With increasing bilateral co-operation and a brisker pace of high-level visits, Canadian and Latvian trade is poised for steady growth in the coming years. This is particularly so given Latvia’s role as an undisputed Baltic hub and Canada and Latvia’s mutual intensive work with international organizations such as the OECD, the WTO, the UN and NATO.
Canada and Latvia are set to celebrate the ratification of CETA, the free-trade agreement that represents a huge triumph for EU-Canada relations and will smooth the way to new business prospects.
Bilateral trade between Latvia and Canada has been puttering along at well below 100 million euros per year and Canada hadn’t been among our Top-40 trade partners until now. Soon, it will take a dramatic jump thanks to the long-term alliance forged between Bombardier and Latvian national carrier airBaltic, which has just bought 20 CS300 Series jetliners, technologically advanced aircraft that will become the workhorses of Latvia’s fleet.
Bombardier, a world-renowned company, is headquartered in Quebec. It has packed three decades of experience into these planes while equipping them with bigger windows, more comfortable seats, wider aisles, larger overhead storage and fuel efficiency that others only dream about as they compete for clients and try to realize the 2030 sustainable development goals for a smaller carbon footprint.
Though Bombardier is an all-Canadian company, Canadians will have to travel to Latvia to test out this new plane. Even with Bombardier’s Mirabel assembly line going at full steam, the Canadian airlines will have a long wait.
And speaking of air travel, Riga International Airport offers direct flights to more than 80 destinations serving more than five million passengers per year.
We believe business breeds business and we think the quality and performance of the Bombardier planes will be a good advertisement for Canada in Latvia. They will attract Latvian entrepreneurs to visit Canada and vice-versa.
Over the centuries, Latvia’s geopolitical situation has been shaped by its strategic Baltic Sea location. Which sectors are particularly promising in Latvia? We see eight in which Latvia has great potential and which are ripe for harvesting: woodworking and metalworking, mechanical engineering, transport and storage, information technology (including global business services), green technology, health care, life sciences and food processing.
Recent exports from Canada to Latvia include vehicles, machinery, chemicals, plastics, optical devices and farm products. Likewise, Latvian exports to Canada include machinery, food products, vehicles, building supplies and textiles.
Latvians are inventive and are open to co-operation. Some smart Latvian entrepreneurs have become leaders in fields you might not expect.
To wit, the world’s smallest mechanical camera, the VEF Minox (James Bond “spy camera”) is from Latvia. Groglass is a world-class developer and manufacturer of glass coatings used in high-end electronics and architecture, among other applications. Erenpreiss bicycles are made in Latvia, while Finieris is a leading provider of birch plywood while also working in forest management, logging and production of synthetic resin and phenol films with customers in 60 countries. AirDog manufactures the only drone made for action sports while Blue Mic makes microphones, including “the ultimate USB microphone for PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad.”
How do you know if Latvia is a good bet for you? Along with a well-developed infrastructure, access to European and regional markets, an income tax rebate for larger investments and macroeconomic stability, the most important of the recent “stamps of approval” for the investment climate in Latvia came with Latvia’s successful OECD membership bid.
The OECD accession process involved an extensive review of the various sectors of Latvia’s economy, including transparency, good governance and accountability. The Canadian company, Couche-Tard is already in Latvia through its new global convenience brand, “Circle K.”
Canada’s leadership in NATO’s multinational battalion in Latvia should also be understood as a positive sign for Canadian companies contemplating Latvia as a starting point for their business. Latvia has been a strong supporter of the trans-atlantic links to Europe and welcomes Canada’s flag and forward presence in our country as we start to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday and are on the verge of celebrating Latvia’s centennial in 2018.
Visit www.liaa.gov.lv/en if you’re interested in exploring opportunities and investment incentives in Latvia.
Kārlis Eihenbaums is Latvia’s ambassador. Contact him by phone (613) 238-6014 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.