US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick: Ambassadors' 'Road Show' Comes in the Right Time to Invest in Bulgaria
Exclusive interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) with US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick on the Bulgarian-US Ambassadors' Road Show, a tour that Warlick and Bulgarian Ambassador to the US Elena Poptodorova are staging in several US cities together with business executives to promote trade and investments with/in Bulgaria.
The tour starts Sunday, May 15, and ends on May 20. The diplomats are going to visit four cities – Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Phoenix, AZ, and San Francisco, CA.
The 2011 Road Show is the second edition of the initiative to promote investment in Bulgaria among US comapnies after the first Ambassadors' Road Show was staged in 2007, shortly after Bulgaria's accession to the EU by then US Ambassador to Bulgaria John Beyrle and Ambassador Poptodorova, back then in her first term.
What is the main purpose of this "Road Show" trip to the US by Embassy officials and AmCham business representatives?
The primary purpose of the Road Show this year is to introduce US businesses to the many investment and business opportunities they can find here in Bulgaria.
We will also seek opportunities for US exports to Bulgaria as well a variety of business ventures and partnerships.
For this trip, Ambassador Poptodorova and I will be joined by the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, the Executive Director of the InvestBulgaria Agency, as well as other Bulgarian business leaders. We will be in the US for one week.
I understand that you will be visiting Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Why were these particular cities picked? Is the program the same for each of these cities?
These cities were specifically picked because they offer a wide range of business opportunities that provide a very good match for US and Bulgarian businesses.
In some of these cities, there are already on-going business relationships that have been well established, but I believe we can expand the business opportunities even further.
At each of these four stops, we will have a series of programs that are especially designed to match up with specific industries in those areas.
We are also conducting a special community outreach event at each location with Bulgarians currently living in those areas.
This trip will be exciting from both the business and investment prospective as well as socially as we visit with Bulgarians who, in many cases, have made the US their home.
Now that you have been in Bulgaria for more than one year, what do you see as the most viable business sectors that could attract US companies to invest in Bulgaria or to conduct business with Bulgarian companies?
There are many advantages for establishing business relationships here in Bulgaria such as the well-educated and motivated workforce, the low and flat tax rate, quick access to regional markets, and entry into Europe, to name a few.
Bulgaria also has a rich tradition in a variety of industries such as Informational Technologies and also in agriculture.
Those two sectors, as well as renewable energy, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, mining, and franchising, for example, make Bulgaria a very attractive location for business and investment.
Given the prolonged economic downturn that has impacted much of the world, do you expect increased US investment interest in Bulgaria despite that situation?
The current economic situation actually presents an ideal opportunity for investment. I feel strongly that US companies are ready to seek new partners and to expand business opportunities.
This is the right time to invest, and I hope that US businesses will be as enthusiastic as I am for establishing even more business ventures between US and Bulgarian companies.
Energy has been a high priority for US policy here in Bulgaria for several years. What impact do you think the recent changes in the renewable energy legislation might have on potential US investment in this sector?
The energy sector will continue to pose certain challenges to investment and business expansion – this is not anything unusual. But despite changes in the legislation, I know there are US companies who are still interested in working in this sector, and I welcome their interest and encourage them to pursue such opportunities.
And if legislation is changed in the future that is more supportive for the renewable energy sector, I would expect the level of interest to increase. But for this and all other sectors, I will be able to speak more specifically on overall interest in all these sectors after we return from our one-week trip.
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