An Incredible T-TRIP Adventure Across Sweden!

Yesterday was the first day in a week’s time that I was not biking an average of 90 kilometers through the Swedish heartland – and I am actually sad about it!  Me and several colleagues from the Embassy have just completed a trans-Sweden bicycle trip, from the water’s edge on the West Coast, in Gothenburg, to the water’s edge on the East Coast, in Stockholm.  It was simply one of the best things I have done in my two and half years in Sweden.  Through the bike trip, I had the chance to engage with Swedes in towns, villages and cities I had not been to before, and to listen and learn and interpret what it is the U.S. Government is trying to do especially in the area of trade, but also security, education and other topics.

The bike trip, termed ‘T-TRIP,’ highlighted the benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)—-the proposed US-EU free trade and investment agreement-—to stakeholders around the country, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In the course of seven days, we undertook a remarkable program that allowed the Embassy’s T-TRIP team to engage an incredibly wide range of stakeholders, ranging from small farmers, business leaders, local and regional officials, University heads and professors and students, immigrant leaders, major corporations, to one of the most influential former Swedish Prime Ministers. This program allowed us to listen and learn, and to interpret for our friends in Sweden what the U.S. Government is trying to do here, in the Nordic region, in Europe on trade and other topics.

Biking more than 400 miles (roughly 650km) over seven days, our T-TRIP bike team visited nine cities and met with dozens of business owners, entrepreneurs, local government officials, and others in order to learn about local industry and commerce and to share thoughts on how T-TIP could benefit us all. While primarily focused on advancing T-TIP, the trip also allowed me to meet with many other people to talk about key issues in our bilateral relationship.

There are few better ways to connect with the wonderful people of Sweden or learn more about how the people feel in the heartland about trade and commerce. It was an ideal way for the Embassy to share our perspectives and goals with Swedish society.

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The T-TRIP team with Gothenburg Mayor Anneli Hulthén in the historic Port of Gothenburg

Our journey started last Friday in Gothenburg.  The Mayor of Gothenburg, Anneli Hulthén, greeted us herself on a bike and we rode together to the Port of Gothenburg, where we took a boat tour of the remarkable infrastructure that allows this Port to be the partner in trade that it is.  The Port of Gothenburg, the largest port in the Nordics, is a site of historical and contemporary connections between the U.S. and Sweden. During my visit, I and the T-TRIP team toured the facilities and learned about the ways the Port functions as a link between Sweden and the U.S. In the nineteenth century, over one million emigrating Swedes began their journey to the U.S. at Gothenburg’s port. Today, it is a main hub for trade between Sweden and the U.S., with two container ships sailing directly to U.S. ports each week.  During my visit, I also met with Kim Ullman of Stena Lines Shipping Group, a global conglomerate based in Gothenburg with operations in the U.S.  Stena is an example of a Gothenburg corporate citizen that is engaged around the world.

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With 3M Sweden’s Country Director and T-TRIP Guest Rider Lars Näslund. Lars is also the Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden. Here we are pointing to a street sign made with 3M technology

And then we started our bike ride across Sweden.  We biked to the historic Swedish trading center of Alingsås the first day.  The team participated in a walking tour of Alingsås’ historic center, which highlighted local legacies of industrialization, commerce, and manufacturing. Afterwards, Embassy representatives, local business leaders, and members of the City Council met to discuss T-TIP. We also met several young entrepreneurs who would benefit from an agreement and are excellent examples of how T-TIP will help expand the innovative start-up scene in the U.S. and Sweden even further.

The next day we biked to Falköping, where we engaged with two important sectors for this region – dairy production and sustainable energy. The team met with young farmers, representatives from the Swedish Farmers Confederation, and local milk producers, and took part in a tour of a dairy research farm. I stressed that trade in dairy products between the U.S. and Europe could be greatly bolstered by the passage of T-TIP. The T-TRIP team also toured Falbygdens Energi, Sweden’s first energy storage plant facility for low voltage networks. We discussed the ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Sweden in the sector of green technology and sustainable energy. The representatives from Falbygdens Energi emphasized that expanding trade through T-TIP would allow clean energy technologies and renewable fuel solutions such as these to be shared more easily with the U.S.

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At the University of Skövde

Our next stop was the University of Skövde, where we met with students, faculty, and municipality representatives for a roundtable discussion of what T-TIP would mean for the future of innovative and creative technologies. Skövde is the largest educational center for gaming and computer science in Sweden and it has recently initiated several best practices collaboration with Microsoft, Stanford and the University of Washington. Embassy staff saw how gaming technology can be applied for beneficial secondary uses. One scientist presented his work on how computer games can rehabilitate stroke patients. A group of students working with Volvo presented their designs for lightweight solar panels what will be installed on garbage trucks.

