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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » June 29, 2012
America in Poland
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Business Leaders Aim to Boost Trade with U.S.
June 29, 2012   
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Business leaders have urged the Polish government to remove barriers that discourage investors and to step up cooperation with the United States in sectors from energy to e-business in order to boost bilateral trade.

The call comes from three influential business associations ahead of the U.S.-Poland Business Summit, a high-level trade and investment meeting they are organizing in Warsaw on June 20.

The summit will be attended by John Bryson, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak.

Poland’s exports to the United States last year totaled $3.7 billion, while imports from America stood at $4.8 billion, up from a combined two-way trade of $6 billion in 2010, according to the three associations organizing the business summit—the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland; the Polish Confederation of Private Employers, also known as Lewiatan; and the U.S.-Poland Business Council. They added that American companies have invested a total of over $20 billion in Poland over the last two decades or so.

“To strengthen trade, it is necessary to remove the barriers that discourage investors,” the three groups said in a joint press statement.

Briefing journalists in Warsaw ahead of the summit, Michael C. Camunez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce, said that Poland stands out as Europe’s fastest growing economy and “as a great bright spot in the European community.”

“Our goal is to deepen our partnership” with Poland, he added. “The truth is our commercial partnership could be stronger and we want it to be so.”

Camunez said that government officials and executives at the summit would be aiming for “specific commitments” to cooperate and share best practices and information.

“For example, how we can cooperate more proactively on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, not just multinational giants,” he said. “And we want to look at how we broaden our trade promotion efforts.”

Camunez added that the business summit, to be held at the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw, was being organized in the wake of a public commitment by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and U.S. President Barack Obama, when the latter visited Poland last year.

Joseph Wancer, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland, said that one of the major concerns for U.S. investors in Poland was the future of government programs supporting investment, including investment subsidies and tax exemptions in special economic zones. “The current system is not flexible and not apace with the world’s rapidly changing economic situation,” he added.

A report drawn up by the three associations holding the business summit adds that Poland’s “evaluation and decision process is long and cumbersome, mainly due to unpredictable and subjective bureaucratic interference.”

The report says that Poland “must continually strengthen its attractiveness by improving education and R&D, infrastructure, the flexibility of labor laws, by cutting red tape, and by providing incentives for investors to locate their manufacturing and service centers in Poland.”

The report, entitled The Next Level: Polish-American Economic Cooperation 2012 and Beyond, highlights sectors where Polish and U.S. companies could work together to exploit unused potential, including nuclear power, shale gas, e-business, R&D and the aerospace, defense and biotechnology industries.

Henryka Bochniarz, president of the Polish Confederation of Private Employers, said that Polish businesses, including small and medium-sized exporters, were capable of entering the U.S. market.

“However, the majority of Polish exporters have so far not been interested in the United States and a lot of effort needs to be made to increase the volume of trade in both directions,” she added.

According to The Next Level report, the key investment barriers for Polish investors in the United States include:
- limited knowledge of the American market and investment opportunities;
- visa requirements that hinder travel required to gather information or to get acquainted with business conditions and potential business partners;
- insufficient financial resources;
- difficulties in gaining U.S. patents;
- complicated procedures for gaining access to investment incentives;
- high corporate income tax (CIT) rates.

The Next Level report says it is “crucial” to improve cooperation in terms of R&D, academic, and student exchanges.

“The level of academic cooperation to date is far too low. Greater commitment and government support is needed to create and incentivize knowledge exchange programs,” it says.

The report adds that Polish universities “need to learn about educating according to market needs—a particular concern for the business processing sector.”

Eric Stewart, president of the U.S.-Poland Business Council, said that in order to boost bilateral trade and investment, a more active policy of regional institutions, both U.S. and Polish, was needed—for example, establishing working contacts between City Hall departments responsible for attracting investment and regional chambers of commerce.

Michael C. Camunez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce, on Poland:
Poland is a challenging market in which to do business but also, given the size of the population, has tremendous growth potential, not just in terms of sales but in terms of investment in Poland in R&D and manufacturing. There are issues we would like to see resolved. But the focus of the [business] conference is going to be how to deepen contact between the U.S. and Polish private sectors...

I’m very bullish about this market. This is a growing and very well managed economy and has tremendous promise and opportunity. Unlike some parts of the world where our challenge is to knock down barriers and fight to get our companies access, here we need to do a much better and more robust job of promoting the market and promoting contacts between our industry. There are a lot of important synergies that are being under-realized.
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