Prague, Dec 7 (CTK) – New U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic Stephen B. King, who handed his credentials to President Milos Zeman on Wednesday, primarily wants to support economic relations between the two countries, he said at his first meeting with journalists in the role of ambassador on Thursday.
He pointed this out also in a video in which he presented himself and which the embassy released on Facebook on Wednesday. “I will work hard to increase trade and expand market access for both Czech and American companies,” he said.
King said he believes he and newly appointed Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) will share the emphasis on economic interests. He expects that they will share the interest in developing a strong economy, he added.
He hopes to meet Babis soon, however, the date for the meeting has not been set yet, he said.
King said he and Babis seem to have some common interests in the chemical industry.
Until early 2017, the billionaire Babis was the sole owner of the huge Agrofert concern including chemical, food-processing and agricultural firms and media outlets. Being a cabinet minister, he had to transfer Agrofert to trust funds because of the law on the conflict of interest. King did business in the chemical industry some time ago, he said.
King said he would also want to talk to future Czech foreign minister Martin Stropnicky.
He said his talks with President Zeman were honest, open and fruitful.
Previous U.S. ambassador Andrew Schapiro had rather bad relations with Zeman. Zeman even said the door of the Presidential Office were closed for Schapiro. King did not want to comment on this. He said he considers his talk with Zeman about the situation to be confidential.
In the U.S. presidential campaign, Zeman openly preferred present President Donald Trump to his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton. Schapiro who was close to former President Barack Obama left his post in January 2017.
King, 76, is a long-term member of the Republican Party for which Trump was elected and he worked in its leadership.
King said he would like to focus on support for small and medium-sized businesses. He said he could see opportunities for Czech-U.S. cooperation in research especially in nanotechnology, cybernetics and artificial intelligence.
King recalled that the centennial of the creation of the Czechoslovak republic would be celebrated in 2018 as well as 100 years of U.S.-Czech diplomatic relations.
He said he hoped a top member of the American administration would visit the Czech Republic next year.
He said U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and later first Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk ” turned the dream of an independent, free nation into reality” in 1918.
King has spent his life in areas where many citizens celebrate their Czech heritage, he said, naming Wisconsin, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois as examples.
As an American Midwesterner, he is “very glad to be in a country that loves ice hockey as much as I do,” he said.
When talking about U.S.-Czech partnership, King mentioned “our rock-solid cooperation on regional security.”
He said the U.S. and Czech militaries “work closely alongside each other” in combat zones and through the Texas and Nebraska National Guard State Partnership Program.
He noted that the Czech government is considering buying U.S.-made UH-1Y multipurpose helicopters.
King arrived in the Czech Republic together with his wife Karen and he is going to spend Christmas in the country. He said he plans to visit interesting places in the Czech Republic. His first trip will probably be to the city of Brno, he said.