoffrey R. Pyatt is the US ambassador to Greece. The above comprises extracts (edited for context) from his speech at the 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the US Army in Washington on Tuesday.