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3 October 2016

Swedish ambassador, IKEA representatives on fact-finding trip in Vitebsk Oblast

Economic ties between countries are the strongest kind. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Sweden to the Republic of Belarus Martin Aberg made the statement as he met with representatives of the Vitebsk Oblast administration on 29 September, BelTA has learned.

The diplomat met with First Deputy Chairman of the Vitebsk Oblast Executive Committee Gennady Grebnev. The diplomat noted that he was on a fact-finding trip in the oblast. "I've been working in Belarus for three years but it is my first official trip to the region. I want to see Belarus for myself up close and personal. I am here to establish and develop contacts in business as well as education and culture," said the Ambassador. "At present Belarus-Sweden trade turnover is very small in comparison with our potential capabilities. Let's work together. Economic ties between countries are the strongest ones."

Asked about Vitebsk Oblast development plans and what branches of the economy are prioritized, Gennady Grebnev said that the oblast focuses on transport logistics and woodworking and puts efforts into modernizing agribusiness. "In the last 10-15 years we have considerably renewed the processing enterprises and are now building up the resource base. We seek investors and partners for building modern animal husbandry farms," noted the Vitebsk Oblast Vice Governor.

Vitebsk Oblast cooperates with Sweden in historical and cultural projects, with the trade turnover as small as $8 million. To compare, Vitebsk Oblast trade with Russia's Pskov Oblast is $15 million. "We should step up business contacts. The timber we sell to Sweden is the basis of economic ties. Apart from that, our companies buy fir tree seeds from us. Elite seeds. Those are mainly sold by the Glubokoye forestry enterprise," said Gennady Grebnev.

Representatives of IKEA companies also came to Vitebsk Oblast together with the Ambassador of Sweden. They were supposed to participate in the meeting but had been delayed at Orsha Linen Mill, their first stop in Vitebsk Oblast. The Ambassador described it as good news: "Not unfortunately but fortunately IKEA representatives are delayed at Orsha Linen Mill," said the diplomat.

After the meeting Martin Aberg told BelTA he had been favorably impressed with Orsha Linen Mill. "I didn't know that the company already exports a lot to Sweden, albeit via Estonia. We hope that new direct ties with the linen mill will be established. I was a fan of the company's products long before I came to Belarus. Prior to this I was in Moscow where Orsha-made linen products are sold and where we bought them. When we buy gifts these days, we turn to these products. We are going to visit some other Belarusian companies as well. It will be beneficial for you and for us. I would like us to bolster and expand economic ties between the countries," said the diplomat.

Speaking about potential cooperation opportunities, the Ambassador noted: "You already have the products that can compete on the Swedish market. It is important for your manufacturers to find the partners, who know the Swedish market and can sell your products there. There is also some potential in woodworking industry. It is necessary for the right people from Sweden and Belarus to find each other and make arrangements."