After Skövde we met up with the Ranger Battalion at K3 Karlsborg together with officers who had served in international peace keeping operations around the world. It was an honor to be hosted by Chief of Staff, Börje Berkelind, and his team of officers. We also met with small and medium-sized Swedish companies to discuss the benefits and challenges of the T-TIP.  I pointed out that one of the key goals of T-TIP is to reduce trade barriers that can burden SMEs, which have fewer resources to overcome such barriers.

On the way to Mariefred, I and the T-TRIP team made a stop in Stjärnhov for a house tour and a coffee break with the former Prime Minister Göran Persson. We discussed foreign policy, T-TIP, and sustainable energy. Upon arriving in Mariefred, I and my team had dinner with the local business owners and startup entrepreneurs hosted by Inger Grindelid, current acting chief of the municipality of Strängnäs.

Stopping by for a 'fika' with former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson

Stopping by for a ‘fika’ with former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson

The group consisted of a diverse group of young professionals, displaying everything from gym owners, local wine distillers and a green tech car pool company that reached out to the Embassy for new clients.

On our last day of biking we visited Södertälje.  The city of Södertälje alone hosts more displaced Syrian/Iraqi children than a dozen of other EU-countries combined. The T-TRIP team met with the current Mayor Boel Godner, NGO´s, teachers and representatives from the Syrian Orthodox Church. In the conversation, we learned of programs in Södertälje to promote integration. I explained how at the Embassy we’ve been connecting Americans and Swedes to exchange best practices on promoting tolerance and integration.

The T-TRIP team spent the afternoon at the Scania Factory, employing about 10,000 individuals in Södertälje, learning how T-TIP could help companies like Scania grow their business and create new jobs. Scania executives noted that the combination of customs duties and regulatory hurdles have hindered greater business and investment in the U.S.  The team also discussed SelectUSA as a means to expand their investments in the U.S. We also got to test drive several of Scania’s busses and trucks.

On the final leg of the trip, a number of guest riders joined the T-TRIP team for the ride in to Stockholm.  The journey concluded at Carnegie Brewery—a joint venture between Carlsberg and Brooklyn Brewery.  Stockholm is Brooklyn Brewery’s second

We made it!  Our arrival in Stockholm

We made it! Our arrival in Stockholm
(Thanks to the Local for the photo!)

largest market outside of New York City.  Minister of Trade Ewa Björling greeted us along our friends from the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden, the American Club and the Embassy community.

I can say categorically that this bicycle adventure is one of the best engagements I have had in Sweden. We were able to get out into the countryside, meet wonderful people, and get to know this beautiful country much better. Our ’T-TRIP’ also helped us highlight the strong ties between the U.S. and Sweden and see first hand how T-TIP could create jobs, give consumers more choice, grow our economies and make the connection between the U.S. and Sweden even stronger.

It was a highly worthwhile and enjoyable adventure.

Check our our Embassy’s Tumblr for more stories and photos from the trip.

Celebrating National Day in Sweden: A Top-Ten List

June 6 is Sweden’s National Day.  Every July 4, which is America’s Independence Day, I always think of what I love about America, the fact that we embrace equality, that we are a land of immigrant diversity (including my own family and that of my wife’s), of the beautiful topography and of the uniqueness of each one of our fifty states and our territories, of the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in the military and all those in public service.

A bike ride outside of Stockholm

A bike ride outside of Stockholm

So as a guest living in Sweden, and as President Obama’s personal representative to this country, I thought I would offer the top ten things I love about Sweden – and, I have to add, there are more:

1)      The genuine conviction I witness in Sweden that human dignity and human rights are worth fighting for, and advancing the world over, whether in Eastern Europe or the Middle East and North Africa and beyond.  Gender equality, the fight against gender and racial and LGBT discrimination, are all part of this important principle.

2)      A shared sense that we must find new and better ways to live in harmony between humankind and land – and from that a deep conviction that sustainability and innovating ways to live in the future that do not exploit the world’s precious resources.

3)      A history of social equality, both at home and abroad, and that we must help those who need a helping hand or who cannot help themselves.  This is a prosperous country, and it is nice to see that its prosperity is shared generously to the far corners of the globe with the desire to improve lives everywhere.

4)      The fact that (and I say this as a Father of a five year old) children can be taken everywhere in Sweden, from the boardroom to the office meeting to the diplomatic lunch, I have seen Swedish parents towing their toddlers because Mom or Dad had to be in that meeting, and it’s OK for junior to come along too.  This is a very welcoming society of children.

