Thank you, Salim (Zenni- President of the American-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce), for that introduction.
It is a pleasure to be here today and to support the American-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce. We have enjoyed a strong partnership with the AmCham for over twenty years. Together, we have a fruitful history of advocating for and encouraging increased commercial and economic ties between our two countries.
We are here today to highlight this year’s signature high-tech AmCham event: the “Start-up Lebanon Executive Innovation Retreat.”
This will be a great opportunity for Lebanese executives to meet with Silicon Valley experts.
The impressive five-day program will connect you with many of the Bay Area’s top businesspeople and innovators. The schedule includes site visits, conferences, round-table discussions, and demonstrations, and offers you a chance to experience Silicon Valley first-hand.
The U.S. Embassy is proud to lend its assistance to the program and to AmCham through its recruitment, logistics, and business counseling services. We are also promoting start-ups and the thriving venture capital sector right here in Lebanon.
Through USAID, since 2014 we have invested over $4.5 million in 16 Lebanese startups and two investment funds, and mobilized more than $10 million in matching investments.
Support for both investors and entrepreneurs has leveraged capital from a new class of individual or “angel” investors, helped launch an “accelerator” that takes young businesses from the idea stage to the growth stage, and given over 200 entrepreneurs access to mentoring and coaching.
More broadly, I want to highlight AmCham’s work in encouraging U.S. investment and trade in Lebanon, which helps improve Lebanon’s business climate.
With the Lebanese economy where it is, foreign investment is critical. This year, more than ever, your considerable expertise is going to be needed.
The previous government laid out an ambitious development and investment program at the CEDRE conference in Paris. And international donors, including the United States, are ready to support Lebanon in its efforts.
But serious reforms are required, and the new government will need the support of the private sector as it makes and implements some hard decisions.
We are encouraged by the commitment stated by virtually every political party during the elections to tackling the problems of corruption and transparency.
With Lebanon having dropped from 136 in the 2016 Transparency International corruption ratings to 143 of 180 countries in 2017, you must hold your government to account in getting hold of a problem that threatens the entire economy.
Let me close by acknowledging our Commercial Office at the Embassy which leads our commercial engagement activities and is well represented by Naaman Tayyar. He will accompany you on the “Start-up Lebanon Executive Innovation Retreat.” We are confident that this year’s group will follow in the successes of prior AmCham delegations to the United States.
Again, allow me to compliment the AmCham Board and President Zenni for their energetic promotion of Lebanon’s business culture. I wish them and the participants every success. Thank you.