Transatlantic Award Gala Dinner, Remarks by Ambassador John Phillips
Milan, December 5, 2016
(As prepared for delivery)
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you Simone and Stefano for that kind introduction and this marvelous award.
It is a bittersweet time for me as I approach the end of my appointment as Ambassador to Italy and San Marino. Serving as an Ambassador in President Obama’s administration has been a humbling honor that is one of the highlights of my life. While I am sad to leave the position and my outstanding teams at the Embassy, and at the Consulates here in Milan, and in Florence and Naples, I do so knowing that with my entire Mission Italy Team we have made a positive impact on U.S.-Italian relations over the past thirty-nine months.
One of our key allies in advancing economic opportunity for both the United States and Italy is the American Chamber of Commerce.
AmCham represents the best of U.S. business ethics and ideals, and is a key component of our engagement with the Italian public and private sectors. I value the friendship and support that AmCham has provided me and my team over the past three years, so thank you all!
Populist politics are on the rise in Europe and in the United States, so it is more important than ever that business interests have a strong advocate pushing for free trade and democratic values. Inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity clearly add value to business and society, so it is incumbent that the AmCham, and all of you, continue to be champions for these ideals.
One of the commercial highlights during my service has been promoting investment into the U.S. through our Select USA program. Consulate General Milan and our Commercial Service have done an amazing job in promoting investment opportunities in the United States. Part of their success has been due to the low growth rates in Europe, and the agility with which family-owned Italian firms can make decisions.
However, another reason is that it is so difficult for these same firms to re-invest and grow in Italy. There is a lot of pent-up potential here that is suffocated by bureaucracy and constant political turnover, and it drives investment away from the country.
Prime Minister Renzi and some regional governments are working hard to change this, and we have already witnessed positive momentum in cutting some red tape, and enabling judicial reforms through the use of commercial courts.
Disruptive technologies are impacting old business models, and those companies and countries that do not adapt will suffer in the future. Italy is innovative, creative, and inventive. It is a country of entrepreneurs, and its economy must be unleashed to fulfil its potential as an economic powerhouse. Judicial reform, improvements to the business climate, and support for entrepreneurs are positive trends that the U.S. Embassy will continue to promote in programs and initiatives with Italian officials.
Yesterday’s vote was an important expression of Italy’s democracy. The Italian people have decided and now it is time for the citizens of this great country and their political leaders to come together. While Italians may have differed on this particular reform of their political institutions, the reform agenda launched by this government needs to continue. The status quo will not be enough to deliver the investment and growth Italy needs.
The U.S.-Italy partnership will remain vital and strong, irrespective of political elections or referenda, and I’m confident our two countries will continue to work closely together in the years ahead.
In conclusion I want to reiterate my gratitude to AmCham and its members for their collaboration and support. I look forward to remaining in touch with many of you after I return to private life. Grazie e buona serata!