5)      The absolutely gorgeous Archipelago – with its thousands of islands big and small.  Many visitors to Sweden are surprised to learn that in the Archipelago there are not strong tides, and you can go rather far out in to the Archipelago by boat and encounter a small island with a house and trees on it.

6)      The beautiful harmonizing of Swedish music, which is also reflected in the country’s rich choral tradition.  Many Swedes I know are or have been part of a choir, and the singing and music made in this country is just gorgeous.  The upcoming Polar Prize for Music in August is a remarkable reflection of how impressive Sweden’s music culture is – and, by the way, I am so proud that this year both Polar Prize laureates are American musicians Chuck Berry and Peter Sellars!

7)      Bicycling around Stockholm and beyond.  You can bicycle everywhere in Sweden, and this is worth doing because the topography is so beautiful.  Nothing is more relaxing and at the same time energizing than biking through Gamla Stan (Old Town) or outside of Stockholm through lush fields and forests.

8)      The sense of space and openness you feel when you drive above the Arctic circle in Sweden, whether it’s around Kiruna, or over to the Abisko Scientific Research Station or beyond.

9)      Lagom – the Swedish word for balance, with a particular emphasis on work/life balance.  An important segment of time on the weekends and even on Friday nights is devoted to family time – which I think brings people closer, and allows for real bonding.

10)  The gorgeous museums I have visited in Sweden–whether it’s the exotic Butterfly Museum in Stockholm, the Emigrant Museum in Gothenburg, the new ABBA museum in Stockholm, the gorgeous Moderna Museet, the Aircraft Museum in Linköping, with its planes and flying contraptions that go back through the ages, or the many other exceptional displays and exhibits around this country.  One continuously learns and bears witness to the shared values America and Sweden share through what is shown in the galleries and museums around the country.

So on this Sweden National Day, I will think about these things and other things I love about Sweden, as an American immensely proud to serve my Government and the American people in this wonderful country.

Kayakers Outside of the Riksdag

Kayakers Outside of the Riksdag

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Stockholm Mini-Makers Faire

This past Sunday, I had the awesome opportunity to celebrate something special in the American-Swedish relationship:  Innovation and great science.  On Sunday afternoon, I took my four year-old daughter to the Swedish National Museum of Technology and Science (Tekniska Museet), which hosted the first ever 2014 Stockholm Mini Maker Faire.  What a terrific set of innovations and inventions, ranging from a steam-engine car developed by KTH students, to Evelyn and Javiere’s refurbished refrigerator compressor to now a paint spray gun, to a kids hackathon where my daughter and I faced off in competition in a jumping game that sent electrodes on to a screen (she won!). We also marveled over Quadrocopters, a solar and wind-driven pancake machine, a pop machine, a potato gun, and a night vision device — the spread and the imagination on display was truly phenomenal!

I hope this is the first of many Maker faires in Sweden.  What my daughter and I saw at Tekniska was a display of great ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Swedish citizens.  One of the products on display had already been acquired by a US company, and many of the inventions have local roots but global reach.  They are suitable for scale anywhere.

The first Maker Faire was held in San Mateo, California, in 2006.  The Faire is now the largest showcase of creativity and innovation in the world.  Today, there are approximately a hundred Maker faires arranged around the world each year.  I am so glad to see the movement reach Sweden.

During President Obama’s historic visit to Sweden last year, the President had this to say about innovation: “…As two of the most innovative economies on Earth, we cherish that freedom that allows us to innovate and create, which is why we’re leaders in science and research and development — those things that pioneers new industries and broaden our horizons.”

This event is a celebration of the strong local maker culture here in Sweden.  What I saw on Sunday was a context in which people of all ages, boys and girls, men and women, through their creativity and entrepreneurship affirm that Sweden truly is “a land of Makers.”  I want to express my admiration for all of the exhibitors at Tekniska yesterday, for embodying these fine qualities that have made Sweden such a strong exporting country over the last century.  You showed us that we can expect Sweden to remain a leader in technological and scientific innovation for decades to come.

It want to emphasize the diversity of age and gender that I witnessed at this faire yesterday.   Fostering an open and diverse scientific community that draws from an array of unique experiences and viewpoints is a necessary step to solving the array of global challenges.   I attended the Faire with my young daughter.  President Obama noted last year “One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent … that is not being encouraged…”   I was encouraged to see the representation of young women who displayed their inventions and technology.  That speaks to Sweden’s dedication to inclusiveness and equality.

