Investing in the U.S.-Lithuanian Relationship
Joint Op-Ed by Ambassadors Anne E. Derse (US) and Zygimantis Pavilionis (LT)
Last month marked the 22nd anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania’s independence from the former Soviet Union, when Lithuania achieved its goal of becoming a free nation.
Throughout Lithuania’s struggle for independence, the United States was a stalwart supporter of the Lithuanian people. Our nations now continue our long history of partnership and friendship, working together to promote the ideals of freedom and democracy around the globe.
Today, the close relationship between the United States and Lithuania has taken on significance far beyond the tables of international diplomacy. Over the past several years, Lithuania- which became a full member of both the European Union and NATO in 2004- has endeavored to establish itself as a hospitable environment for American enterprise, enabling U.S. companies to expand and grow and bringing us ever closer together in international commerce.
One by one, American businesses seeking to export to and invest in the European market have found a second home in Lithuania. Some of the most well-known U.S.-based Fortune 500 companies – from Coca Cola and IBM to Western Union, Computer Sciences Corporation, and Moog – have found a warm welcome in Lithuania, building upon their success there to expand in the region and across Europe.
Lithuania has continued to show significant economic resilience as much of Europe has struggled through the debt crisis. In fact, current economic forecasts now show Lithuania’s economy is growing faster than that of the European Union. As a champion of democracy, its political climate is among the most stable of all former Soviet bloc nations, with a strong justice system and elections heralded by the international community as free, fair and open. Over the past year, Lithuania has been a regional political leader, chairing the Community of Democracies (CoD) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and it continues to serve as a mentor for the developing democracies of the former Soviet Union.
Equally important, its strong political system is matched by a healthy education and labor network. Lithuania’s work force is among the most highly trained in the world, with 92% holding upper secondary degrees (1st in the EU), and it has the highest rate of multilingual proficiency on the continent at more than 90%. The advanced infrastructure in Lithuania boasts one of the highest Internet penetration rates in Europe and some of the fastest Internet connections in the world.
Moreover, Lithuania has made building stronger trade with the United States a top priority. In January of this year, its foreign direct investment arm, Invest Lithuania, opened a permanent trade office in Northern California to serve as an on-the-ground facilitator for companies considering options for European expansion. Invest Lithuania is not only working hard to open its market for U.S. companies, but for Lithuanian companies to enter the U.S. market as well.
The United States shares Lithuania’s drive to expand our bilateral trade and investment ties. In 2011, the U.S. Commerce Department sent a trade mission to Lithuania encouraging U.S. exporters both to enter the Lithuanian market and partner with Lithuanian firms to export to third countries. The trade mission was part of the U.S. National Export Initiative, which was launched in 2010, and is on track to achieve the goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years.
Lithuania and the United States continue to stand together in both commerce and diplomacy. In just the last six months, the United States hosted Lithuania’s Ministers of Economy, Transportation, and Education, and the Mayor of Vilnius, while Lithuania saw visits from a U.S. House of Representatives delegation, and at the OSCE Ministerial in December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marked her second visit to the country in less than a year.
We laud the efforts of the United States and Lithuania to continue to develop our historic cooperation through stronger trade and investment ties, and remain committed to encouraging further collaboration between American companies and their partners in Lithuania.
Noah Mamet & Associates
One Front Street, 16th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 293-4494 (f)