Polish President Lech Walesa appealed to American business leaders Friday to invest in his economically troubled country, telling them, "We want to be the America of the East."
In a brief address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walesa described his three-month-old government efforts to encourage foreign investment and privatization of the state-owned economy. "Every second company should be American," he said."We welcome all foreign partners," said the first democratically elected president of the former communist country. "Do come."
Closing out a state visit to Washington and embarking on a countrywide search for private investment, Walesa told the chamber, "The situation in Poland today could be compared to the great American move to the West in the last century."
"The rewards will be much greater than the outlays," he promised. Walesa added that German business people have been the most active in Poland so far, but he added, "We are now waiting for the Americans."
Referring to his 10-year struggle as a labor leader to unseat communist power, Walesa thanked the United States for its support and said, "We have together overcome a terrible system without a single shot."
The Polish leader received a sustained standing ovation both at the beginning and the end of his talk.
Earlier in the day he held an hourlong meeting with Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher and more than a dozen leaders of major American corporations.
Walesa announced Thursday that he will begin admitting American citizens without visas to ease their travel to Poland. And he planned an address later today to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Mosbacher welcomed Walesa to his office in the Commerce Department, where they sat down with the chief Polish cabinet ministers and U.S. business leaders, including former Commerce Secretary Peter G. Peterson, who now heads The Blackstone Group, Robert Stempel of General Motors and John Hinds of American Telephone & Telegraph.
Walesa made the visa announcement Thursday during a closed meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and confirmed it to reporters later.
"As of the 15th of April there are not going to be any visas for all Americans coming to Poland," Walesa said. "No problems for their arrival. Poland will be freely open to all American citizens." He gave no further details.
Boguslaw Majewski, press attache at the Polish Embassy, said the move was part of Poland's effort to attract American investment.