I had the distinct pleasure to present the 2014 Stockholm Mini Maker Award to a Maker with an astonishing contribution to this exhibit.  This year’s Stockholm Mini Maker prize is awarded to Jonny Eriksson of Popmaskinen.  The public at the event yesterday also chose a prizewinner, and that prizewinner was Linus Backlund, who developed a night vision device that both  my daughter and I peered though.

Congratulations, and thank you Tekniska for hosting this year’s Stockholm Mini Maker Faire!

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An evening on Sustainability & Social Entrepreneurship with the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal”. – Thomas Jefferson

These words from a great Virginian embodied the spirit of an event we held this week for the University of Virginia Darden School of Business students in Stockholm.

Mark and I are both products of Virginia universities.  We are convinced that there’s something special between Virginia and Sweden! Both have a commitment to great universities, emphasize a harmony between humankind and the land (a genuine love and respect for the environment being a common thread), and have incredibly innovative, forward-looking business ecosystems that are also firmly rooted in a strong connectivity and respect for history and the lessons the past can imbue upon the future.

These shared values were palpable as scores of UVA students and their Swedish counterparts from the Stockholm School of Economics filled the U.S. Ambassadorial residence for an evening discussing social innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability. The event marked the kick-off for a week in Stockholm where the American students would explore and learn from the dynamic Swedish startup ecosystem while also sharing their business school expertise in growth and shared value from a U.S. perspective with our Swedish friends.

What does it take to truly start and grow a profitable and responsible business? How can you leverage the social good and make a difference while also making sure the bottom-line doesn’t suffer? Through a vibrant discussion moderated by Mark and myself, we engaged five successful Swedish entrepreneurs in getting to the bottom of the true business case for sustainability, diversity and using the platform of business leadership for meaningful social change.

Jefferson’s words exemplified the tone of the event: one of change and speaking truth to power. It exemplified the students in the room— hungry to make the world a better place through their work. They also personified our 5 panelists.  They were:
·         Sarah McPhee, CEO of Storebrand SPP,
·         Martin Lorentzon, co-founder & Chairman of the Board for Spotify,
·         Sebastian Siematowski, founder & CEO Klarna,
·         Carolina Sachs, Secretary General for Axfoundation, and
·         Ben Gorham, founder and CEO Byredo.

Each of these businesspeople has revolutionized their fields, boldly disrupting convention and acting as a change agents from within on sustainability, diversity  and inclusion, transparency and efficiency

Through a vibrant discussion, we engaged the five panelists in getting to the bottom of the true business case for sustainability, diversity of thought and using the platform of business leadership for meaningful social change.

Whether it was avoiding doing business in countries with records of corruption and human rights violations (even though it meant turning down major profits!), infusing sustainable practices into the supply chain, focusing on green bonds and investments even if they don’t provide immediate shareholder returns and simply voicing inequalities and injustices in society, these businesspeople showed all of us how “walking the walk” on core values can be good for the community, good for the board and the bottom-line, and also good for the soul!

The entire evening reminded me of one of my favorite Mahatma Gandhi quotes: “be the change you want to see.” We saw examples of this that evening and I think all of us walked out the door inspired to do the same.

Thank you our awesome panelists and Thank you the University of Virginia for joining us on such a thought-provoking initiative!

Coca Cola’s Muhtar Kent talks Millennials: “They’ll make the world a better place”

There are few commercial products that are more than just products. They are brands that weave their way into your coming of age story. They leave a nostalgic sparkle in your psyche and have a lasting connectivity to what it means to be you.

For 128 years, Coca-Cola has striven to understand what it means to be you. Identifying and assimilating into what is important to successive generations has actually been the real “secret recipe” of Coca-Cola. During the Great Depression, Coke brought hope by creating the Santa Claus we know today- a jolly man in a red suit bearing gifts and joy to families who needed it. The illustrator who designed Santa was Haddon Sundblom, the son of Swedish-immigrants to America.

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Muhtar Kent with Discussion Participants

An original poster of Sundblom’s Santa was displayed in the U.S. Ambassadorial residence in Stockholm when we hosted Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company on March 18th.  Mr. Kent was the fourth keynote speaker in a lunch series called “The Businessman-Statesman.”  A description of the series can be found here.

The Embassy’s Businessman-Statesman series is built around the notion that leaders of today understand the values and context of tomorrow. Muhtar is that kind of leader. This was evident in his prescient choice of topic for the lunch: the rising Millennial Generation.

“I believe without question that the global millennial generation has the power to unlock next-level prosperity around the world. Millennials believe the world can be a better place and that they have a role in making it better. They also expect that the businesses and organizations they associate with do the same.”

A widely reported March 7, 2014, survey by the Pew Research Center finds that millennials are “relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry- and optimistic about the future.”

