Romanian ambassador visits Wilmington, tours port

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Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. George Maior talks about his visit to Delaware inside the Hotel DuPont in downtown Wilmington. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. George Maior talks about his visit to Delaware inside the Hotel DuPont in downtown Wilmington. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Romania’s ambassador to the U.S. spent Thursday in Wilmington to talk business and trade. George Maior met with leaders of the World Trade Center of Delaware for the group’s annual gala and toured the Port of Wilmington during his time in the First State.

Maior said he explored “great business opportunities,” including talks with Gov. John Carney.

“I hope that there will also be some results in terms of increasing trade investment between Romania and your great state,” he said.

Maior met with leaders from Gulftainer, a United Arab Emirates-based firm that took over control of the Port of Wilmington from the state earlier this year. While at the port, he received a proposal to create a “sister port” relationship between the facility in Wilmington and the Port of Constanța, Romania’s main port on the Black Sea.

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Trade between Romania and the U.S. has been growing in recent years. Maior said Romania exported more than $1.24 billion worth of goods to the U.S. in 2017, a 17 percent increase from 2016. The country imported $1.25 billion in goods from the U.S. in 2017, a 73 percent increase over 2016.

Romania is located on the western edge of the Black Sea, the site of rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Late last month, Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels, injuring two Ukrainian crew members.

“We consider ourselves a pivotal country in this part of Europe, on the frontier of NATO and the EU, and we really are working hard to create a better environment from a security point of view,” he said, adding that the cooperative military relationship with the U.S. is “excellent.”

“It’s good that the United States is with us in this very challenging period of time where security is tested, unfortunately,” Maior said.

Romanian officials say the country is a key regional ally of the U.S. and the most pro-American country in Europe. And, they said, it’s the first NATO member to meet President Trump’s demand that NATO countries step up funding to support the organization’s efforts.

At a NATO meeting in Brussels in July, Trump claimed that NATO countries had not been carrying their fair share of the funding load.

“Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back, where they’re delinquent as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them,” Trump said at the time.

Those comments reference a commitment made by NATO members four years ago to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024. Maior said Romania is the first country to meet that threshold for defense spending, a goal it met before Trump made his comments.

Maior’s visit also comes as Romania prepares to take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union. During its leadership role, which starts in January, Romanians will be in charge of dealing with the Brexit process, which could be completed in the six months the nation leads the EU Council.

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