Two Central European tigers talk trade

  • 2001-01-25
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Boosting their bilateral trade relationship became the main subject of a Estonian-Czech business forum held in Tallinn on Jan. 18. It was hoped that the event would raise awareness and give a push to the growing but still limited turnover in trade between the two countries.

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman attended, and at the opening he stressed the importance of those traditional Czech articles of export, beer and sugar. However, as yet there are still no Estonian-Czech joint companies.

Zeman and several high officials of the Czech Republic arrived in Estonia on Jan. 17 and met their Estonian colleagues and counterparts. Zeman met with President Lennart Meri, parliamentary spokesman Toomas Savi and Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar.

Estonia's minister of economic affairs, Mihkel Parnoja, said at the forum that the existing Estonian-Czech partnership in the field of city transport needs further development. The Czech Republic sells trams and trolley buses to Estonia.

According to the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Estonia and the Czech Republic have signed all the principal economic framework agreements that determine the successful development of trade. An agreement on economic and trade cooperation between the two has been in force since 1994.

What is really needed now is an agreement on the development of bilateral tourism. According to data from the Estonian Tourist Board, 4,387 tourists visited the Czech Republic between January and September last year. Czech interest in Estonia is also on the rise. Fourteen percent more Czech tourists visited Estonia in 2000 than the year before.

According to data from Estonia's State Statistical Office, the total turnover in trade between the Czech Republic and Estonia during the first 11 months of 2000 was 695.6 million kroons ($41.4 million). The Czech Republic placed 30th in exports (89.7 million kroons) and 19th in imports (605.9 million kroons). The main articles of Estonian export to the Czech Republic were food industry products (34.2 percent) and vehicles and transport equipment (14.5 percent). Estonia mostly imported machinery and equipment (41.2 percent) and chemical products (13.9 percent) from the Czech Republic.

During the first 11 months of 2000, Estonia's trade balance with the Czech Republic was 516.3 million kroons. Imports exceeded exports by almost seven times. Compared to the first nine months of 1999, exports grew by 25.2 percent, while imports grew by 102.6 percent.

According to data from the Bank of Estonia, direct investments from the Czech Republic to Estonia since 1991 reached a grand total of about 16 million kroons, while Estonia's direct investments came to about 10 million kroons by the end of September 2000. According to data from the Enterprise Register, there were six trade and service enterprises based on the Czech capital operating in Estonia in 2000.

During the Czech delegation's visit, Czech deputy minister of defense Jaromir Novotny and Rear Admiral Tarmo Kouts, the head of Estonia's defense forces, discussed long-term national defense planning in both countries. Novotny said the Czech Republic supports the entry of at least one Baltic state into NATO in the next round of the alliance's enlargement.

Kouts said Estonia will thoroughly study the experience of the Czech Republic regarding the economic side of the NATO partnership. In order to acquire membership, Estonia must raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2002.