So are millennials a generation adrift, or are they the next “greatest generation”, a creative cohort that can bring innovation to new levels? Are they a generation long on caring and short on sacrifice, or one intrinsically committed to social causes?

If you ask Muhtar Kent, they are poised to change the world: “We’ve all heard about the Greatest Generation. My own father and mother were part of this extraordinary generation, which overcame the Great Depression, defeated Nazism and created the post-war world of the United Nations and NATO. I believe our rising millennial generation can be the next Greatest Generation. The challenges are great, but the opportunities are even greater! ”

Kent shares the devout optimism of millennials and defines them as engaged, altruistic, informed, technologically advanced and entrepreneurial. He highlights their global context and communitarianism as critical to future prosperity.

“While national and local cultures still matter, this generation has grown up in a global nursery, a global kindergarten of shared experiences. And that means they have as much- or more- in common with peers in Johannesburg, Beijing and Rio as they do with their parents or grandparents. In time, I think this shared experience could make a big difference in the way this generation views both challenges and opportunities.”

He believes so much in this generation that Coke has sponsored the “Global Shapers” program – an initiative created at the World Economic Forum in Davos that serves as a network for 3371 “shapers” in 315 hubs around the world. The focus is to help leverage and amplify the creativity and drive of the “shapers” to make change for the social good.

This generation born after 1980 comprises approximately 80 million Americans. A focus on diversity and an adamant aversion to hierarchy and elitism are very much at the core of a generation in America that’s one of the most diverse in history. Kent himself personifies the Millennials’ egalitarian ethos. When asked about the secret to his success, his answer was simple: “I carry my own bag.”

Deploring arrogance and entitlement, Kent described spending his teen years as the son of the Turkish Ambassador to Sweden and working at the local grocery store Åhléns in Stockholm.

In fact, the struggle for equality, social justice and transparency are strong shared values between America and Sweden. The synchronicity between this moment, the generational tidal wave of change, and the values shared between our two countries is compelling.

Below are key points covered by Mr. Kent in his keynote remarks and the ensuing dialogue that occurred during the Businessman Statesman lunch.

Why do you think the millennial generation will reshape the world?

Muhtar Kent: There are four fundamental reasons why I believe the millennial generation will make the world a much better place:

1. They possess an unbridled energy, optimism and can-do attitude.

Muhtar Kent hands over a personalized Coke can

Muhtar Kent hands over a personalized Coke can

2. Their global mindset is unequaled among past youth generations.

3. Their entrepreneurial spirit and do-it-yourself nature are palpable.

4. And their grasp of enlightened self-interest shows a deep sense of social awareness, responsibility and maturity.

How are millennials shaping the business world through innovation?

This generation has a strong and seemingly irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit. We’re seeing young people all over the world starting and expanding new businesses. Partly this is from necessity, as the economic troubles of recent years have sent youth unemployment numbers soaring. But it’s also one of choice, as many young people who could have their pick of positions with established companies choose to go their own way, sparking growth and jobs and greater opportunity for all.

As they pursue success in business, they know they have the power to build sustainable practices into every aspect of what they do. Just look at what’s happening with social entrepreneurship, young people solving challenges through business! Not only do Millennials want to make society better but they expect that the businesses and organizations they associate with do the same.

How does Coca-Cola shape sustainable communities?

At Coca-Cola we know our business can only be as strong and sustainable as the communities we proudly serve. So we’ve made a point of creating community value and making a difference in areas where we are particularly qualified to lead. Today we call them the “Three W’s”: Water, Women and Well-Being.

With our bottling partners, we’re working to achieve water neutrality by 2020, replenishing every liter we use. We’re working to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs globally by 2020. And we’ve committed to launch healthy living programs in all of the 200-plus markets we serve by 2020.

We just launched two weeks ago our new healthy living program for Sweden, which is a partnership with the Swedish Swimming Federation aimed at supporting various swimming activities across the country over several years.

What future challenges do you see for this generation and all of our economies?

The challenge will be to broaden this generation’s accomplishments to involve more of the Millennial cohort: engaging the unengaged, connecting the unconnected and ultimately employing the unemployed.

Right now, global youth unemployment threatens the economic vitality, social fabric and long-term stability of many nations. In Europe, 24 percent of youth are without work, with much larger percentages unemployed in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. This is true for youth in the Middle East and North Africa. The human cost is staggering, as jobless young people struggle to become positive contributors to their families, communities and countries.

For business the opportunity is great. Creating more jobs accelerates a great virtuous cycle that boosts productivity and wages, reduces crime and reinforces a host of social virtues, including greater stability, self-esteem and community commitment.

