The dialogue with His Excellency Mr. Marek Szczygiel (in picture) Ambassador of Poland in Romania began with a statement made from the outset: ” It is no question about the importance of the Romanian System of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which we know very well, and this is why our Embassy attaches so much importance to the cooperation with the National Chamber and the county CCI. Traditionally, at least once a year, I meet with Mr. President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania when I usually visit local communities in the country, I always try to meet the County Chamber of Commerce and local business community in order to explore the possibilities of expending bilateral cooperation.
■ How do you comment current stage of development of bilateral trade and cooperation between our countries?
I think we can assess that the economic cooperation between Romania and Poland is very intensive, but there is still significant potential that remains untapped. But for the time being, we have the feeling that this cooperation is a little bit unbalanced. What I mean? What we see in recent years is steadily growing Polish exports to Romania, which are right now twice higher than the Romanian imports to Poland and the tendency, even in the first half of this year, is actually not very positive in this respect, , i.e. Polish exports keep growing, while the Romanian exports are going down, are decreasing. We do not see it as a natural development of economic relations between two countries of similar potential, located in the EU and I would like to use this opportunity to encourage Romanian companies to consider the advantages of reaching out to the Polish market, which is quite significant in European standards, thinking that we have 38 million people with growing purchasing power. We register regular economic growth in recent years ranging from 2.5 to 3%, which is significant considering the European economic crisis. I think we can offer many business opportunities for Romanian companies on the Polish market.
But I am very satisfied with the presence of Polish companies in Romania: we have right now over 600 companies registered with the Romanian Trade Register, operating here, both large investors and SMEs and they basically cover the whole spectrum of industries, different kind of business areas. This is also an important contribution to the economic development of Romania, because they created around 4,000 jobs. So, I think it is worth mentioning that this is not the kind of one –shot business but a typical win-win situation. What we also detect here at the Embassy, a constantly growing interest of the Polish companies for the Romanian market. They are ready to come to invest in Romania, there are a lot of good news regarding the opening of new production facilities in Romania.
■ Can you name some of them?
- Recently, the Polish-Romanian joint venture, Viacon, opened a new factory in Brejmer (near Brasov) which will produce equipment for motorways, roads generally. Also very soon we will celebrate the new investment of Selena company in the building materials industry (adhesives). We see also some companies operating in the financial sector, brokers. So far, we don’t have any Polish banks present in Romania, but in this area we see encouraging dynamics: Polish banks are becoming more solid and mature and, maybe, in the future they will be looking for external markets.
Finally, in 2011, the bilateral trade volume was 3.2 billion euro, both exports and imports, and in 2012 we hope to grow, but so far, it appears based only on Polish exports to Romania. So, we need help for the Romanian companies exporting to Poland…
■ What should the Romanian companies, in your opinion, to maximize the competitive advantages of Romania, in the next period, 2013-2014?
There are several sectors where Romanian goods have quite substantial chance on the Polish market. I would like to mention the food industry, as Romania can boast with high quality food products, especially traditional organic products. Also Romanian wines, which are still an unused Romania, considering that in Poland we have a steadily growing consumer market and Romanian wines are almost absent, while Moldovan wines rank in the top of Polish preferences. We experience a kind of boom of wine consumption and I think it is good to use this moment to enter the Polish market. You need more marketing and there are some Romanian producers already making that attempt. I think more sustained organized promotion, maybe through the Chamber of Commerce would be good.
I think you have many companies mature enough to enter foreign markets, not necessarily subsidiaries or daughter-companies of multinational or large companies, such as Dacia Renault, which have their own network of sales in place, but I think what is needed is more SMEs. In fact, the majority of the existing exports to Poland from Romania is conducted by large companies or investors who have located their production in Romania, but whose products are not Romanian brands. I think it is also an opportunity for the Chambers to focus on promoting Romanian SMEs, Romanian brands on the Polish market, considering there are multiple connections (airlines, railways, etc..) and try to establish direct contacts. I think such close markets should cooperate more closely.
■ You talked about promoting SMEs. Please refer to participation in fairs and exhibitions.
I refer both to promotion through fairs and exhibitions – and there are many in Poland! – or by business missions or trips organized by specialized organizations, missions targeted on specific specialized sectors. And we are trying to help this hind of business matching between companies in Romania and Poland …
But this year we experience slightly reduced interest from the side of Polish companies for the participation in fairs and exhibitions in Romania. Usually, Polish companies concentrate on exhibitions organized in Bucharest by Romexpo and Cluj. We also noted that there is much bigger participation of Polish companies in fairs and exhibitions in Romania than of Romanian companies who go to exhibitions and fairs in Poland, which makes me wonder to what extent Romanian companies use European funding available for such participation, because Polish companies are covering 100% of such costs and expenses by European funds.
■ As you touched on the sensitive issue of EU funds absorption, please tell us if the difficulties faced by Romania in this field have led to the withdrawal of Polish companies form the market. Did you have receive negative feedback from them?
The picture is mixed. There are Polish companies which had not entirely positive experiences, but generally, Polish companies have quickly adapted to the local business environment. They know how to use the existing support from both the Polish state and European funding and they have brought this know-how to Romania. I know of some cases of unsuccessful applications to European funds from the side of Polish companies, some gave up, others continued with some better results lately. In Poland, EU funds added to our economic growth between 0.8-1,2% of GDP in the last 4 years. The funds available for Romania by the European Commission are comparatively higher than the resources allocated to Poland, so they could generate even bigger effect to especially modernize the economy, increase the investments in infrastructure and the development of human capital, in social areas , etc. I really see the attempts from the side of the Romanian Governments to improve the situation as we are in constant contact with the Ministry of European Affairs. They are looking at the Polish model how to organize the absorption EU funds and the policy to access these resources. I think we can provide some positive experiences in this area, without pretending that our solution is perfect, but I think the figures show that we have managed to use these funds in a very efficient way.
■ At the end of our discussion, please mention some of the main events on the agenda of the Polish Embassy by the end of the year.
We try to work closely with the Polish business community in Romania. We recently held a working meeting with the Finance Minister, Mr. Florin Georgescu, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government, which proved very interesting, a kind of informal business club. We plan to have another such a meeting later this year. Also later this year, but depending on the calendar of the Romanian partner, we try to organize a Romanian-Polish business forum, which we used to have annually either in Warsaw or Bucharest. We hope that this year MECMA will organize this forum in Bucharest. Certainly, there is interest from the side of the Ministry of economy and of the Polish business community.
We also have specific items on our agenda on areas where we see substantial potential such as IT, where both Romania and Poland recorded an interesting dynamic, we want to organize a sort of a roundtable on the topic. The food is of great interest to us, especially since Poland became the 3rd largest exporter of food to Romania, which is visible in many supermarkets. We are also interested in renewable energy, based on signals of intentions to invest in Romania, in wind and in building small scale hydro-power stations, manifested by Polish reliable companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. We hope in the future to develop cooperation in this field, especially since our energy mix is somewhat similar, with significant share of traditional resources, namely of coal among our energy resources. We also wants to reduce our dependence on coal, without increasing our dependence on imported natural gas and we plan to build our first nuclear power plant in Poland in 2022.
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