Samaras Tells Pritzker Greece Rebounding

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, right, and US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker attend a press conference at the Acropolis museum in Athens on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. Pritzker is in Greece on a one-day working visit. (AP Photo/Aris Messinis, Pool)

ATHENS – Despite a crushing economic crisis, a combination of harsh austerity measures and other fiscal and structural reforms are finally starting to pay off, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told visiting U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

In a news conference at the Acropolis Museum, Samaras said that, “We are going to have a primary surplus for the first time in many years, a current account surplus and a foreign trade balance for the first time in decades.”

He added that, “These are tangible results and these tangible results, along with the anticipation of Greece entering a period of recovery after six years of a very painful recession offer major investment opportunities in our country.”

That went along with his repeated assurances that Greece will begin to recover next year and maybe even return to the markets, although it came as he was about to ask the country’s international lenders for debt relief as Greece can’t afford to repay $325 billion in two bailouts.

During a meeting with Pritzker, the two agreed to work closely on a number of issues ranging from American investment in Greece to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which will be negotiated during Greece’s EU Presidency starting Jan. 1.

Speaking to the press, Pritzker stressed the importance of commercial and economic ties between Athens and Washington, saying she was confident that the two allies would do even more business together.

“President [Barack] Obama and I know that the Prime Minister [Antonis Samaras] has made — and will continue to make — bold and difficult decisions to keep Greece on the path of fiscal and structural reform, all in an effort to promote growth and overall economic prosperity,” Pritzker said.

“This road has been challenging, but progress has been made. Going forward, Greece must not look solely to budget cuts and fiscal tightening, but also to steps that promote growth, jobs, trade, and investment, which will benefit all the citizens of Greece,” she said.

Pritzker said US companies doing business in Greece could play a role in boosting economic growth in the recession-hit country. “As you move to make the Greek economy more open and competitive, we want to see the presence of American firms here become stronger.”