 Visit our Embassy’s Flickr site for more photos

 

 

Amerikadagen in Gothenburg

On March 27, I traveled to Gothenburg to participate in a seminar on doing business in the U.S., organized by the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce USA (SACC USA).  My good friend and colleague, Jonas Hafström, who is currently an advisor to the Swedish Trade Minister and formerly the Swedish Ambassador to the U.S., and I launched the program with a discussion of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and its potential benefits for the U.S. and Swedish business communities.  The timing of the seminar could not have been better, following President Obama’s visit to Brussels on March 26 for the U.S.-EU Summit where he noted why T-TIP is so important, “Europe is America’s closest partner. Europe, including the European Union, is the cornerstone of our engagement around the globe.  We are more secure and the world is more prosperous–the world is more just — when Europe and America stand as one.”       

In our presentations, Jonas and I emphasized that there are still many barriers to trade that, if removed, would make doing business easier and would pave the way for job creation and increased economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic.  Much of this growth will be generated by Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), who stand to benefit the most from T-TIP.   In T-TIP, for the first time ever, a major trade agreement will include a chapter devoted to SMEs.  SMEs are where the majority of people work, and the majority of new jobs come from SME’s.  Ninety-nine percent of European and U.S. companies – over 20 million companies in the EU and 28 million in the U.S. — are SMEs.  In the EU, SMEs provide two-thirds of all private sector jobs and have a tremendous capacity to create new employment.   Jonas and I then elaborated on this theme in a luncheon discussion with CEOs from leading companies based in region that was hosted by Gothenburg Mayor Annelie Hultén.  The CEOs confirmed the potential T-TIP benefits for all SMEs, including those that participate in their supply chains.  We all agreed that it is critical to spread the word—to make all SMEs aware of T-TIP and what it can potentially mean for their business growth. 

The U.S. Embassy in Stockholm is already spreading the word through a video series entitled, ”T-TIP—Removing Barriers”, produced in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden.   You can find them on the Embassy’s Facebook page and on AmCham Sweden’s home page or by clicking here.   The videos vividly illustrate the positive impact that T-TIP will have on businesses and feature interviews with small business owners, who give compelling accounts of the challenges they face with transatlantic trade.  They also express hope for progress through T-TIP.   Everyone is a stakeholder in T-TIP.  I encourage everyone to help us promote these tapes to a wider audience! 

There were over 200 SME business participants in the day-long seminar in Gothenburg, many of them planning first-time investments in the U.S., a large and diverse market, full of challenges and opportunities.  To help guide them in this daunting prospect, I spoke about SelectUSA (Selectusa.gov), the U.S. Government’s program to promote and facilitate investment.   It is a “one-stop shop” for investors, a tremendous resource that can help investors save time and money by guiding them to the right information and resources and advocating for them when they face issues at the federal level.     

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Ambassador Brzezinski with former Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Jonas Hafström at Amerikadagen

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Celebrating U.S.-Swedish Business Ties: The Opening of Claire’s in Farsta!

Where did you get your ears pierced?

If you’re an American girl that came of age between the 1980s through today the likely answer is Claire’s. The accessories juggernaut has been a bedazzling utopia for young girls over the decades, and certainly was for me. I remember so vividly begging my mother to take me to Chicago Ridge Mall on the southwest side of the city to buy faux-pearl and lace chokers and fingerless black gloves so I could look cool at the 8th grade school dance (hey, it was the 1990s everyone wanted to dress like Madonna!).

All of these positive childhood memories came to the surface when I was asked to help inaugurate the first Claire’s store in Scandinavia. It was a true honor to cut the ribbon for an American company founded in 1961 in my hometown of Chicago.

The first store in Sweden is located in Farsta, about twenty minutes outside of Stockholm, and was where the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place. In addition to the opening, Claire’s revealed a sleek new style. Gone were the thick black carpets and heavy décor, and in its place a lighter, more accessible space that showcased the colorful glitter, beads and sequins dotting the walls even better.

The values that underpin the concept— promoting self-confidence and pride in young girls at an affordable price for all— is compelling and egalitarian. Every little girl and teenager deserves to feel beautiful no matter who she is and where she is from, and Claire’s has helped make that happen for many years. There’s also something special about a brand that can be interwoven into a young person’s coming-of-age story. Every girl remembers when and where she got her ears pierced. And most of those girls will connect that positive experience to a positive brand.

Connecting around shared values of accessibility, transparency, empowerment and sustainability (among many others) are pillars of the U.S.-Swedish commercial relationship which has always been strong, and I’ll argue has never been stronger than it is today.

