Bulgaria-US relations: new horizonsEuropost , Sofia
US businesses in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Government outlined the priorities in economic cooperation as they met for a Business Breakfast hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria (AmCham) and attended by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The forum is mottoed "Bulgaria - U.S. Transatlantic Relations. New Horizons".
AmCham President Olivier Marquette said digital technologies, artificial intelligence, cyber security and energy are the key areas of cooperation between the two countries. AmCham Executive Director Petar Ivanov said that the Bulgarian economy is now mature enough to set a foot on the US market and Borissov said that this country exports to the US more than it imports which means that the Bulgarian economy is developing.
Marquette said that digital technologies and AI are a prime interest for AmCham and these sectors are also important for Bulgaria's position in the global economy. He assured the Prime Minister that AmCham is ready for joint work to bring digitalization to a new level.
The AmCham President reiterated that the aim of cooperation in the energy sector is to ensure energy independence and diversification. He recalled the recent first import of LNG to Bulgaria and said that two US-owned power plants continue to generate electricity in Bulgaria and contribute to the stability of the national energy system. He also mentioned the readiness of Westinghouse to be actively participating in the Bulgarian nuclear energy sector and expanding its operation in this country.
He said that Bulgarian investments in the US have for years been competing successfully with national and international investment. Bulgarian investors have created over 4,000 jobs in the US, and their aggregate sales stand at over 1 billion US dollars.
The AmCham President said that economic ties between the two countries are very strong and the inflow of US capital in Bulgaria is steady, accounting for some 11 per cent of all foreign direct investment in this country. A total of 4.5 billion leva in US investments in Bulgaria have created 30,000 Bulgarian jobs, providing a catalyst for capable young people to stay in their home country, he said.
Discussing the increased potential of Bulgarian companies to do business with the US, AmCham Executive Director Petar Ivanov said that this potential is strongest in the hi-tech sectors, solar parks, production of probiotics and software for the film industry.
In a wide-ranging address at the Business Breakfast, the Prime Minister said that Bulgaria is among the countries which have capitalized the most on Juncker's Investment Plan for Europe and it has worked very well for this country.
Borissov said that Bulgaria is putting much effort in ensuring its energy independence and diversification.
He went on to speak of North Macedonia and its Euro-Atlantic integration, saying that it must be a member of the EU and NATO "but it can't play with history because history is clear". He also argued that Albania should be a NATO member as well "because any country which is abandoned by the large European family, is doomed to become breeding ground for corruption and terror".
He mentioned a recent deal for purchase of F-16 jet fighters for the Bulgarian Air Force which went through despite "fierce and mean opposition" and accusations of lobbyism against the government. "We bought the best that is out there for our pilots," said the Prime Minister, adding that the Ministers of Defence and of Finance and himself "made the deal irreversible".
Lockheed Martin Director of Business Development Randy Howard said that the Lockheed Martin aircraft is costly but it is an excellent investment as it will repay in the form of security for Bulgaria. He pointed out that it is a key component of NATO armament and thanked Prime Minister Borissov for his brave leadership. He said he was aware that the decision to purchase F-16 would not come easy.
Howard also said that a special programme for training pilots and maintenance personnel in Bulgaria will be developed jointly with Bulgarian partners and added that support will also be provided when repair or other technical assistance is needed.
US Charge d'Affaires Justin Friedman thanked the Prime Minister for what he called "a geostrategic decision" to purchase F-16. He said the deal will help Bulgaria to better protect its sky and maritime territory, and create jobs.