Interview with H. E. Lee A. Feinstein United States Ambassador to Poland
How do you assess economic relations between the USA and Poland?
We have excellent economic relations. That said, for the EU’s fastest growing economy and the world’s largest one, there is definitely room for us to do more together. People are often surprised at the scope of our economic relationship. Americans were among the first to invest in Poland after the transition, and these companies stayed. This year, several very prominent companies are celebrating the 20th anniversary of doing business in Poland.
Initially, they made their investments on a little bit on faith, but they have proven to be very good investments and these companies are now being repaid with dividends for their earlier decisions to come to Poland. I’ve seen several different independent analyses on job creation in Poland due to American investment. The data is impressive, much more so than many people realize.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 Poles are employed directly or indirectly by American companies in Poland. We are very pleased about that. Since coming to Warsaw two and a half years ago, I’ve noticed that American investors’ interest in Poland is strongly increasing and broadening across many different sectors. In the beginning it was principally in areas like consumer products and manufacturing. And those sectors are still very attractive. Now we’re also seeing significant growth in many different sectors, from very high-tech, cutting-edge R&D to back-office service sectors.
American politicians often describe Poland as a strategic partner in Europe. What are your expectations concerning our bilateral relations?
Poland is a very important ally of the United States and our relationship is changing as Poland’s importance is growing in Europe and in the world. That is really what I see as my job description – working with Poles together to develop a relationship and a program of action for our countries today. We have over 200 years of great common history. After the transition our mission was very clear – pushing for Poland’s NATO membership, supporting Poland EU membership. Now we must define a relationship for the 21st Century.
What economic projects are the U.S. and Poland cooperating on over the next 2 years?
In the very near term, on June 20, Commerce Secretary John Bryson wil lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Poland High Level Business Summit, which will be right here in Warsaw. The roundtable was announced when President Obama and Prime Minister Tusk met in Warsaw in May 2011. In addition to high-level government representatives from both sides, business executives and leaders from the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland; the U.S.-Polish Business Council; the Polish Confederation of Private Employers; the Polish Shale Gas Producers Association; and other key private sector organizations will participate. The goals are to identify new commercial opportunities for U.S. and Polish companies, promote innovative research and development cooperation, and address obstacles that hinder commercial growth. In general, the private sector is an engine of growth in both countries, and we want to support the economic activity of these companies. All American ambassadors have a mandate from the President double American exports in the countries we serve in over the next five years. We feel like we are on track to achieve this goal. At the same time, we are also interested in attracting Polish investment in the United States. There are some well-known Polish firms that have had success in investing in the US. The best example is in cosmetics area, but energy should also be highlighted as a sector of great potential between Poland and the United States. It also has important political and strategic significance for both of our countries. We think this is an area where our companies and our talented engineers and geologists can work together to the economic benefit of both countries, and also help create greater energy self-sufficiency for Poland and for the entire transatlantic space.
How will the recent discovery of shale gas in Poland contribute to investment attractiveness of Poland?
As it is still in the exploratory phase,it is not yet known what the companies will find and whether what they do find can be brought to surface in a commercially viable way. In the United States 10 years ago shale gas constituted a very small share of the nation’s gas sources barely in the low single digits. Today it accounts for about 35%. This is a remarkable transformation. It is hard to know whether this could be replicated anywhere else but in the US it has a positive impact on prices. It also stimulated economic activity and played a large role in America’s economic revitalization after 2008. There are different estimates of job creation that we attribute to shale gas development, but it is quite significant. Today the United States is close to being self-sufficient in gas, something nobody predicted a decade ago. It is still unclear what the impact will be for Poland, but I see our role here as one of sharing our experiences. Whatever the resource is beneath the surface, it is important to develop it in a responsible way. If it is not done in a transparent way, a way which builds public confidence, it would be difficult to go forward.
Despite the economic crisis, Poland managed to sustain its GDP growth. What do you think are the most important advantages of Polish economy?
Poland has an excellent location in the center of the Europe and is a stable democratic country. The Polish domestic market of 40 million consumers is very attractive as well, and Poland has a very highly educated, highly trained, and highly motivated workforce.
Which economic sectors in Poland should be of particular interests to American investors?
There are several interesting sectors, and I’ve been very impressed with the high degree of interest from American high-tech firms in taking advantage of the brain power here in Poland. Several well-known companies have invested very heavily in building up their R&D capacity. The quality of the work force and culture of the country are very congenial to American firms. We feel very much like at home here. From a cost perspective, Poland competes very favorably with the BRIC countries. This is interesting and not unnoticed by American companies. Poland is very attractive internationally and ranks very high among top FDI destinations.
What is your opinion about polish culture, design, tourism and wise?
I think that sophisticated Americans who operate in this area are very familiar with Polish culture, design and visual arts, and they are always impressed with what they see. Polish graphic design and film are internationally known and highly regarded. Poland is also very active in fashion world and more broadly in design, and Polish institutions have done a good job promoting this. I am lucky to have some wonderful contemporary Polish art exhibited in my house. That is one of the many benefits of this job which my wife and I really enjoy.