I recently attended the Brown Forum in Dubrovnik, an impressive gathering of over 200 government and business leaders from southeastern Europe and the United States. The conference was organized by the U.S. Government in tribute to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who along with 34 other mission participants died in a plane crash approaching Dubrovnik in 1996, while on a trade mission in the region.
The Brown Forum provided a unique opportunity to continue a government-to-business dialogue about improving the attractiveness of this part of the world as a destination for foreign trade and investment. One of the key goals of the Brown Forum was to create and enhance opportunities for trade, with a special emphasis on creating partnerships between regional and American businesses. Two worthy representatives of the Bosnian business community – Faruk Sirbegovic, president of the Sirbegovic Group of Gracanica, and Miroslav Tesic, director of the Turbina company of Kotor Varos – participated as conference panelists.
Participants discussed and endorsed a set of principles to strengthen the business climate in southeast Europe. These principles support reforms to make the region a more attractive place for trade and investment, to encourage job growth and prosperity, and to improve the lives of everyone in the region. The U.S. government is committed to helping the region achieve its full potential and, with that objective in mind, we want to promote direct business-to-business contacts between U.S. and regional companies.
Following the Dubrovnik conference, I returned to Sarajevo where I also attended the second annual Sarajevo Business Forum. A key message of the Sarajevo event, with which I strongly agree, was that the nations of the region must work together if they want to be competitive in today’s competitive global marketplace. The Sarajevo Business Forum highlighted Bosnia’s potential for economic growth and drew attention to major investment opportunities. The featured U.S. speaker at the Forum was Lorraine Hariton, State Department Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs. Her message highlighted the need for unity and stability as essential ingredients of a strong business climate. Ms. Hariton also called for reforms to promote transparency and unleash private investment and encouraged a spirit of entrepreneurship. I applaud the organizers of both events and their efforts to stimulate economic activity in this part of the world.
To read Ms. Hariton’s speech, click here.