On 21 May 2020, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, chaired online the 17th regular meeting of the Foreign Economic Policy Coordination Council, which considered reports on the economic development of Latvia, progress with the national image-building strategy, as well as proposals for defining the desired profile of a foreign investor and optimisation of the network of representative offices of Latvia’s Investment and Development Agency (LIAA). Specific ways of resuming the tourist flow to Latvia from less affected countries of the region were discussed toward the end of the discussion.
At the opening of the online meeting, Edgars Rinkēvičs noted that the agenda points concerning export promotion and investment attraction in the “new normal” are especially relevant at this point in time when Latvia is working on a rebound of its economic growth. He added that therefore it is important to hold this meeting on business development without any delay.
The strategy for the development of Latvia’s economy presented at the meeting by Jānis Vitenbergs, the Minister of Economy is still underway, pending approval at the Cabinet. The strategic goal is as follows: in the short term – to minimise the negative impact of the crisis on economy and business; in the medium term – to achieve structural change in favour of knowledge-intensive development of goods and services.
A uniform, clear and focused strategy will be a basic document essential in export support and attraction of investment. It is vital that its implementation start soon, and so the Council approved the concept of the strategy.
A proposal combining image and values should be ready for launch in June, a marketing proposal – in September, and a detailed marketing plan – as early as in December. The new concept on Latvia’s economic and business development will include and integrate the 24 existing strategy lines for the country’s image with the aim of promoting export and innovation and attracting investment and tourism.
In the short term, the focus will be placed on Latvia’s successful approach to containing COVID-19, an approach that has earned us international recognition and acclaim. It enables us to promote Latvia as a country that is able to do complicated things fast, creatively and at a world standard, the Minister noted.
A concept for a uniform image of the country in economic terms is of special importance for those representing Latvia at its embassies and missions and for everyone who represents Latvia abroad.
The Council unanimously expressed its readiness to use the marketing offer for the economic image of the country in its work at both the national and international level as well as engaging actively in devising a marketing implementation plan with the aim of approving it by the end of the year.
As concerns foreign investment and the desired profile of a foreign investor, members of the Council agreed that proactive measures were needed to attract investors based in national business environments that are democratic, reliable, and secure – and to focus attention on financially-stable businesses in good standing and with good reputations.
LIAA’s proposals for delineating the profile of a foreign investor desirable for the Latvian state have been highlighted in the context of recovery of Latvia’s economy. The investment situation worldwide is very complicated. On the one hand, it is characterised by the caution of many investors, on the other hand – significant public funds are being mobilised. Many sectors have become vulnerable, and care should be taken to prevent unfavourable takeovers. Likewise, many governments are considering a return of manufacturing facilities to their countries of origin.
LIAA informed the Council about the optimisation of its network of representative offices. The agency currently has 20 offices in 18 countries. The optimisation is taking place in line with interviews among businesses, evaluation of the costs, effectiveness and contributions of current representative offices, as well as in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are plans to close separate offices and open others in priority countries and cities within the assigned budget.
In conclusion, Edgars Rinkēvičs invited the Ministry of Economy, LIAA and the Ministry of Transport to closely cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the promotion of incoming tourism from countries less affected by the pandemic while gradually expanding the area of free travel being introduced in the Baltic States. For the arrangements to work, a possibility should be considered to waive the requirement for a 14-day self-isolation for citizens of designated countries upon arrival in Latvia. The Minister of Transport and the Minister of Economy expressed support for the proposal and responded to the call from Edgars Rinkēvičs to appoint people responsible for mutual coordination in identifying the particular issues to be addressed.
The meeting of the Foreign Economic Policy Coordination Council was attended by Jānis Vitenbergs, Minister of Economy; Kaspars Gerhards, Minister of Agriculture; Tālis Linkaits, Minister of Transport; Solveiga Silkalna, Foreign Affairs Adviser to the President of Latvia, and Alise Pīka, Economic Policy Adviser to the President of Latvia; Dana Goldfinča, Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Latvia, and Jānis Upenieks, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Economics; Jānis Endziņš, Chairman of the Board of the Latvian Chamber of Trade and Industry (LTRK); and Līga Meņģelsone, Director General of the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia (LDDK). Anda Catlaka, Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Speaker of the Saeima; Selga Laizāne, Deputy State Secretary for Latvia 100 at the Ministry of Culture; and Vita Timermane-Moora, Head of the Latvian Institute were also invited to participate.
The Foreign Economic Policy Coordination Council, established by the Cabinet in 2012, is a coordinating institution under the Foreign Minister’s leadership, which aims at ensuring collegial and concerted action by public authorities and other institutions in creating and implementing a successful external economic policy. The Council builds a systematic dialogue between the public and non-governmental sectors. The Council also comprises the Ministers of Economy, Transport and Agriculture, advisors to the President and Prime Minister for foreign and economic affairs, and the heads of LIAA, LTRK and LDDK. The Council usually meets twice a year.
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