Czech-Swedish bilateral trade surpassed the $ 1 billion dollar mark last year — and it's not just Czech Skodas and Swedish furniture that are trading hands. Ian Willoughby travelled to Stockholm and spoke with Tomas Rak, the director of the Czech Trade branch that opened there in January, to find out more.
"I'm talking about transport vehicles and transport equipment and spare parts for the automotive industry. Then there are several more items in total trade: it's machinery and industrial products."
"The rest is maybe furniture - I know some Czech companies are delivering furniture for example to Swedish companies. But not with their own design: the furniture in the Czech Republic is only made according to designs and drawings of Swedish companies.
"And there are several other items, but the main ones are machinery, engineering products, automotive components and Skoda cars, of course."
Does Skoda sell a lot of cars here in Sweden?
"Skoda is a quite popular car in Sweden. Swedes say it is value for money, because Skoda provides good comfort and a reasonable price, in comparison with, for example, Volvo or Saab, the Swedish producers."
"I think the total share for Skoda of the Swedish market in 2003 was I think three or four percent of the small cars market in Sweden. So it's quite good for Skoda here."
How do Swedes find doing business with Czech people, do you know?
"Swedes don't have in their minds the Czech Republic like a country...if I mention the Czech Republic there are two, three or four main things that they connect with the Czech Republic."
"It's Skoda cars, then ice hockey - especially after the World Championships in the Czech Republic - then Prague. Prague is quite famous, more than the Czech Republic as a country. And the beer. Because Czech beer is one of the most popular beers in Sweden."
Really? Which brands?
"In Sweden you can find a lot of brands, including ones I knew but had never tasted, such as Breznak, for example. So here you have big breweries like Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, but also small ones like Primator, Breznak, Rebel. And many others."
"And here in Stockholm I know two or three really Czech pubs, with Czech food and approximately eight kinds of Czech beer."
Do you think in future the volume of trade between the Czech Republic and Sweden will increase?
"Of course, I hope so, because it's one of my main tasks to help to increase the total turnover. Of course Czech Trade is a small agency, and I think the effects or the results of my stay here will be seen maybe in one or two years."
"Because if you would like to start to trade with some company it's a long-term activity. It takes about one year to start a business really. So hopefully total turnover will increase in the future, I hope so."
How many people work here at Czech Trade in Sweden?
"I'm the only person here. It's quite a young office. I can say that in the majority of our foreign offices - and we have 30 foreign offices in total around the world- in the majority of them there is only one person. And maybe one person from the local staff. But because I'm a young office I'm the only person here."
How do you find working alone? What happens if you get ill, for example?
"It's not good because if I'm lying in bed at home and trying to take care of myself and be healthy again, in my head I have all the companies that would contact me, and that I haven't answered some email."
"It's terrible and when I was ill here I was at home two days and then I had to go to the office. So I'm trying not to be ill."
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