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_ INTERVIEW/Don Graves: US will increase gas delivery, will help Europe get through winter

INTERVIEW/Don Graves: US will increase gas delivery, will help Europe get through winter

The United States will increase the quantities of liquefied gas sent to the European Union, to help European states replace Russian gas and get through this winter, said Don Graves, the US Deputy Secretary of Commerce, in an interview with AGERPRES.

Also, the United States is looking, together with its partners from around the world, for alternative resources to the Russian gas.

Don Graves, former adviser to President Joe Biden, came to Bucharest together with a delegation of over 100 officials and representatives of the American business environment to participate in the ITU Plenipotentiary conference, to discuss with Romanian officials about strengthening bilateral relations, as well as to look for possibilities of collaboration with Romanian companies, told Agerpres.

Romania has a special potential, domestic resources and well-prepared people to attract as many American investments as possible and to be a gateway to the region, says the official from Washington.

He also said, in the interview, why the United States chose Romania for the location of the first NuScale modular nuclear reactor.

AGERPRES: Which is the purpose of your visit to Romania?

Don Graves: First of all, let me say that I am excited to be here, to deepen our strong relationship. And I should say to the Romanian people Thank You, thank you for your friendship, thank you for your partnership, thank you for your commitment to expanding our relationship, thank you for the humanitarian support you've been providing to the Ukrainian people, the million refugees who come through your borders. It's a strong show of just how gracious and amazing the people of this country are and it's something that we, in the United States, certainly value, our friendship and our relationship.

But, I'm here primarily for two reasons: one is to take part in the International Telecommunications Union, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, which I think is a recognition of Romania's strong leadership in the information technology and telecommunications, and ICT, but also because I wanted us to show just how strongly we believe in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Romania.

It's the 25th anniversary of the US-Romania Strategic Partnership and that's primarily focused on the national security and defence, but as we've seen over the last few years, we've been growing this trade relationship and it's my hope that we can find ways to expand that relationship significantly beyond where we are today.

AGERPRES: Which are the topics of discussion with the Romanian authorities?

Don Graves: Well, I will say we are having a much bigger meeting with the Romanian leaders tomorrow (Wednesday, ed. n.), in fact the American Chamber of Commerce is holding an event where we'll be meeting a number of Romanian ministers, along with the Deputy Prime Minister and I think the focus of these conversations is certainly to expand our trade relationship.

As it stands right now, our bilateral trade relationship is about 5 billion dollars worth of trade, and the investment by US businesses is more than 3 billion dollars. So, it's our plan, our hope that we can expand that relationship, following the direct engagement between our governments and between our businesses.

I have to say I've also had good conversations with Romanian leaders here, at this conference as well as in Washington D.C.. The Minister of Energy was in Washington about a month and a half ago and we had a very good conversation when he was in the US.

AGERPRES: What can we do to improve the bilateral commercial relationship?

Don Graves: I think it's part of what we're doing with this visit it's finding ways to connect our businesses directly, because it's one thing for governments to try to create mechanisms and it's a whole separate matter to actually make the connections between our businesses because when a US business and a Romanian business get together and look at opportunities, they are going to find ways to expand their relationships without the government getting involved, because at the end of the day, we are all focused on making sure that we're creating good jobs, high quality jobs, family sustaining jobs for both of our countries.

So, we're going to be using this American Chamber convening tomorrow (Wednesday, ed. n.), the meeting as one part of our relationship, but we are also finding additional ways to expand trade like the trade missions between our countries, we are looking to bring more US businesses to visit Romania, to understand the vast potential that is here and then also looking at ways to attract Romanian businesses to the US.

In fact, earlier this year we hosted the Select USA conference, to focus on investment and partnership in the US, and Romania had a very strong delegation of, I think, more than 30 businesses. So, this relationship between our two countries is very good now, but it can be even better if we support our businesses.

AGERPRES: Are there many Romanian businesses in the USA?

Don Graves: There are a number of businesses, Romanian businesses in the USA, they are partnering and of course there are a large number of US businesses here in Romania and we see huge opportunities in fields such as telecommunications, information technology, certainly in energy space, in agriculture, healthcare.

So, for my government is focusing on is trying to find ways working with the Romanian government to bring businesses in those fields together so we can create more opportunities for investment between our countries.

AGERPRES: Why Romania? Which are the advantages of our country?

Don Graves: Why not Romania? It's a beautiful country, you have vast resources, you have a well-trained, a highly-skilled workforce, you have an adherence to the democratic values and the rule of law, a stable country with a stable government, you have access to logistical transportation hubs, waterways so that it makes it easier for goods and services to get in and out of the country.

And this is really the gateway to the entire region for US companies, So, we believe that this is the right time, the right place for US to be looking to invest and to partner.

AGERPRES: What about the partnership in energy? Why did you choose Romania to host the first small modular reactor?

Don Graves: Again: why not? For a couple of years now we had this agreement between our countries on civil nuclear and in fact we have had another agreement focusing specifically on small modular reactors. We know that the world has to make a transition to clean energy, to renewables and move away from reliance on fossil fuels, not just because of the increasing cost of fossil fuels, but also because of the impact on the environment, the climate change and the impact of that's having.

So, we are very focused on supporting Romania as you make the transition to clean energy and are thus not reliant on countries nearby who may decide at the whim of a leader to cut off energy. The more that we can do to bring this safe, reliable energy technology to Romania, I think the better it is for you and certainly better it is for all of us in the democratic world.

