Thank you, Minister Turnava, for taking the time for this during Georgia’s holiday season. I know today is the Georgian Orthodox New Year and I wish you and your families a happy and healthy new year.
I’d also like to congratulate you on your recent reappointment as Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development. The United States looks forward to continuing our work with you and your team.
I even understand we have Harvard Business School in common, and you attended multiple Harvard executive education programs! It is always wonderful to meet fellow alums around the world.
We’re here for something historic today: Georgia will join the Clean Network Alliance of Democracies, which now includes 60 Clean Countries, representing nearly 2/3rds of the world’s GDP, over 200 Clean Telcos and dozens of the world’s leading Clean Companies.
You’re in exceptionally good company. Clean Network members include:
- 27 of 30 NATO Allies;
- 26 of 27 EU Members;
- 31 of 37 OECD nations; and
- 11 of 12 Three Seas nations are all part of the Clean Network.
We’ve expanded the Clean Network to include Clean Cloud, Clean Apps, Clean Store, Clean Cable, Clean Things, Clean Currency, Clean Drones. It means much more than just Clean Technology. We have a great start on Clean Infrastructure with Clean Financing with the Blue Dot Network, Clean Energy with Clean Minerals with Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI). It also includes Clean Supply Chains with Clean Labor Practices.
It’s no wonder the Wall Street Journal wrote that the Clean Network is an undisputed success and will be perhaps the most enduring foreign-policy legacy of the last four years.
On behalf of all the members of the Clean Network, we welcome the great nation of Georgia. The United States is particularly thrilled to have you in this alliance.
Georgia has long been a steadfast partner of the United States on security and defense issues.
The United States deeply appreciates Georgia’s commitment to the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and we stand firmly with Georgia as your nation works to strengthen its partnership with NATO and resists Russia’s malign activities.
Georgia has an inspiring history of resisting authoritarian oppression, regardless of the source.
While Russia remains a considerable threat, as it continues to occupy twenty percent of Georgian territory, the Chinese Communist Party is also dangerous. I call them the “totalitarian twins.”
China has demonstrated its boundless willingness to bully and exploit every nation it does business with—whether through debt trap diplomacy, corruption that undermines the rule of law, or the widespread theft of intellectual property and personal data.
This behavior runs counter to what Georgia is trying hard to achieve as a secure, prosperous, democratic country working to strengthen its judiciary, and improve the protection of intellectual property and personal data of its people.
Today’s 5G MOU and joining the Clean Network demonstrates commitment to sharing the same principles regarding the need to secure our technology networks.
You’re in good company. In the last three months, I have traveled to 25 countries across Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America to promote the Clean Network. And I have found overwhelming support everywhere I have gone.
There are many but let me talk about top 5 reasons why Georgia will immediately benefit from joining the Clean Network:
FIRST, it will strengthen the case that Georgia should be welcomed into NATO.
- NATO is all about solidarity in the face of shared threats, which have traditionally come from Russia. But NATO now recognizes that the Chinese takeover of 5G is a clear and present threat to Transatlantic security.
- That is why 27 of the 30 NATO Allies have already joined the Clean Network –and it’s likely the remaining three will soon.
- While on a trip to Europe in the fall, I met with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana, who emphasized the importance of a non-fractured 5G Clean NATO Network, because the Alliance is only as strong as its weakest link.
- He told me that it is critical—during peacetime and wartime—to ensure that NATO Allies’ civilian 5G infrastructure is secure, and to avoid the situation where some NATO Allies use trusted suppliers and others use “high-risk” suppliers.
- As Georgia’s aspiration is to join NATO, your commitment to 5G security will likely be a relevant factor.
SECOND, joining the Clean Network demonstrates your solidarity with the European Union, and can speed up your integration into the European fold.
- The Clean Network includes 26 of the 27 EU member states. European nations see eye to eye with us on the threat posed by a Chinese takeover of 5G—and they understand the importance of unity.
- That is why I also met with EU Commissioner Thierry Breton while in Europe last fall. We issued a joint statement highlighting the synergies between the Clean Network and the EU 5G Clean Toolbox.
- The Commissioner was very clear that he expected all EU nations to show vigilance against the threat of authoritarian influence in 5G. And I know the EU will be watching Georgia’s 5G policies closely in the months and years ahead. We must remain as vigilant to the Chinese threat as we are to the Russian one.
THIRD, Georgia’s Clean Network membership could bring a closer relationship with the Three Seas Countries. 11 of the 12 members of the Three Seas Initiative are Clean Network members.
- I met with Estonian President Kaljulaid, the former Chairwoman of the Three Seas Initiative, and she strongly agreed that the Three Seas needed clean 5G in order to bolster their shared security.
- As with NATO and the EU, Three Seas leaders know their partnership is only as strong as its weakest link. If one nation has a compromised network, then all the others are compromised as well.
- The Clean Network is an Alliance of Democracies that provides a security blanket to all its members in the face of China’s stated policy of intimidation and retaliation. It provides power in unity and solidarity against the China bully.
