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    Networking Through Common Values


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2002

    There is no official strategy for Sweden's export promotion or for developing the country's exports. At the same time, many Swedish companies are very successful internationally. The absence of a documented official strategy is replaced by a strong structure of common business and social values. How can such an unstructured system work? What can developing countries learn from "trade promotion practices" in Sweden? The key seems to be the role of the public-private Swedish Trade Council (STC) which has some 1,600 member companies. From its activities, we can identify at least nine elements that ensure the network works effectively:

    1. Government export promotion is on a case-by-case basis.
    2. The STC's commercial offices abroad have the authority to formulate priorities and initiate programmes which later might be sponsored by the Government.
    3. It receives less government support than most other European Union (EU) countries. Through the use of public money the organization provides basic export services free of charge, mainly for small companies and newcomers. Export support services such as market studies, joint marketing activities and specialized advisory services are offered at a market rate.
    4. The STC focuses on two main tasks. The first is information gathering with easy and free access for everyone through a well-developed STC web site (using a "data mining model") in English and Swedish. Every working day, about 3,000 visits (some 50,000 per month) are made to the STC home page. The second task is consulting. Professional consultants are recruited from large established firms and offered market salaries. All of the assignments are evaluated by the clients. A "100 list", gathered from earlier projects, covers the most frequently asked questions and corresponding answers.
    5. The Government regularly and carefully examines and evaluates the Swedish export promotion system, most recently in 2000.
    6. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) gives the STC a yearly Basic Government Assignment and also acts mainly as a door-opener for big companies.
    7. The Trade Commissioners have the right to give directives to embassies and ambassadors in the relevant region or country.
    8. Job rotation between MFA and STC means there is effective respect and understanding for the other partner organization.
    9. There are many regional trade support networks in Sweden. At the national level there is Almi, a fully government-owned company. Its main task is promoting international activities of SMEs through counselling, contacts and financing, which is provided by its network of 21 regional subsidiaries.

    Contributed by Sten Söderman, from University College, Southern Stockholm, Sweden, who took part in the 2001 Executive Forum. The full text can be found on the Executive Forum web site.