We know that next month there will be a business meeting and that there will be some major companies, can you tell us at least from what field they will be?
So we’ll probably bring anywhere from 10 to 12 large American companies, a lot of them will be current investors already here doing business. Some of the current investors will be considering reinvestments which are very important.
And some new names?
Yes, sure. I can’t say yet who, but if you look at the list of companies that are members of AMRO, a lot of those companies there are among them. The new ones I can’t say yet as they’re still somewhat confidential, but I think you’ll see they are all big household name companies who are very serious about Romania. I think once the Trump administration gets up and running, which you know – it’s only day 27, we really hope to push for having a much more robust economic component of the relationship. Strategic, military, those have been very strong, but we need to also ake the economic and commercial [strong] . And part of that is also encouraging Romanian companies to come to the United States as well, which is part of Trump’s plan.
American investments in Romania are not very great, how can we increase them?
You know that the US is the 11th largest investor in Romania, which is a position in which we do not want to be, as you probably know America likes to be first and so we’re far away from first and we have a lot of work to do. We still continue to have significant investments, but not at the potential we would like to see, so part of my meetings today with the Government was to ask them specifically – what are your plans for this new Government and where are opportunities for American companies to do more business. Some of those areas where we could invest more would be defence, obviously, as the Government is raising their spending to 2 percent of the GDP. I think there would continually be opportunities in energy, agriculture and healthcare. Those are the areas where we think there’s the greatest opportunities.
What do you think is the main obstacles facing the American companies trying to invest in Romania?
The main obstacle is, honestly, competition. American companies, when they want to invest, they have options for 200 countries around the world that they’re taking a look at for conditions for investments. That’s part of the issue. You’ve got to compete and do it aggressively. Until recently, the Government of Romania really didn’t have an investment promotion agency. Now, very recently, in the last couple of years they have founded one and made it more robust, but my hope is that they make it even more robust .
I had a meeting on February 15 with the Minister of Economy and he is now also minister for Business Environment, he has two portfolios from what I understand, for the time being. And I encouraged him to come promote Romania, and we can help promote Romania, it’s part of our mission in Washington. But the government needs to help us do that as well, because they’re the number one seller for Romania. Competition is tough, you have Poland, you have Hungary, you have Bulgaria, lots of countries in the region where they’re looking at size, they’re looking at taxes, they’re looking at stability, they’re looking at predictability, they’re looking at efficiency. And you know, these are things Romania is working on, but it’s not the kind of thing where you fix it and it’s done, it’s a constant fix. This is where we see some of the biggest obstacles. And distance too. There is a significant distance between our countries.
What are the AMRO recommendations for future priorities in the bilateral economic relation?
Eric Stewart: So my plans are, when we come back to bring a business mission in March that we will unveil, we will announce a roadmap that we’re going to propose, we’re going to hand a roadmap to President Trump, we’re going to hand a roadmap to Prime Minister Grindeanu and hope that this is what the Governments will focus on, but I think that some of the areas where we really want to see more engagement are missions. We want to see more missions come to the United States, we want to bring more missions to Romania. That’s one thing we want to see: greater interaction. It’s very normal for ambassadors to promote their countries and to work together, and for governments to promote their countries.
We want to work towards helping the companies that are here become ambassadors for Romania. Because these companies are here, they’re invested, they’re happy, things are going well. We should use that relationship to encourage other companies to do business in Romania. That would be part of our strategy to work with both governments. But, right now, because the Trump administration is so brand new and they don’t have all the players in place, it’s difficult to have much support on the US side of things – they don’t even have a Commerce Secretary yet, so we have to get the political in place first, but that would be a large part of our plans to really lobby both governments to put more emphasis on this relationship. With the Romanian projection of the GDP being one of the highest in Europe, it makes sense for us to perform here.
Concretely, what is the mission of AMRO for local companies?
A very important component for us, as an organization, is when ministers, the President, the Prime Minister come to Washington, we host them, we create a dialogue space for them to have discussions with the business community, but also I spent a lot of time working with our Government, with our White House, our Commerce [Dept.], State [Dept.], Energy [Dept.] and our Congress, making sure they understand how important this relationship is – the US – Romanian relationship – and making sure they understand the priorities. We want to also be supportive of and help Romanian companies take a look at the US market, because that would help us balance the relationship in a healthy way. I think it would take some time for Romanian companies – I’m aware the US is huge, it’s big, where do I begin – but the US Government now has some tools to help those companies and we really want to promote and help Romanian companies have success in the US, because that helps to further deepen our friendship