AGERPRES: Is the NuScale technology safe?

Don Graves: Absolutely. It's a proven technology that's been around for 60 years. It's something that our Nuclear Regulatory Commission has signed off on, they're licensing the technology. It's very safe. In fact, it may be the most safe technology in the nuclear industry. It doesn't require a lot of pumps that might fail and a lot of maintenance because of the way that it's constructed. So, it has an automatic shut down system that is built into it that doesn't require additional water. So, it is a very safe technology, one that we are very confident it will work for the Romanian people and certainly something we believe for the American people.

AGERPRES: And you think that after the first modular reactor, there will be other reactors in our country?

Don Graves: Well, of course that's up to Romanian people and Romanian government. But, we believe that once you see just how good this small modular reactor technology can be, and the flexibility that it provides to communities and the reliability that it provides that you'll find that it's something that you want more upcoming forward.

AGERPRES: Which are the other plans regarding the energy partnership?

Don Graves: We are looking at every opportunity to expand our relationship as it relates to energy and to find ways to help Romania make that transition, so a ray of technological solutions, including nuclear, solar, wind. But we know that this is a transition over time and that's why we want to work with Romania to make that transition in a way that protects Romania's security and economic security viability.

AGERPRES: A company from USA, ExxonMobil, has just left Romania and a big oil bloc. Why do you think that happened and what should we do to prevent big companies leaving our country?

Don Graves: I can't speak to ExxonMobil's decision, I don't know the specifics of that issue. But I will say that the more that we can do to bring our business sectors together, the more that we can do to highlight the opportunities in Romania - as I said, the strong technical workforce, the good resources, the access to transportation - the more that I think US companies big and small will look at investing here, in Romania.

And I think that, in fact, it's just as important for us to find ways to help grow Romanian small and mid-size enterprises to build indigenous capacity to allow Romania's businesses to be very successful and be partners of American companies. So, we're focused on making sure that every Romanian company has an opportunity to engage with US businesses and that we can show those opportunities in Romania to a greater number of US businesses.

AGERPRES: Can you tell us the names of American companies which are willing to come to Romania to invest here?

Don Graves: We can give you a list of the companies that are participating in the AmCham event tomorrow (Wednesday, ed. n.). There is too many companies to name right off the bat. I wouldn't want a single, any one of them out of this point, but suffice is to say that US businesses are very interested in being in Romania and looking at opportunities. So, our plan is to continue to have trade missions and bring number of US businesses back to Romania to see these opportunities.

AGERPRES: How many companies are to participate in the AmCham conference?

Don Graves: 900 US companies.

AGERPRES: Quite a lot...

Don Graves: Quite a lot, yes. And we have a hundred members of the US delegation that are here for the ITU Plenipotentiary, but also that are engaging with Romanian government, Romanian businesses. Because we believe that now is the right time for us to be working with the Romanian Government.

AGERPRES: How can USA help European Union in terms of energy and gas if Russia stops delivering gas?

Don Graves: As I said, we, in the United States, are going to do everything that we can to make sure that we protect the economic security and support energy for Europe, including for this part of Europe, southern and eastern Europe. It's very important that we stand together, as partners. That's why the United States has engaged in the EU-US Energy Council to find specific ways that we can manage through this crisis that was created by Russia and not by anybody else.

But it's important for us to do two things. One is to move as quickly as we can to this transition towards renewables. We know that's something that EU and EU member countries have been doing themselves and without help, but to also find ways to manage through the coming months which may be more difficult because of the rising prices and because of lack of supply.

So, the United States is doing what it can to identify additional sources of energy, including oil and gas, but it's also as I said before it's why we have to move as quickly as we can on new technologies, like this small modular reactors, which we think is a good both medium and long-term solution for countries like Romania and for many other countries throughout Europe.

AGERPRES: For this winter, do you, the US prepare to increase the amount of LNG towards the European countries?

Don Graves: The President (Joe Biden, ed. n.) has already been talking with the EU, and also presidents and heads of government throughout the EU and has made commitments to expand the delivery of LNG. But, also working with our partners from around the world to identify sources of additional gas and oil. And we've been doing that and we think that we will continue to find new sources of energy to support Europe through this unwarranted invasion. We wouldn't be in this place were not for Vladimir Putin. So, we will do what we can - and the rest of the world is working with us - to help ensure that Europe has what it needs to get through this winter.

AGERPRES: How is the invasion of Ukraine affecting the world economy and how will it change the future?

Don Graves: Obviously, the economy across the world would be in a very different place were not for Putin's unjustified decision to invade a sovereign country and we, the United States, along with the free and democratic peoples of the world are standing behind Ukraine and will always stand behind Ukraine and countries who have this type of violation of their sovereign rights.

I think that the world's economy is clearly taking a hit, as a result, we're seeing huge challenges as they relate to the supply of oil and gas, as well as food, because we're not able to get the grain out of Ukraine to the world's markets.

But, the United States is working very closely with Europe and with other parts of the world, as I said, to identify new sources of energy, but also to bring down the prices of energy, as well as expand our production of food as well as other countries that are able to expand their production of food. Because, again, this is not something that we started, but we are going to stand by Ukraine until the very end, until Putin ends this war, and we'll also stand by the rest of the world ensuring that the world had the food and the energy that it needs to continue to succeed.

And we'll work with our good friends and partners to see what we can do to improve our economic fortunes even if we're dealing with this war.


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