The trading relationship between our two nations is valued over $25 billion annually.  Even more striking are the figures that illustrate our relationship in business investment.  Over the years, Swedish companies have invested over $40 billion in the U.S., creating about 176,000 jobs.  In fact, Sweden is the 12th largest investor in the U.S. and among the very top investors on a per capita basis!

Business to business connectivity between the United States and Sweden is so vibrant and it’s always a pleasure when we can highlight that. Thanks Bjorn Krasse and the Claire’s Nordic team for including me in the opening! Looking forward to more occasions celebrating U.S-Swedish commercial ties!

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Diplomacy in a new Communications Era: U.S. Embassy ranked #3 “super communicator” in all of Sweden!

We now live in the most hyper-connected, global moments of history where all people have a voice and multiple platforms to share their voice and values.

Mark, I and the Embassy team are firm believers in bringing diplomacy into this new communications era. The speed and incredible reach of the Internet and social media has changed how we all interact with each other. Unparalleled amounts of new perspectives have been brought into the ongoing dialogue on how we address the challenges of our time.

Communications and public diplomacy is more important than ever before. And that’s why we were especially honored and proud to be named by Resume Magazine as Sweden’s #3 (out of 150) best communicators— “Superkommunikatörer”— in all of Sweden. In addition to the award, Mark and I were incredibly honored to be asked to present on the U.S. Embassy’s communications strategy, and how we work with the fantastic Embassy team to reach as many people as possible.

We discussed the four principles that form the foundation of our communication:

1.      The power to convene
2.       Listening, not talking
3.       Transparency
4.       Using the unexpected to highlight shared values

The two areas I covered were “the power to convene” and “listening and not talking.” Mark and I often say that our favorite thing we hear when people come to an Embassy event at our residence: “I’ve never been here before”, “I never thought I’d be invited to an Ambassador’s residence”, and best of all “I never knew what really what an Ambassador, his/her spouse and an Embassy did until now.”

Having the ability to “convene” and create a safe space where diverse people can come together and speak openly, freely without judgment on difficult issues is extremely powerful. The Embassy and I see it as our mission to reach out to as many different stakeholders as possible. Needless to say, it’s not just about us inviting people over and talking at them.

The most exciting thing about diplomacy for me is learning from each other and finding common ground on challenges ranging from sustainability to gender equality. That’s done through listening and not talking.

President Obama is a leader who presciently identified this new strain of global connectivity and has focused on inclusivity, partnership and a new role for America in the world. As President he has uplifted and engaged people and groups who have not traditionally been engaged. At the Embassy the concept of reaching out to all citizens— minorities, new immigrants, women, youth, the LGBT community— is a central priority that’s reflected in the Embassy’s “Diversity Dialogues”, Youth Councils, women’s empowerment initiatives and entrepreneurship focused on immigrant entrepreneurship. In fact, all Embassy initiatives are informed by tolerance, openness, transparency and inclusion.

Thank you Resume for recognizing our hard work! And thank you U.S. Embassy Sweden for the hard work, support, intelligent guidance and leadership on this issue! This award is for all of us!

Diversity & Inclusion in the Corporate World: Presentation at 3M

 

3M1aWhat does diversity mean to you?

For me personally, it means openness, curiosity, exposure, opportunity and the American Dream. In concrete terms, diversity is the bedrock for innovation, better and more profitable businesses, and more creative decision-making.

As the child of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants to the United States who grew up on the Southside of Chicago, I don’t know a world without diversity. And I’m so thankful for that!

In the interconnected, cross-cultural world we live intoday, understanding and embracing diversity is central to embracing the future and, in my opinion, living personally and professionally more productive and rewarding lives.

Last week, I was so happy to be invited to give a presentation on corporate diversity and inclusion at 3M as part of a conference on inclusion and the Diversity Charter (a collection of Swedish companies focusing on this issue).
How do we embrace, enact and stimulate change in the modern workplace when it comes to diversity was the question I tackled through a presentation on America’s history with diversity, the strong business case for diversity when it comes to innovation, and what the U.S. government is doing to work on this challenge.
The business case for greater diversity couldn’t be clearer: In a study by McKinsey of 77 companies “the most important corporate resource over next 20 years will be talent: smart, sophisticated business people who are technologically literate, globally astute and operationally agile.”

Companies with greater inclusion see 39% higher customer service satisfaction, 22% higher productivity, 27% higher profitability, 22% lower turnover, according to Forbes. Changing demographics, aging populations, a modern business climate based on adapting to continuous change, more women entering the workforce, technology and the values of the young Millennial generation are driving change toward greater diversity. For young Americans today— who comprise the most diverse generation in American history— diversity is a “must” in the workplace.

