PM tells European-bound Czech exporters to look further afield

The Czech government on Monday unveiled a new export strategy that is to help Czech exporters find new, fast-developing markets. The move aims to boost the country’s economic stability amidst concerns over the deepening debt crisis in the euro zone.

Photo: CT 24
Despite gloomy economic forecasts all round, figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday show that Czech exporters have been doing exceptionally well. The country's foreign trade posted a surplus of 191.4 billion crowns in 2011, the highest on record. Exports grew by 13.2 percent in a year-on-year comparison.

This is good news for the country’s export-dependent economy but there is a fly in the ointment: 83 percent of all exports are bound for EU countries and 53 percent are made up of car exports, machines and machinery tools. There are fears that problems in the euro zone may result in a steep drop in demand and impact the Czech economy. Consequently diversification is now the operative word the government has outlined a six-point strategy to help Czech producers gain a foothold on new, fast-developing markets. Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas outlined them at Monday’s press briefing:

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
“Our main aim is to maintain the pace of exports which is the driving force behind our economy and helps create new jobs. Secondly, we want to reduce our export-dependence on the EU and increase exports to non-European destinations. We want to create conditions for the growth of new firms offering goods for which there is interest abroad, we want to offer quality export services, cut back on export-related red tape and give our exporters more competitive export credit insurance.“

Photo: CT 24
In its strategy the Czech Trade and Industry Ministry has outlined 12 potentially promising areas in 28 countries – among them China, Brazil, India, Russia, Iraq and Kazakhstan where it believes Czech exporters could gain a foothold and eventually establish a strong presence. Trade Minister Martin Kuba says his ministry and the entire government will do their utmost to assist them in this process. Helping Czech exporters tap existing potential has become one of the cabinet’s top priorities.

Martin Kuba,  photo: CTK
“The country’s economic diplomacy in these countries has not been very strong in the past. And our exporters have missed out on emerging opportunities. The ministry wants to increase its trade representation from the 37 missions we now have to around 70. And in cooperation with the Czech Business Chamber we want to staff these missions with people who are acquainted with the given country, know its potential and have contacts. We want them to create an effective network through which Czech exporters will be alerted to emerging business opportunities and will get fast and effective information. This is decisive for good business and of essential importance on new markets.”

The Association of Czech Exporters has welcomed the move, but its head Jiří Grund says that for the present time it is little more than a good resolve. Like many others he’s waiting to see it implemented in practice.

Jiří Grund
“Happy? Of course we are happy with it, but now it is necessary to realize this export strategy in practice. It is necessary to take step number two. Up to now not enough has been done. There have been many discussions in the newspapers and on television but the reality is very difficult.”

Mr. Grund warns that diversifying the country’s export interests and establishing Czech firms on new markets is a long-term goal and warns that above all Czech exporters must not abandon their hard-won positions in Europe.