‘Made in Slovakia’ — for Canadians

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
The main square in the city of Banska Bystrica.

The main square in the city of Banska Bystrica.

Slovakia, one of the world’s youngest countries, has in nearly 20 years of its independence managed to achieve results that should make its people proud. Slovakia has become a full-fledged member of such prestigious clubs as OECD (2000), EU and NATO (2004), the Schengen Area (2007) and Eurozone (2009).

Canada, one of the world’s most developed economies, has been an interesting prospective partner of Slovakia in such areas as trade and investments, research and development, innovations and industrial technologies.
In 2011, the bilateral trade between Slovakia and Canada reached $240 million, a remarkable increase of 40 percent compared to the previous year. Slovakia’s exports to Canada were worth $169.7 million in 2011, a 46 percent year-on-year growth.
Currently, Slovak exports to Canada are highly dependent on one export commodity — automobiles, representing 72 percent of Slovakia’s total exports in 2011. Other Slovak products are exported to Canada in much smaller volumes, including furniture (4 percent of total exports), metal structures (3 percent), various plastic materials (3 percent), mechanical equipment, such as elevators and forklifts (3 percent), textiles and fabrics (2 percent), footwear (1.9 percent) and electrical equipment (1.5 percent).
Canadian exports to Slovakia reached $70.3 million in 2011, a 28-percent growth compared to 2010. Coal is Canada’s leading export commodity (42 percent), followed by pharmaceutical products (11 percent), machinery and equipment (7 percent), textile yarns (5 percent), telecommunications equipment (4 percent) and vegetables (3.5 percent).
In spite of a relatively dynamic bilateral trade in 2011, there are still ample opportunities for both sides. The trade exchange between our countries should not be based on one or two commodities only; we should diversify the exports between Slovakia and Canada towards higher value-added products and services for the benefit of both countries. We would like to see more industrial goods (machinery, electrical equipment) and consumer goods (for household and personal use) labelled “Made in Slovakia” sold in the Canadian market. When Canadians buy the perfect Audi Q7, the new Volkswagen Touareg or Porsche Cayenne or a nice piece of IKEA furniture, very few know they were likely made in Slovakia. That needs to change.
Also, we would like to invite Canadian companies to Slovakia — bringing with them state-of-the-art and innovative technologies and investments into our industry, infrastructure, tourism and professional services sectors. Beyond this, rather than a limited, 5.5 million-strong consumer zone, Slovakia should be perceived as a strategically located Central European hub, a gateway to both the EU domestic market and to East and South European countries outside the EU.
Slovakia offers its Canadian partners a stable political and business environment and a steadily growing economy. The GDP growth rate in 2011 was 3.3 percent with predicted 2 percent growth for 2012. According to the Doing Business Report 2012 prepared by the World Bank Group, Slovakia ranked 48th, the highest among the Central and East European countries. A simple, 19 percent flat-rate corporate and personal income tax is worth noting, in addition to a highly skilled workforce, relatively low cost of labour (the average nominal monthly salary is C$1,040), a labour code offering considerable flexibility and the highly innovative potential for research and development projects.
I would like to point out the many benefits that the EU membership brings to Slovakia, including almost unlimited access to the 27-nation market with a consumer class of 496 million people, a transparent and stable legal environment, access to the EU structural funds, less regulated migration of its workforce, and a single currency — the Euro.
Slovakia, we hope, will not evoke only business and investments in the minds of Canadians. It is also an attractive tourist destination rich in history and culture, with an abundance of natural beauty (mountains, caves, lakes) and attractions and relaxation for all ages. Consider that it has more than 100 castles and chateaus, several UNESCO world heritage sites, nearly 100 destination spas — all located within 49,000 square kilometres (18,920 square miles). And, last but not least, we mustn’t forget the warm-hearted, welcoming people with their interesting folklore traditions and tasty cuisine.
Slovakia has high expectations for the impact of the negotiated Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Canada and Slovakia bilateral trade and investment activities. Therefore, from Slovakia’s perspective, this is the right time to show Canada’s business community, in a more dynamic way, the advantages and possibilities of Slovakia vis-à-vis other European countries.
The Slovak embassy in Ottawa is prepared to assist all Canadian companies, entrepreneurs or individuals interested in the trade and investment opportunities and tourism in this lovely country.

 

Milan Kollar is ambassador of Slovakia to Canada. Reach him at emb.ottawa@mzv.sk or (613) 749-4442.

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