Ambassador Michael C. Polt
Ambassador Polt Remarks at AmCham Estonia’s 15th Anniversary Dinner
April 5, 2012
Good evening Mr. Minister, Ambassador Kaljurand – dear Marina, Andrus and AmCham friends, ladies and gentlemen.
What a great evening to celebrate 15 years of AmCham Estonia!
I would like to thank Bart and the Swissôtel for hosting us tonight, and our other generous sponsors: Microsoft, Lextal, Coca-Cola, and Altia Eesti.
It is an honor and a pleasure to celebrate AmCham’s 15 years of building U.S.-Estonian business relations. It is just great to see how far we have all -- Estonia and the U.S. and this Chamber -- have come in this short time.
Estonia’s journey from Soviet occupation to a vibrant and innovative economic leader is an example for others to study and follow.
In my years in this country I have learned how difficult it is to get Estonians to overcome their modesty and accept applause for the great work they have done. But tonight is a night for such applause, so let’s give another round of “well done” for this organization and its birthday and for this amazing country!
Similar to Estonia’s transformation as a nation, the rejuvenation of AmCham I have witnessed is tangible and deserves enthusiastic recognition.
Shortly after Hallie’s and my arrival in Tallinn in 2009, Daria organized a “fireside chat” at the Three Sisters Hotel for me to meet the Chamber’s Board of Governors and Charter Gold Members.
Going in to the meeting I knew the Chamber was facing challenges due to the global financial crisis; just as so many business and organizations were. But what I also heard that evening was a clear dedication to AmCham’s mission and a desire to see it grow into an even stronger and more prominent voice for U.S. business in Estonia.
Since that first chat I have watched AmCham put together a string of successes that would be the envy of many older and larger Chambers. In my dual-role as Ambassador and Honorary President of the Chamber, I am particularly proud of the ongoing partnership between my team at the Embassy and the Chamber.
Coordinated by Andrus, Daria and the rest of the AmCham leadership, our cooperation runs the gamut of issues and events. From drawing attention to issues such as intellectual property rights, to American community events like our joint Fourth of July celebrations, to creating the Estonian American Innovation Award, we indeed have much to be proud of.
Looking ahead, we see new challenges and opportunities that will require even stronger engagement to help create more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Through expanded business ties and putting our respective innovative economies in high gear.
Many pundits have spoken recently about the United States turning its attention away from Europe and towards Asia.
This has stoked fears that U.S.-European economic and security relationships will suffer. I am here today to tell you yet again what Minister Paet and Ambassador Kaljurand already know very well –
The U.S. and Europe, politically, economically, socially and emotionally represent two sides of the same coin.
As to our relations with the Asia/Pacific region, Americans, Estonians and other Europeans can and will walk and chew gum at the same time.
Remember the facts: Transatlantic trade accounts for 40 percent of the global economy. Americans and Europeans are not only preferred, but also natural partners.
We recognize that concerted action by the United States and our allies in Europe is required if we want to tackle the global challenges and opportunities of our time.
This is true for building a vibrant and free 21st century global economy, mitigating climate change, engaging emerging economies, and recovering from the global financial crisis.
And it is true for combating terrorism or cyber threats, and completing our mission in Afghanistan.
On the business front, the U.S. and EU are working through one of my favorite cross-ocean institutions -- the Transatlantic Economic Council. We seek to avoid unnecessary divergence in regulations and standards that impede trade;
develop fully compatible approaches to emerging technologies; and coordinate our activities to level the playing field for our companies in third countries, particularly in emerging economies.
All of this is under the overarching goal of creating a truly open transatlantic marketplace and improving the prosperity of our 800 million people.
Estonia, and AmCham Estonia, have important roles to play in the U.S.-European economic partnership. In this, Estonia's compact size is both a plus and a minus. A small and advanced rule-of-law country can quickly take advantage of new entrepreneurial opportunities. It can offer stability and low risk that many much larger economies can only hope for.
But a small domestic market also means that the 800 million people have to become Estonia’s target market. And a small population means having to tackle the limits of in-country human capital – in terms of education and training as well as immigration policy.
Estonia, and more importantly, "E-stonia, is already an established leader in a number of 21st century economic priority areas.
These include processing rare earths; developing alternative as well as new forms of traditional energy; information technology; and of course the myriad of e-services that you already treat as routine and that make the rest of us jealous.
The world has come to learn about innovative Estonia. Expanding and delivering on that reputation will be the task of Estonian entrepreneurs and this AmCham together with American innovators.
My Embassy will continue to be part of this exciting and promising future.
With that in mind, once again, Happy 15th Birthday AmCham Estonia!