Latvia raised eyebrows this year by emerging from its crippling economic recession to slowly take its place as an economically viable country.
To increase the country’s momentum, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis is in Seoul until June 11 with representatives in logistics, financial services, wood processing and tourism to meet with Korean entrepreneurs and senior officials to find ways to increase cooperation.
“From our point of view, wood and wood processing is one of our biggest export industries so we are trying to expand our export markets for this,” said Latvia Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis during an exclusive interview with The Korea Herald.
Latvia Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
Last year, trade between both countries grew 18 percent from the previous year to reach just over $105 million with plywood being the main good exported from Latvia to Korea.
Currently, Latvian plywood is being used in the manufacturing of liquefied natural gas supertankers but Dombrovskis sees potential to increase trade in other wood and wood processing fields.
Dombrovskis pointed out that the current bilateral relationship with Korea is developing strongly with several senior officials’ visits planned for the near future.
While in Seoul, Dombrovskis also met officials of the Korea Importers Association.
Both sides agreed that despite the great geographical distance between the two countries, their economic cooperation has big potential.
KOIMA and Dombrovskis expressed interest in promoting cooperation in food production and processing, pharmacy and engineering.
With the Korea-European Union free trade agreement signed and ready for business, the only challenge Dombrovskis predicts in the immediate future in the food processing sector is the distance and lack of direct links.
“We are looking for possibilities to develop cooperation in logistics,” he said. “So officials of our two biggest seaports are visiting Incheon Port to find ways for cooperation.”
One way to attract business and investments is by promoting tourism.
The prime minister understands the difficulties in convincing Korean tourists to visit just Latvia, so while here Dombrovskis is meeting industry professionals to promote Latvia as a packaged destination with other Baltic states, Nordic countries or with the Saint Petersburg region.
Latvia’s favorable investment laws coupled with its rise in the Ease of Doing Business index are also attracting curiosity from outside investors.
Cooperation in information communication technology is already underway with Latvian companies developing niche products.
“Our labor costs are competitive. There’s a sufficient supply of skilled labor in ICT and languages, which is one of the reasons for developing these call centers,” he said.
Furthermore, Latvia is a stepping stone into the Russian market, the Baltic region and the northern part of the European Union.
By Yoav Cerralbo (firstname.lastname@example.org