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Putting the growl in the Baltic Tiger

  • 1998-11-26
  • Paul Beckman
VILNIUS - The Lithuanian Development Agency recently ranked nearby Sweden as the top foreign investor in Lithuania. In an effort to stimulate long term bilateral trade between the two countries, a project called the "Baltic Tiger" was launched Nov.19.

Officials of the LDA, Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Sweden, the University of Kristianstad and the Municipality of Kristianstad are hoping to encourage more trade between Lithuanian and southern Swedish enterprises by organizing a "trade contact fair" in Kristianstad, Sweden.

Around 85 small and medium sized companies from Lithuania and about five times as many from Sweden spent the two days in November mixing and mingling with each other in an effort to lay the ground work for future cooperation.

"So far it's been very good, very inspiring," Pontus Lindberg, area manager for the Chmber of Commerce and Industry of Kristianstad, said to Lithuanian reporters via a television satellite hook up between Sweden and Vilnius. "Business life today is more complicated than ever. This contact fair gives both sides an opportunity to gather information. It's a long process and, at this point, much more social."

Despite the "long process," the Lithuanian and Swedish officials said they knew of some contracts which were already made as a result of the fair. The Baltic Tiger project, financed by the Swedbaltcop Foundation, is planned to exist for a three-year period. Next year, another contact fair has been planned to take place in Vilnius.

"Lithuanian companies are ready to go to other countries. The quality of produced goods and services, in most cases, are compatible in the world market. What they lack is the determination and ambitions to take these steps," said Arvydas Zygys, director of LDA's export department, to explain the inspiration for the project.

The financial crisis in Russia was mentioned by both Lithuanian and Swedish officials. An official from Swedens Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that with only a tiny percent of Swedish exports heading to Russia, the country has not felt significant effects from the Russian crisis. The Lithuanian side, however, seemed content to use Russia's financial woes in an effort to make the Baltic country more economically attractive.

By promoting Lithuania's stable economic and political situation despite the crisis in Russia, LDA officials attempted to bring home the message that Lithuania could serve as a "reliable bridge to the East" for Swedish businesses looking in that direction.