| NEW YORK, April 5
NEW YORK, April 5 Poland's desire to cut natural
gas imports from Russia has led to an "understanding" with the
United States to work toward a deal to export liquefied natural
gas to its new Baltic Sea terminal, the country's deputy prime
minister said on Wednesday.
Mateusz Morawiecki, who is also the minister of economic
development and finance, said in an interview that discussions
with new U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry brought "a very
"The word agreement is probably premature. Understanding?
Absolutely," Morawiecki said as he wrapped up a three-day U.S.
visit with stops in Washington, Boston and New York.
Poland's liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Baltic
Sea was completed in 2015 and opened last year. It has an annual
capacity of 5 billion cubic meters, which the government wants
to double in the next few years, Morawiecki said.
Internal sources supply 30 percent of Poland's gas
consumption, with the rest predominantly from Russia, which
Warsaw eyes with suspicion.
Once procedural issues are settled and viable export
capacity is found, "the last element which is to be negotiated
is the price," he said, noting that gas from Russia, Algeria and
Qatar is competitive.
"The average price is lower than what we can obtain from
Texas, from the United States. A little way to go, but I hope we
will find a common denominator," he said.
In February 2016 the United States began exporting LNG from
the lower 48 states for the first time. None of that gas, an
estimated $895 million worth in the first year, made it to
Poland or northern Europe because of cheaper sources from Russia
Poland is considering adding more LNG capacity by building a
floating LNG terminal in the Baltic Sea by 2021.
Poland's expanding economy would help support the added
capacity. Economic growth of 3.5 percent in the first quarter
and "3.6 percent or higher" for 2017 is possible, Morawiecki
He said he was not concerned by the recent strength of the
Polish currency, as long as it remains in the 4 to 4.5 per euro
"With the recent strengthening where zloty touched 4.21 to
the euro, it was perceived as quite strong, but it is still
quite a good exchange rate for our exporters," he said.
GAS IS NATIONAL SECURITY
Finding alternative gas sources is important for Poland's
Poland's contract to buy gas from Russia's state-owned
Gazprom expires in 2022. Replacing the roughly 10.2
bcm of Russian gas each year from its annual consumption of 15
bcm to 16 bcm is a top priority, as it would reduce any leverage
Moscow has over its former vassal state.
Poland, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,
is on the frontline between a buildup of both Russian and NATO
military forces, unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.
The buildup has been driven by Russia's annexation of Crimea and
accusations, denied by Moscow, that it is supporting a
separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
"I am very much concerned. I think that what Russia is doing
since invading Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, it is
clearly against international public law," Morawiecki said.
"We strongly oppose this expansionary and aggressive policy
by Russia. Cyber threats to the Baltic States and Poland are
difficult to overestimate. I believe this is a real threat. We
have to be very much in partnership with NATO and EU countries,"
Poland's western flank has been shaken by Britain's decision
to leave the European Union in 2019, referred to as Brexit.
"In the context of Brexit, NATO could become more and more
important from a political point of view. It could become a more
viable political and not only military platform in the context
of the UK," he said.
Morawiecki said he was more optimistic than most about the
financial impact from Brexit, believing the UK would still make
monetary contributions to the EU either directly or indirectly,
similar to what Switzerland via treaties and Norway via
membership in the European Economic Area contribute.
"But we would like to maintain the (UK) contribution as much
as possible," he said.
(Reporting by Daniel Bases; Additional reporting by Scott
DiSavino in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)