Ultimately, it takes complete commitment from the top and an ability to “walk the walk” by the CEO and senior executives. Company leadership should set the tone by having diverse top teams around them, engaging in diversity training and Diversity Council leadership, and embedding it completely in the culture, philosophy and business strategy. Linking compensation and evaluations for managers to diversity targets and making “diversity local” by investing in schools, youth mentorship programs and philanthropy connected to the development of a local talent base especially in international markets where the company is based are also cogent strategies. Exposure at work to different ethnicities, religions and even evolving concepts of what family and marriage mean, is the true answer to overcoming unconscious bias.

In the end, the best diversity program is not needing one at all. Instead of words on paper and money being thrown at initiatives, what counts is an emotional and iron-clad commitment and belief that diversity is the good and the right thing to do. Good for business and right for humanity. This is certainly the level of commitment I see within our own U.S. Embassy here in Sweden.

Today we have a President that has led on principles of social inclusion, tolerance, equality and reaching out to maximize the talent and dynamic voice of historically underrepresented groups. President Obama and Michelle Obama symbolize the system of merit, openness and multiculturalism that our great country is known for around the world. Their example motivates Embassies around the world to work hard on diversity in all forms: gender, ethnic, religious, age, and sexual orientation.

I’m so proud of the work U.S. Embassy Sweden has been spearheading on diversity: from establishing a “Diversity Dialogues” initiative where we create a safe, open space to bring multicultural and unconventional groups of people together to discuss these challenges to leveraging high-level visitors to highlight the issue. Recently, the Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder came to Sweden on a historic visit and gave a major speech in Parliament on LGBT rights. Using every opportunity to live the principles of the President, and of transparency and openness in daily life, is what Mark and I and the entire Embassy team do each moment.

It was also evident that these are the aspirational values and goals of many Swedish and American companies, especially 3M which generously hosted me on this issue. The feedback and passion I felt at 3M on this issue was inspiring! Thank you 3M and we look forward to partnering more with American and Swedish companies and businesspeople on this issue!3m3c

Women in Tech 3

Spotlight on Women in Tech: Promoting Girls in Science, Engineering & Entrepreneurship

Harnessing the talents and creativity of men and women, young and old, of the gay community and all ethnic backgrounds is the key to innovation and a better world. Diversity is the bedrock for entrepreneurship and innovation, and central to “winning the future” as President Obama has said.

The inclusion of historically underrepresented minorities in science, engineering and technology fields, such as women, is a priority of the Obama Administration and a personal passion of mine.  That’s why I was so happy and honored to be included in a dynamic and thought-provoking conference organized by Sweden’s MTG in partnership with Spotify and Google.

The conference was held in the same cavernous room that the U.S. Embassy held its large election event in 2012 which brought President Barack Obama to victory! Just stepping inside and remembering the energy and inspiration from that day gave me great motivation for the panel I would speak on focusing on innovation.

Cristina Stenbeck, the incredibly articulate 36-year-old global chairman of MTG and Kinnevik, launched the conference with inspiring words on a future global vision of a digitalized, highly-integrated tech world as well as why and how her companies have been successful in vales-based leadership and gender equality. The rest of the day featured discussions by female senior leaders from Google and Spotify, as well as both male and female entrepreneurs on what works in creating a sustainable company and disrupting markets with innovation.

I’ve so enjoyed learning about Sweden’s innovative startup ecosystem and exploring ways we can amplify shared values through innovation and entrepreneurship. Learning from each other is one of the most exciting parts of diplomacy. At the Embassy, we’ve been able to bring people together to openly discuss issues such as gender equality, multiculturalism and diversity, and how we can use entrepreneurship as a tool for empowerment. This was the basis for my panel remarks at the Women in Tech 2014 conference.

Immigrants or their children have founded 40% of our country’s Fortune 500 companies including some of America’s most iconic brands like Google, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. Diversity in all forms—  in gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation— is key to continuing the thriving levels of innovation in both of our countries.

Women are breaking down barriers today in science and technology. 25% of IT jobs are held by women today and the percentage of females choosing to study science and engineering is increasing, a trend that the President is promoting through a national STEM campaign.

Having the opportunity to live and engage in Sweden has been the honor of a life-time for Mark and me. To work with such a talented U.S. Embassy team in such an innovative and country has been incredibly rewarding and we look so much forward to new and interesting collaborations with our friends the Swedes. We look so forward to advancing diversity, innovation and gender equality together with you! The best is yet to come!

Check out this video highlighting women in tech and the efforts of U.S. Embassy Sweden in innovation and diversity!