With president Klaus Iohannis having met with his US counterpart Donald Trump at the White House last week, Business Review spoke with Eric Stewart, the president of the American Romanian Business Council (AMRO), to find out more about the sectors in which we might see fresh American investments.
What will be the medium and long term impact of the meeting between Donald Trump and Klaus Iohannis at the White House on the economic relations between the US and Romania?
The medium-term impact will certainly be greater attention within our bilateral relationship; any time two heads of state meet, there is a flurry of activities and deliverables to follow. We will likely see increased attention towards bilateral dialogues like the Commercial Action Plan and the US Romania Strategic Partnership. We will also witness increased cooperation between the individual Ministries and Agencies. It would be logical to see an increase in cooperation between our Defense, Energy and Agriculture Departments. The long-term impact is much harder to predict. It really depends on how ambitious both governments intend to be.
I would argue that Romania should be one of the United States’ closest allies and partners in the European Union. With the exodus of the United Kingdom, the United States is looking for a new best friend in the EU. Romania would make a very stable, dependable, and dynamic best friend. Our two countries have always enjoyed a special relationship. Under Presidents Trump and Iohannis our countries may grow even closer together.
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How does the Trump Administration perceive the business environment in Romania?
They see a stable country with great potential. However, there are barriers that remain. There is a need to defeat corruption, increase transparency, and beat down bureaucracy. These challenges are not unique to Romania, but if Romania is to compete in the EU or better yet globally, it has to improve its business climate to the point where investors have little doubts about investing in Romania. AMRO has had the opportunity to brief numerous officials in the new Administration and our message is clear: there is great potential in Romania, but there is still room for improvement. Furthermore, we believe there is a role here for the US to play in helping provide Romania with the tools and support to improve its business environment. Capital is a coward and prefers the safest home available.
What are the industries in which we might see fresh American investments in Romania?
Energy, defense, agriculture, financial services and health care. I would assume Romania has also developed a strategy for attracting companies with EU headquarters in the UK, who will be looking to relocate back into the EU post Brexit. This should offer Romania some unique opportunities to attract new investors.
What are AMRO members saying about the overall business environment in Romania? What are their recommendations?
AMRO is bullish on Romania. It is great place to do business and it’s a country of people who truly welcome Americans with open arms. Not every country in the world loves America and Americans, but Romanians always make us feel special and it is a much easier decision to make investments where you are liked and appreciated. Romania offers this and I believe it is one of the reasons that Romania has been a key destination for investment and re-investment, beating out other EU countries. I would also say the Romanian people are a strategic advantage. Smart, hard-working, pro-American, innovative and eager to learn. This makes for a tremendous workforce. Our specific recommendations to both governments can be found in the “Roadmap to Prosperity” we presented to President Trump and Prime Minister Grindeanu in March. (http://www.amrobiz.org/roadmap.pdf)
How can the strategic partnership between Romania and US further upgrade its economic component in the next years?
My first recommendation would be to increase the level of leadership from a career level to a political one. This will help ensure the dialogue receives the appropriate attention from both governments and will increase the chances that significant deliverables will result from these negotiations. Second, I would encourage them to include the private sector into the discussions. Third, I would encourage the governments to think of ways to not only enhance bilateral relations, but for ways to have Romania and America be co-leaders for a regional, Europe-wide or even global initiative. Logical areas would include defense, energy or agriculture. Romania is a serious partner and co-leading a strategic initiative with America would demonstrate Romania’s leadership on a global stage.