THESSALONIKI (AP) — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Saturday inaugurated a trade fair in recession-weary Greece, where the government is pushing for overseas investment but faces mass protests after years of plummeting living standards.
Ross joined Greece’s left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the opening of the annual trade fair. The United States is the featured country at this year’s event, hosting exhibits from major corporations including tech giants Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google, and IBM.
Ross traveled with a delegation of executives from dozens of major U.S. companies.
“They are here because they are eager to further expand our trade and investment ties and support Greece in its economic recovery,” Ross said. Industries from health care to aerospace and defense are prepared to “help Greece meet its economic goals,” he added.
Greek-American bilateral trade totals more than $2 billion dollars annually. Ross said U.S. corporations had made a “calculated decision” to boost commerce with Greece, a long-standing NATO ally that’s also in talks to intensify military cooperation with the U.S.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, visited Greece earlier this week and said he had discussed the possibility of expanded base access for the U.S. military in Greece as well as training cooperation.
The cooperation reflects a shift in regional alignments, with Greece’s neighbor Turkey seeking closer ties to Russia as its relationship with the United States remains in crisis.
Greece last month ended its third consecutive international bailout and now must return to markets that have been rattled by financial concerns and a jump in borrowing rates in nearby Italy.
Some 4,000 police officers are on duty in the northern Greek city as several major protest rallies are planned later Saturday, led by labor unions.
By THEODORA TONGAS and DEREK GATOPOULOS , Associated Press
Gatopoulos reported from Athens.