RIGA - Latvia is a great place to invest in and has a great potential for attracting foreign investment, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived on a two-day visit to Riga yesterday, said in an interview with BNS.
Kerry, who is now in the private sector, said that he had come here because he thinks that this part of the world has enormous potential to grow more rapidly than the rest of Europe. "People are looking at places like Latvia, where you have a government that wants to move forward, where you have good policies, where you have a ready workforce, you have the ability to trade within states of the EU and outside." Latvia's exports have increased, industrial production is up over last year, and net GDP has increased more than in the rest of Europe. "So this looks like a place where something is happening, and I think that the possibilities are real."
According to Kerry, "You have a strong education system, you have a ready and willing workforce, you have membership in the EU, which is critical to a set of rules and standards, accountability, and transparency. And you have a desire, there is a demand. Those are the key ingredients of a viable market."
Kerry also reminded of the history of Latvia that was once part of the Hanseatic tradition. "Latvia has already given a great example to the world by making a choice in 1991 and by remaining so steadfastly committed to values that we share. People need to learn more about Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. You have stood your ground under very real threats that a lot of people in various parts of the world don't fully understand. You have a strength of character that is worth being proud of."
Commenting on investment opportunities, Kerry said there was a lot of money around the world just sitting there doing nothing. People are now rethinking their approach to investment. "Maybe hanging back is not as wise as trying to get a solid return on investment over a period of time, that may not be as exciting as Snapchat, but nevertheless it's real and it's productive," explained Kerry.
U.S. investors' interest about the Baltic region is increasing, Kerry agreed. "There is a change in the playing field. The reassurance program which President [Barack] Obama announced two years ago, where we quadrupled the contribution to the frontline states up to 3.4 billion dollars." Canada has taken on the responsibilities, as well as Germany and UK. "Together with the reaffirmations of the Republicans, Democrats, President [Donald] Trump, President Obama, everybody in a unified fashion has reiterated the NATO commitment, and General [James] Mattis and others have spoken strongly about the Article 5 commitment. It calms things down a little bit and it gives the people a reassurance, which is exactly what we wanted to achieve."
Investment opportunities make a difference to the local communities, which "is at the center of the policies that I brought to the State Department when I was secretary. I talked a great deal about shared prosperity, I underscored how critical economic policy is to foreign policy and vice versa, foreign policy is to economic policy because nowadays they are one and the same thing. If you look at the Arab Spring, or if you look at the desire of people in Ukraine to live under a different regime - people everywhere want accountability, they want transparency, they want legitimate, real economic opportunity, and they don't want to have their future stolen from them by corrupted enterprises," explained Kerry.
While Kerry did not reveal whether he might invest in Latvia, he said he was visiting Riga to learn more about how Latvia, together with its neighbors, could grow stronger, have greater shared prosperity - one of the strongest pillars of defending against mischief and instability. "I am here to get an inside view on what the situation is today, what the needs are, and what the road ahead is," said Kerry.