Every time a prime minister visits New York for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly, attention turns to his meetings with other state leaders as well as with important American businesspeople and funds.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ ongoing visit is no exception. On Tuesday the Greek premier attended a meeting of heads of American companies organized by Goldman Sachs and had lunch with investors and the US secretary of commerce. On Wednesday he spoke at Bloomberg’s Global Business Forum. And on Thursday he is to sit down with prominent Greek-American businesspeople. Each of these occasions is an opportunity for him to present his government’s pro-business economic reform program, as well as to foster a positive climate that can bring results in the future. Instant, tangible results, however, often come from parallel initiatives carried out on the sidelines of a prime minister’s visit by his ministers and aides. One such initiative was a meeting hosted by the increasingly active General Consulate of Greece in New York, where the country’s two deputy foreign ministers, one in charge of economic diplomacy and the other responsible for the diaspora, held a two-hour discussion with importers of Greek products in the American market.
The discussion pertained to practical matters such as legal and bureaucratic obstacles on both sides of the Atlantic, regulations concerning quality standards and, of course, the tariffs imposed on Greek imports to the US. The businesspeople included all of the biggest importers of Greek products on the east coast, firms that bring in ready-made consumer products as well as raw materials for products made in America. They talked about how to bolster the volume and value of imports. They mainly focused on Greek foods and beverages, and on ways to get them more prominently placed on American supermarket shelves, vis-a-vis the competition.
Greece is already on the right path, as its exports have grown 20 percent over the past decade, even though there is room for improvement (the exports of competitive countries like Portugal rose 50 percent in the same period).
Exports are also at the core of efforts to revive the flagging Greek economy, whose backbone is made up of small and medium-sized businesses. The reason is that, taken all together, the latter are not only responsible for a large chunk of the country’s gross national product while employing thousands of workers, but could also become very attractive to foreign investors.
Nevertheless, there are risks such as the possibility that Donald Trump will raise tariffs on a broad range of European products as part of his ongoing trade war against the European Union.
Such dangers aside, a systematic cooperation between the Greek state and the business community with the aim of promoting exports could result in tangible benefits in a short period.
Greece’s image has been improving steadily in recent years and it is now in a good position for the “rebranding” that the government is attempting.