Wilbur Ross: “Greece is Implementing Bona Fide Policies with a Sense of Urgency”

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – Briefing reporters on his Thursday meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at Maximos mansion, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised the two-month young government’s course of policy implementation by saying that “not only are they implementing the right-bona fide policies, but they are doing so with a sense of urgency.”

Ross stressed how “it is very clear the present government knows what Greece needs,” and noted how it is “already moving towards both lowering taxation and putting reforms into place,” and described the coexistence of these two elements as “particularly important.”

Referring to the government’s competence, Ross noted that “it is (also) comprised by technocrats who come from the private sector and are accustomed to bringing results, as anyone in the business world knows that the key to this is (actual) implementation.”

Responding to Athens-Macedonian News Agency’s questions about Greece as a potential investments hub, Ross said “there are many reasons why one should invest in Greece today. First of all the euro moves low, secondly Greece showed it has surpassed the crisis and thirdly is now achieving primary budget surpluses.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, listens to Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Mitsotakis has travelled to several European capitals recently, with the new government seeking to present its economic policies and attract foreign investment as the country gradually emerges from its protracted financial crisis. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

“I hope that when the EU realizes this government is succeeding in what it has pledged will do, they will allow it to not have such aggressive targets for primary surpluses, because it is a factor that stalls the economy,” Ross underlined.

Ross pointed out that “Greece has become a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) distribution center. The pipeline has already been completed and an LNG cargo has already been delivered to Bulgaria. This is a very important development, changing the terms of the game, as it is the first time Bulgaria has imported gas outside of Russia. And when the section of the pipeline crossing Italy is completed, the market will broaden up even more.”

Concerning petroleum management, Ross said “it is a very good idea to promote, anew, the privatization of Hellenic Petroleum,” because, as he said, firstly “there is a very dynamic privatization program active right now,” secondly that “privatized companies work better than when under state control,” and thirdly that “they can bring in revenue to the government for other purposes.”

He also spoke extensively about the acceleration of corporate licensing, which the government is actively promoting, and also about resolving intellectual property issues.

“These are the big issues that we have all been talking about for years, and now it seems that the time has come for them to be dealt with swiftly,” Ross noted.

Referring to discussions with the Greek government on exempting Greek olive oil exports from the US’s increased tariff regime, Ross argued that “this is very likely,” and expressed a similar view on aluminum and steel exports.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, shakes hands with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Mitsotakis has travelled to several European capitals recently, with the new government seeking to present its economic policies and attract foreign investment as the country gradually emerges from its protracted financial crisis. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

There were 1,300 Greek product exemption applications, Ross said, noting that the majority were approved while some 200 are still pending.

Before heading out on consecutive two-day visits to Istanbul and Ankara respectively, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that he will try to “ensure Turkey remains firmly in the West,” and made a final comment on Turkey recently purchasing the Russian S-400 missile system.

“We cannot sell them the F-35s, but they can (surrely) accommodate companies pulling out of China”, in light of both Turkey’s weakened appeal as an investment destination and the trade war.

“A war that costs far more to China than to the US,” Ross concluded.