Ambassador Harald Fries on trade relations between Sweden and the Philippines

In a special feature in the Manila Times, Ambassador Harald Fries talks about trade relations between Sweden and the Philippines, the countries’ ties, the similarities and differences between the two countries, and his experience as an ambassador in the Philippines.

The Manila Times writes that the Ambassador is not a stranger to the Philippines and long before he started his diplomatic career, he married Filipina Susan Batungbacal who he met in 1985 while they both worked for Eriksson in Stockholm. The couple has two sons together and they have visited the Philippines every year.

From 1991 to 1995 Harald Fries was posted as a junior diplomat in the Embassy of Sweden in Manila and returned as the Ambassador in 2016 when the Embassy of Sweden reopened after being closed in 2008.

The Ambassador explains that trade between Sweden and the Philippines has significantly increased in recent years, and more Swedish companies have entered the Philippines. Early on as Ambassador, he hosted the biggest Swedish delegation ever to the Philippines with 30 Swedish companies looking for business opportunities in the country. He also talked about trade relations during the Sweden Southeast Asia Business Reset Summit last May 25, where he touched down on three good reasons why Swedish companies should consider investing in the Philippines.

“The Philippines is a big and rapidly growing market. The Government is business-friendly, and the workforce is young, enterprising, well-educated, and English-speaking,” the Ambassador says. It’s difficult to come to the Philippines without any prior knowledge however and the Ambassador advises that new companies establishing themselves in the country should seek a good local adviser or partner. “It is difficult just to come here and start a business without knowing the ins and outs. First, contact the embassy or the Business Sweden office in Manila,” he says.

According to the Ambassador, the Duterte administration’s massive Build, Build, Build infrastructure program opens up many opportunities for partnership between Swedish and Filipino companies in areas such as urban transportation, airports, telecommunications, waste management, and clean energy. IT, retail, and mining are other industries of interest.

As Ambassador of Sweden, he is proud that Swedish companies bring Swedish core values regarding sustainability, gender equality, and decent work conditions to the Philippines as Sweden is viewed as a pioneer in the field of active corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Read the full article about Ambassador Harald Fries by the Manila Times and more about Sweden’s ties to the Philippines and his experiences as Ambassador here.

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