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Deputy Secretary's Speech


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Monday, October 27, 2008


U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce John J. Sullivan
Remarks to the U.S.-Georgia Business Summit
Tbilisi, Georgia

Good morning and thank you for the invitation to be here. I’d like to thank Chargé Kent Logsdon and his staff for the outstanding job they have done in making today’s Summit possible. And I would like to recognize the America-Georgia Business Council and American Chamber of Commerce for their leadership in this summit and the Trade Mission. Both are important partners for the Department of Commerce. Their efforts to build ties between American and Georgian companies, encourage economic reforms, and create a vibrant commercial environment are essential. Thank you for your leadership.

I’d also like to recognize key U.S. government officials who have joined us today: Bob Mosbacher, the CEO and President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Larry Walther, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director. Thank you for joining us.

Before I get started, I’d like to take a moment to say a few words about the global economy:

  • We understand that people around the world are concerned about their financial future.
  • In the United States, we took decisive action to bring stability to the credit markets, and we have taken further actions to restore confidence in the financial market.
  • We are also coordinating with other nations on an international response to this global crisis.
  • Last week President Bush announced plans to hold a Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy in November.
  • We are confident the coordinated actions we are taking will overcome these challenges.
  • This will take time, but the economy will come back.

We know these economic times are challenging, and while some might suggest this is a time for countries to turn inward, isolating from the world, in the United States we are advocating the opposite. As President Bush has said, America must stay committed to international engagement. Free markets and economic openness are a reflection of American values. It is in our security and economic interests to stay engaged globally.

Georgia is an important ally and a strategic partner of the United States. Today we are here to reaffirm our commitment to Georgia’s democracy; to Georgia’s territorial integrity; and to Georgia’s security. This Summit is about all that and more. It is about the unbreakable ties between our two countries. It is about our faith in Georgia’s commitment to reform, to free markets and to ensuring the prosperity and security of its people.

Recent events have vividly demonstrated the high cost of conflict and the importance of working together on a stable, peaceful path forward. Meetings like this will lead to greater collaboration, understanding and opportunities for mutual success and partnership.

Rebuilding has begun, and the people of Georgia are already expressing confidence in their future. Last year the economy grew by 12 percent, and in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report Georgia has quickly moved into the rank of some of the most developed economies.

The most recent report propels Georgia to 15 out of 181 countries measured. The World Bank cites Georgia’s low taxation and capable, educated workforce among other attributes. The United States shares their assessment, and many of the experts you’ll hear from today will reiterate the incredible potential of Georgia.

While last year’s $580 million two-way trade is modest, there is tremendous potential for growth in our bilateral trading relationship. President Bush has pledged to help Georgia rebuild and regain its momentum so it can quickly restore its position as one of the world’s fastest growing economies. I am confident that the next Administration will continue this commitment.

President Bush recently announced a multi-year commitment of $1 billion in economic assistance to Georgia. It will be targeted in three broad areas: 1) Ongoing humanitarian assistance; 2) Reconstruction of damaged or destroyed infrastructure and facilities; and 3) Support for Georgia’s economic recovery.

Perhaps just as important as direct assistance, we are committed to exploring ways to increase bilateral trade and investment. For example, we are pursuing a revision of the current Bilateral Investment Treaty and expansion of Georgian products eligible under the Generalized System of Preferences. This will give Georgia’s exporters improved access to American consumers.

At the Commerce Department we are undertaking a number of important initiatives that will also contribute to growing our business ties with Georgia.

Over the past two months we have introduced a Commercial Service presence in Georgia. Commercial Officer Rich Steffens from our Embassy Kyiv is here. He has been instrumental in organizing today’s summit. We intend to having a continued Commerce presence in the future. Thank you Rich for your hard work.

Additionally, as a lawyer and former General Counsel of the Department of Commerce, I’m particularly pleased to learn about plans to extend our Commercial Law Development Program to Georgia. This program is designed to:

  • Assist Georgian lawyers as they modernize and harmonize commercial laws;
  • Build the capacity of Georgia’s judiciary in commercial dispute settlement; and
  • Enhance Georgia’s development of intellectual property protection and technology transfer laws.

In addition, the U.S. Commerce Department is planning to:

  • Host a hydropower energy event in Washington that will introduce American companies to hydropower opportunities in Georgia;
  • Help Georgian wine producers increase their export readiness and protect their intellectual property. This will expose more wine lovers around the world to Georgian wines and help Georgians defend the exclusive properties that make your wines distinctive and special;
  • Sponsor a financial services roundtable next spring that will advise Georgian officials on best practices in insurance, asset management, and pensions; and
  • Conduct outreach events with Georgian officials in select U.S. cities this winter and in the spring of next year.

Commerce officials will also continue to work closely with the U.S. Chamber, the America-Georgia Business Council and others who are committed to improving Georgia’s business environment and strengthening our bilateral relationship.

We invite your participation and interest in these activities, and encourage you to work with us in the months and years to come. When we work together we will expand trade, grow investment ties, and help Georgia’s economy recover.

On behalf of President Bush, I thank you for being here and for your commitment to our important relationship. We are proud of the people of Georgia and value the relationship between our nations.

We have a day filled with great panels and speakers, and I look forward to participating with you in today’s events.

Thank you.