- S. Secretary of Commerce addressed the Thessaloniki International Fair opening ceremony
- 55 major American corporations participate – USA the honored country
- PM Tsipras: “Greece is now a different country”
Thessaloniki.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA, Xinhua)
“This Thessaloniki International Fair will be a launching point for even more growth of the U.S.-Greece relationship, and a further strengthening of our commercial, defense and cultural ties”, was the message of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who was leading the large American official delegation at the 83rd TIF.
The United States was the honored country at the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair and Wilbur Ross characterized the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair as a launching point for even more growth of the U.S.-Greece relationship, and a further strengthening of our commercial, defense and cultural ties.
More than 55 U.S. major corporations including tech giants Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google and IBM, are participating.
Greek-U.S. bilateral trade totals more than $2 billion annually.
Speaking late Saturday at the official opening ceremony, Ross said that the Trump administration considers Greece as a ‘friend and ally’ and intends to support it.
“The United States has stood shoulder to shoulder with our Greek allies as you have turned the page and rebuilt your economy”, he said.
US Secretary of Commerce said government officials from both countries worked for months to boost trade ties ahead of Thessaloníki trade fair
“The fact that this event is held in northern Greece’s largest city, attracting visitors from Southeastern Europe, is stirring new interest in the potential for more regional integration,” he added.
Secretary Ross named tourism, energy, shipping and technology as being among the areas which the two sides could do more business together.
He said US companies want to invest in Greece, but also have certain concerns: they want predictability and stability.
“It is a great joy and honor to inaugurate the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair, the first fair in eight years to be held not in the shadow of memoranda that burdened the economic and political life of the country,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in his speech inaugurating this year’s TIF.
“Three years after the difficult agreement of August 2015, it is the first time that I can tell you with absolute certainty that we took the right decisions and we are vindicated. Despite criticism, turmoil, hostility and even undermining, things showed that we did the right thing back then. Greece is now a different country. A country that stands on its feet again, based on its own powers and can look at the future with confidence and certainty,” Tsipras said.
Tsipras said Greece was transforming into energy hub and guarantees energy efficiency for all of Europe, through its international synergies with future producers such as Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. He referred to the significant projects of TAP and IGN natural gas pipelines, the LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli and the Eastmed natural gas pipeline.
“If the first pylon of our political plan is investments and reforms, the second is regaining labour,” Tsipras said, underlining the goal to protect wage workers and strengthening their negotiating power. “With our interventions since 2015 we managed to create a new status in regulating labour market and that did not prevent us from returning to growth. Now, after the exit from memoranda we are in a position to put labour forces back in the epicentre, with the return of collective negotiations and the increase in minimum wage. We are able to announce that our government’s commitment is to raise the minimum wage in 2019 after completing consultations with all related agencies,” the Greek Premier said.
“Our big anxiety however is whether the measures demanded by the IMF for 2019 will be implemented or not,” Tsipras said, adding that according to data and estimates for 2019, the position, views and arguments presented by the IMF were not verified. The PM expressed his certainty that the goal of a 3.5 pct primary surplus in 2019 could be achieved without implementing pension cuts.
“This position will present to our European partners in the Commission when we will present the 2019 budget in mid-October,” he said, adding that “it seems that our partners accept and are happy with a new fiscal reality in the country”.
Tsipras announced that the government will begin procedures for a Constitutional Review. “Now is the time to make the big step, to implement reforms to expand democracy, strengthen protection of social rights and public goods, abolishing protective regulations for ministers and deputies and establish a new relation between the state and the church,” he said.
“Today, here in the first TIF after the eight difficult year of the memoranda, today after the end of this period of prolonged austerity, I have the political obligation to stand before you and commit on how each citizen will feel in his daily life that the memoranda are over,” Tsipras said. He said that the government’s abilities from a positive course of the economy are extended. The government will pay back around one billion euros in retrospective pay to the armed forces and the police, judges and academics. By the end of 2018, the government will table legislation for a gradual reduction of a special property tax by up to 50 pct for 1.2 million low value properties and 30 pct on average. This reduction will be made in two phases, from January 1, 2019 and from January 1, 2020.
He also announced that from January 1, 2019 the government will reduce social insurance contributions for self-employed with annual income of more than 7,000 euros up to 35 pct and to lower the rate for main pension from 20 pct to 13.3 pct. He noted that a similar reduction up to 35 pct will also apply to farmers. The government will also lower contributions for supplementary pension and lump sum payment for engineers, doctors, lawyers, a measure designed to raise their available income.
The PM also announced that from January 1, 2019 and for a period of four years, the government planned to lower corporate taxes by four percentage points (from 29 pct to 25 pct). Also, from January 1, 2019, the government will launch an extensive house rent subsidy programme for at least 300,000 families.
Tsipras announced that from January 1, 2019 the government will abolish a profession tax for farmers and cooperatives and to subsidize all social insurance contributions for new workers in the private sector, aged up to 25 years old, for a period of two years (50 pct from January 1, 2019 and 100 pct from January 1, 2020).
He also announced that from January 1, 2021, the government will lower VAT factors by two percentage points for the high rate (24 pct to 22 pct) and by one percentage point for the low rate (from 13 pct to 12 pct).
The Greek Premier closed his keynote speech defending as step to stability and peace the agreement his government reached this June with Skopje for the renaming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to Republic of North Macedonia in order to resolve a long-standing dispute between the two neighboring states.
the U.S. Pavilion
Greece is leaving behind the recession and austerity and can now look forward to unfolding the abilities of the economy, said Prime Minister Alexis Tripras at the inauguration of the US stand at the Thessaloniki trade fair on Saturday.
“We can focus on the creation of new wealth, we can invest in areas we have a relative advantage in and invest with a plan, give time to the active strengths of the country to come forward, to the young people of our homeland, to the business community that dares to act,” said Tsipras.
Referring to the Thessaloniki trade fair and the presence of the US as the honored country, the Greek premier said that this marks the large possibilities of Thessaloniki, Macedonia and northern Greece to boost the growth of the Balkans and the Greek economy.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that the trade fair is an exceptional opportunity to broaden Greek-US ties in favor of Greece. The US presence at the trade fair is made up of 55 companies and this shows the commitment of America to boost ties between the two nations.
“The US companies are here and can really expand our ties on a commercial and business level, and also support Greece in its economic growth,” said Ross.
Fierce clashes have erupted in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki where thousands of protesters have used a trip to the city by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to protest his government’s signing of a pact with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
An estimated 6,000 nationalists – according to the Associated Press – protesting Greece’s agreement with neighboring Macedonia that ended a 27-year dispute on the latter’s name clashed with police along Thessaloniki’s waterfront deep into the night. According to Kathimerini the crowd was estimated to 15,000 people.
Scores of individuals broke away from a main group of demonstrators and hurled stones at riot police as they were nearing a commercial park where an annual trade fair was taking place with Tsipras in attendance, reports said. TV images showed police chasing protesters close to barriers erected around the venue.
Members of labor unions, Left parties and anarchists also marched against the government’s economic policy.