Remarks for the October 1, 2020 SACC-USA Executive Forum

(Pre-Recorded Remarks) 

Good morning, everyone!  I’d like to start by thanking my counterpart in Washington, Swedish Ambassador to the United States Karin Olofsdotter, for that kind introduction.  I would also like to thank Michael, Johan and their team at SACC-USA for hosting this flagship event today, and say a special hello to Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Swedish Trade Minister Anna Hallberg, and keynote speaker Mikael Bratt, President and CEO of Autoliv, who will all be speaking later.  The Swedish-American Chambers of Commerce is enormously important in maintaining and building the economic ties between the United States and Sweden, and I wish I could be with you in person.  Increasing trade and business connections between the U.S. and Sweden is one of my top priorities as Ambassador.  So this forum is an excellent opportunity to build on the already solid foundation of cooperation between our two countries at a time when our mutual growth and prosperity are more important than ever.

I think the theme of this year’s event, ’Forces of Change,’ is a particularly timely and poignant one.  The ability to adapt and evolve has always been an important characteristic of any successful company (I speak from experience here), but I think we can all agree that this year has tested them all in unprecedented ways.  This spring and summer have challenged not just business but all of us to change the way we live and interact.  The U.S. Embassy in Sweden is no exception.  We have moved from fikas and regular office meetings to virtual interactions and teleworking to a degree previously thought impossible.  Like private enterprise, we have experienced the increased demand for communication and collaboration platforms, cyber security solutions, and seamless connectivity.  Welcome to the world of digital diplomacy!

As many of you know well, the COVID-19 pandemic also had a disruptive effect on company supply chains, global workforce demand, operational productivity, and the like.  Every company has had to adjust its service and product provisions to match a changed market and these unforeseen conditions.  I am proud to say that the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and the rest of the U.S. government have been working hard to resolve these disruptions where we can.  For example, when the Swedish ventilator company Getinge had difficulty getting the parts it needed to expand production, we worked with our embassies in Asia to ensure workers could get to factories  We also worked with companies in the U.S. to facilitate their shipments of parts to Sweden.  Getinge was able to increase ventilator production 150 percent this year, for the benefit of COVID victims in the United States and around the world.  We were happy to play a part in that.

While these disruptions have been challenging for us all, we have also seen opportunities for disruptive innovations – and Sweden and the United States are well positioned to lead in that regard.  Both countries remain at the top of the Global Innovation Index year after year and have a great number of tech start-ups that are nimble and quick to adapt.  We have seen our companies provide innovative approaches to tele-medicine, remote personal care, home delivery, teleworking, online education, and digital mental health, addressing many of the issues and demands of our ‘new normal.’  Although the start-up and scale-up ecosystems have been hit by the pandemic, there are great examples emerging of innovative companies adapting to promote resilience. I’m thinking of security companies that, instead of traditional detection, offer their software and thermal cameras for body temperature checking.  Or a company making small booths for quiet work in open offices, now offering those same booths for virus testing at healthcare centers.  Or the group of Swedish IT entrepreneurs that created a non-profit organization to support healthcare staff with everything from food to transport to research.

When it comes to export and investment promotion, the Embassy has adapted to the current situation, as well, and we continue to provide services and support to both U.S. exporters and Swedish investors.  As trade shows and conferences have largely migrated to virtual platforms, we have converted our services to virtual ones, as well.  Examples include SelectUSA’s virtual tours of different states, where current and potential investors have the opportunity to connect with local Economic Development Officials for online matchmaking.  Or the Department of Commerce’s Discover Global Markets event on intelligent manufacturing that takes place next week to virtually connect buyers and investors from all over the world with U.S. suppliers and markets. Over the coming months, I am looking to increase my engagement with the Swedish innovation and start-up ecosystem through a series of events, from meeting incubators and looking into increased cooperation with U.S. counterparts, to connecting potential scale-ups with opportunities and investors in the United States and creating a platform for talent and knowledge exchange.

Again, I wish I could be there with you in person.  I am an optimist though, and I firmly believe that whether we stay virtual a little longer or begin to meet again in person, the inherent interconnectedness of the U.S.-Swedish and U.S.-European trade relationship will continue driving new innovations and solutions, and that the United States and Sweden will remain at the forefront of that effort.  Our business communities and economies have so much to offer the world, and that ability is all the stronger when we work together.  I wish you the best for today’s forum, and with that, I hand it back over to the House of Sweden!