Ambassador’s Speech for Cigna’s Launch Ceremony

Ambassador Elizabeth Richard with Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Raed Khoury and Cigna officials at launching ceremony
Four Seasons Hotel, Downtown


Your Excellency Minister of Economy and Trade Raed Khoury,

Ms. Nadine Habbal, Acting Director Insurance Control Commission,

Mr. Jason Sadler, President of Cigna’s International Markets Business,

Mr. Howard Gough, CEO of Cigna Middle East and North Africa,

And to our many distinguished guests with us today,

Thank you for allowing me to be with you to celebrate this momentous occasion.  It is fitting that we have gathered here in downtown Beirut, a centuries’ old crossroads of international commerce and a meeting point for diverse cultures from around the globe.  I am very proud that, with Cigna’s arrival to Lebanon, we continue that tradition today.

The partnership between Lebanon and the United States has spanned many years, including the founding over 150 years ago of American universities and high schools, which are thriving centers of excellence today.  The ties between our countries and our citizens have only grown stronger, and have expanded to cover security, development, and humanitarian affairs.  But today I want to talk about the economic dimension of this relationship. Trade between Lebanon and the United States now surpasses over one billion dollars each year. Last year, the United States became Lebanon’s third largest trading partner, up from fifth place in 2015. When our companies do business together, they develop new products and provide better services. They create new opportunities and drive economic growth. Consumers have greater choices in the products and service that they buy at more competitive prices. Direct private investment from the United States to Lebanon and vice-versa is transforming industries and expanding markets in both countries — from health care to hi-tech — and creating new jobs along the way.

As the U.S. Ambassador, I am just thrilled to see one of America’s largest and most important companies join this market.  Cigna also traces its origins back nearly 200 years.  The company that you see today has sales capability in 30 countries, more than 90 million customer relationships throughout the globe, and has assets of over $57 billion.  But I would also like to highlight specifically their strong record of corporate responsibility, and were recognized again this year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine as one of the 100 best corporate citizens.

Cigna’s commitment to  environmental sustainability, community service and grants, wellness programs, diversity, and good governance and ethics is an example to all of us that companies can be good citizens and highly profitable at the same time.

I know we are facing economic challenges, both here in Lebanon and around the region.  But I have confidence in the remarkable Lebanese entrepreneurs, bankers, businessmen, and workers who drive this economy.

And I am so delighted to have Cigna, an American company with incredible expertise and experience in global health services, as the newest partner in Lebanon’s insurance industry.  I believe the future holds many wonderful things for this new venture and I am confident it will be an outstanding success, in Lebanon and in the Middle East.

I would like to take a moment to especially thank His Excellency Raed Khoury and Nadine Habbal and the whole team at the Ministry of Economy and Trade for helping to make this achievement possible.  We could not have done this without you. We applaud their ongoing dedication to improving the economic livelihood of the Lebanese people.  I would also like to thank Mr. Sadler and Mr. Gough of Cigna for their commitment to Lebanon and for the many benefits that Cigna’s entry to Lebanon will surely bring.

I know this partnership has great potential.  And I really would like to repeat as I have so many times in so many places across Lebanon, when we work together and learn from each other, we can do anything. So thank you very much for being with us today.