- The entire Transatlantic alliance—from NATO, to the EU, to the Three Seas—is increasingly Clean, and Georgia’s place is alongside these democracies.
FOURTH, joining the Clean Network will pave the way to greater private sector investment in Georgia, especially the innovation sector.
- When Clean Companies like Oracle, NEC, Cisco, HP, Fujitsu, Siemens, and others look to invest in markets around the world, they naturally look for partners that share their commitment to trusted 5G infrastructure. They will not jeopardize their future by relying on high-risk 5G networks.
- Huawei’s well-documented history of intellectual property theft, bribery, and corruption is why companies around the world are joining the Clean Network.
- In addition, future hard-won victories on meaningful judicial reform, which should include the timely and fair resolution of disputes and the creation of a level playing field, would be undermined by introducing companies like Huawei just as Georgia is poised to attract new sources of investment.
FIFTH and finally, the good news is the United States has a number of financing tools to help Georgia as it joins the Clean Network.
- I chair the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC, which provides overseas financing. We stand ready to explore opportunities.
- I spoke recently at the Export-Import Bank’s board meeting, where we approved that ExIm can now finance 5G deals, even when they involve a trusted supplier from outside of the U.S., such as Ericsson, Nokia, or Samsung.
- Financing from the DFC or Ex-Im can help close the cost gap between underpriced vendors like Huawei and ZTE, and high quality trusted vendors. Once that gap is closed, there is no longer any reason to go with the less trusted option.
- I know the DFC is looking at Georgia for a regional office. We will continue to pursue that option, which would help to drive private sector investment to Georgia and the region.
And one final point. I know sometimes concerns are raised about the safety of 5G networks from a health perspective. I can assure you that 5G networks do not cause or spread disease. Our own Federal Communications Commission follows this issue, and there really is no issue, other than one of education. The pandemic actually highlights the need for a secure, reliable, and resilient telecommunication infrastructure and supply chains. As more of the world’s business moved online during the COVID-19 crisis, protecting our data is more critical than ever.
All these reasons make me so glad that Georgia is joining the Clean Network.
We need to ensure that no totalitarian nation—not Russia, not the PRC—gain access to our 5G networks for malign purposes.
The United States also welcomes Georgia’s commitment to modernizing its other forms of infrastructure, including roads, seaports, and more.
Just like with your 5G infrastructure, we encourage you to seek out trusted partners who can provide reliable services.
The PRC, through its Belt and Road initiative, is using infrastructure investment to coopt and control other countries.
We have noted Georgian government announcements about signing bilateral infrastructure cooperation agreements with China.
The PRC has proven that it is not a reliable partner for large-scale infrastructure projects. Its projects often utilize shoddy construction, destroy the environment, and come with ample corruption and coercion. What’s more, the PRC ships in its own workers, robbing host countries of any job creation, and often leaving a trail of human rights abuse in its wake.
There is an alternative to the One Belt One Road Toll Road to Beijing. It’s called the Blue Dot Network. It was started by the United States, Australia, and Japan, but has since been endorsed by dozens of nations, including all 12 of the Three Seas countries.
The Blue Dot Network certifies quality infrastructure projects as a way to crowd-in private sector investment. I invite Georgia to publicly endorse the Blue Dot Network as well.
It’s a three-for-one deal: You get better infrastructure, stronger security, and also more foreign direct investment.
We see positive signs that Georgia is becoming increasingly wary of the risks posed by Chinese infrastructure investment and the need for Georgia to review prospective investments in critical infrastructure to mitigate the security risk China and other countries of concern can pose.
Any deals with PRC entities should be scrutinized carefully to ensure that you retain sovereignty over critical infrastructure, including Georgia’s seaports and information technology infrastructure.
This is also important because many leading PRC companies, or their parent companies, have been sanctioned by the United States due to their involvement in human rights abuses in Xinjiang or in destabilizing activities in the South China Sea.
As you have learned, Beijing’s extensive use of state-driven protectionist policies and predatory practices distort global markets and damage the environment.
I encourage Georgia to continue to move forward with developing and adopting a foreign investment screening framework rooted in democratic practices.
Implementing stronger controls over Georgia’s strategic assets will also help decrease their vulnerability to Russian interference.
Minister Turnava, I thank you for your time and all your hard work to strengthen the U.S.-Georgia economic partnership.
Congratulations to Georgia on becoming part of the Clean Network through the finalization of this MOU.
I encourage you to publicly announce Georgia’s support for the Clean Network principles.
I am very happy to be talking to one of the top Georgian journalists in Washington in a few hours.
Joining the Clean Network sends a signal to trusted companies and international investors that your nation is safe and open for business. And it sends a signal to NATO and the EU that Georgia is on the same page about the security threat landscape. I want to make sure everyone gets that message.
Together, we can advance our shared goals for national security, as well as economic growth born of clean, fair, trusted, and transparent market activity.
I wish you the best this holiday season. I look forward to continuing our close work together.