ATHENS – The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) hosted its 32nd annual Greek Economic Summit, titled ‘Redefining Growth for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future’ December 6-8 at the Atheneum Intercontinental hotel in Athens. Due to COVID, it was a hybrid conference that was organized in cooperation with the Athens Stock Exchange and in strategic partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Council.
Welcome remarks on Monday were offered by Nikolaos Bakatselos, President of AmCham, Elias Spirtounias, Executive Director of AmCham, and Dimitri Papalexopoulos, President, Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV).
The conference concluded with a discussion between Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Bakatselos, the latter noting he could not imagine a better way to end the successful event. Staikouras noted that Greece’s impressive reported 6.9% growth this year reflects the reforms and initiatives of the Mitsotakis government, which he said have been recognized by the EU and internationally, adding they “are to the credit of the government, the businesses, but also to the people of Greece.” He said all those elements are moving forward with greater confidence to undertake the additional work that’s needed – such as tax reduction and funding small and medium businesses. He also emphasized that longterm sustainable growth required an external outlook to attract foreign investment and promoting exports, noting Greece has made great progress.
Illuminating AmCham’s choice of theme for 2021, Spirtounias told The National Herald that, “we chose this title because we at the Chamber believe this is the time to discuss, not only in Greece but globally, what ‘growth’ means, and whether that concerns everybody and not just the few.” He was pleased to note, “we also have a panel on the Greek Diaspora. It can play a very significant role in enhancing U.S.-Greece relations,” such as advocacy activities and attracting investment, including support for young entrepreneurs, noting that AmCham pioneered actions in support of the Startup Community in Greece.
The conference’s presenters included top officials of the Government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leading academics and experts in relevant fields, and officials from other countries and the EU, including Margaritis Schinas, Vice President, European Commission, Don Graves, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Laureate in Economics, and Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the ‘Greece 2021’ committee, who after reviewing the accomplishments of the Greek Revolution placed the conference in the context of what still needs to be done to fulfill the dream of 1821.
Global and EU matters were addressed, and Bakatselos provided the Greek context: “After more than a decade of economic hardship, Greece’s new economic and recovery plan presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the country to create sustainable growth and transition into a prime business and investment destination.”
Schinas was introduced by Vassilis Kafatos, AmCham Vice President, and it is interesting to note that he borrowed the Biden administration’s phrase ‘Build Back Better’ to describe the EU’s post-pandemic vision and agenda. He struck the optimistic note that “the EU now has the financing tools needed to accomplish its plans, adding that means that Greece too has resources at its disposal” that give the country an opportunity it must not miss.
Graves began by noting that the happenings of recent years have made clear “how closely integrated our economies are and how collaboration is key to addressing society’s most critical problems,” adding, “we value the many opportunities Greece offers for U.S. trade and investment,” as well as “the century’s-old contributions of AmCham to strengthening U.S.-Greece commercial relations.”
First day highlights included a keynote address by Pissarides titled Making Growth Work for All, a panel titled Greece’s Recovery and Resilience Plan: The RRF and the Road to Success, and a panel headlined by Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investment. Also on Monday was the panel The Role of the Greek Diaspora in Enhancing Strategic Cooperation between Greece and the U.S. which featured Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of HALC, Mike Manatos, President of Manatos and Manatos, and Natalia Linas of Harvard University.
Alexandra Papadopoulou, Greece’s Ambassador to the United States, led off Tuesday’s presentations, speaking about The Course of Greek-American relations through the Eyes of Greek Diplomacy, followed later by a Fireside Chat with U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt on ‘The U.S. Perspective.’ Also on Tuesday was a video keynote address by Leader of the opposition Alexis Tsipras, and an interesting panel titled Age Gap or Mentality Gap? A Discussion with the Youth about the Future of Greece.
The final day featured Education Minister Niki Kerameus and a presentation titled U.S. Investment Driven Growth and Innovation – The Case of Pfizer Investment in Greece, and a video message from Mike Parson, the governor of Missouri.
Bakatselos told The National Herald he was proud of the focus on ‘inclusive development’ and very pleased with the results of the hard work of AmCham’s team. He invited the Greek-American community to help build the New Greece and said, “we at AmCham will help them any way we can. We want people to know Greece is being reconstituted with a new and credible face and has many prospects for national and regional development. And the time to invest is now.”