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Slovenia Business Week no. 17/2005: 3rd Slovenian Business Week

3rd Business Week conference took place at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia from 18 trough 21 April

Opening of the conference
Minister Vizjak believes that companies should look to break onto overseas markets and decrease their dependency on sales in the EU and the former Yugoslavia

Economics Minister Andrej Vizjak has said Slovenian companies need to find new export markets to make themselves less vulnerable to shocks on individual markets. Vizjak believes that companies should look to break onto overseas markets and decrease their dependency on sales in the EU and the former Yugoslavia.

Speaking at the 3rd Business Week conference, which began at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (CCIS) in Ljubljana on Monday, 18 April, Vizjak underscored that 70% of Slovenian exports went to the EU and 17% went to former Yugoslav markets last year, while other markets represented a minor share.

"The focus was on the EU and the former Yugoslavia in the past, now the attention is being shifted to overseas markets," he said.

Vizjak said the government was trying to help companies in their efforts to enter new markets. "We can achieve our goals - growth and competitiveness - only by joining forces," he stressed, adding that bolstering investment into R&D was the best way to improve competitiveness.

Vizjak's view on the need to enter new foreign markets was echoed by Jozko Cuk, the president of the CCIS. According to Cuk, dependency on major trade partners presents a danger. For this reason, Slovenia should look to get into the act in emerging economic powerhouses, such as China, India, Brazil and Russia.

"Much of the global demand will come from these countries and we must get in the act," economist Marjan Svetlicic expanded on Cuk's theory. The professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law pointed to predictions that Asia will soon become the motor of the global economy.

Meanwhile, an Economics Ministry official underscored that EU membership has made it easier for Slovenian companies to enter distant markets. The EU offers numerous programmes to help companies enter these markets, head of the General Directorate for Foreign Economic Cooperation Mojca Jazbinsek Volk said.

1st day of the conference
Slovenian companies shared their experience in setting up shop in distant and unfamiliar places, in a round table held as part of the 3rd annual Business Week

Slovenian companies shared their experience in setting up shop in distant and unfamiliar places, in a round table held as part of the 3rd annual Business Week.

In his address to the participants of the round table, the president of the Chamber of Commerce Jozko Cuk said Slovenian companies needed to show more confidence and seek new markets.

There is no reason a company should not succeed with a good product and good approach to selling it, he said.

Sharing their experience in the debate, the participants pointed to the need for innovation and understanding for the needs and wants of customers.

According to Ivan Lisjak of Iskra Avtoelektrika, the maker of electronic automotive parts, the company decided to launch production in China in order to keep up with customers.

"We entered China without selling a single product beforehand," Lisjak said. The key to launching operations on a new market is finding the right supply chains, he said, adding that China was ideal in this respect.

Meanwhile, a representative of another Slovenian company enjoying success abroad pointed to the importance of innovation in remaining competitive.

According to Matjaz Lukac of laser producer Fotona, staying ahead of the competition is the key to being competitive.

Fotona has managed to enter foreign markets because of its dedication to innovation: products are continuously being improved, he said.

Slovenian companies are at a disadvantage in that they are from a country that is not a global trademark. This means that Slovenian companies must beat their competition in all respects if they want to be competitive, he said.

Meanwhile, the general manager of Slovenia's railway operator stressed that the country had all the qualities to become a logistical hub.

However, government promises to build the necessary infrastructure are not enough, Boris Zivec said, adding that Slovenia was facing a tall order in trying to take on the German dominance of the logistics market.

2nd day of the conference
According to Mateja Mesl, a vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (CCIS), the organiser of the meeting, Slovenia needs to invest in knowledge, innovation and development if it wishes to bridge the development gap with Western Europe

Participants of the 3rd annual Business Week conference highlighted the importance of research and development for the future of the Slovenian economy on the second day of the meeting in Ljubljana.

According to Mateja Mesl, a vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (CCIS), the organiser of the meeting, Slovenia needs to invest in knowledge, innovation and development if it wishes to bridge the development gap with Western Europe.

The key to improving research and development in Slovenia is strategic integration between companies, she said.

Mesl stated that integration between companies is an answer to the increasing complexity of products and services, as well as a way to bolster investment in research and development.

Speaking at the open of the second day of proceedings at the Business Week, Mesl stressed that the Slovenian economy faces many a challenge and that integration between companies can help it to overcome some of the hurdles.

The view that Slovenia needs to focus on research and development was also stressed at a round table on multinationals held as part of the meeting on Tuesday, 19 April.

According to Stojan Petric, chairman of commutator manufacturer Kolektor, Slovenia's workforce is becoming increasingly expensive, which means the country will have to look for its competitive advantages elsewhere.

If Slovenia wants a chance to attract foreign investment and be successful it will have to base its future development on research and innovation, Petric said.

Meanwhile, Andreas Niegsch of tire producer Sava Tires said Slovenia must revamp its tax legislation since the current legislation is warding off foreign investors.

Moreover, Niegsch pointed to a disproportionately high number of university graduates in social sciences compared to natural sciences.

3rd day of the conference
The director of the government Institute for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development has urged Slovenia and the EU to undertake extensive reforms if they are to meet Lisbon Strategy goals

The director of the government Institute for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development has urged Slovenia and the EU to undertake extensive reforms if they are to meet Lisbon Strategy goals.

According to Janez Sustersic, measures to boost growth and employment would have to be a mixture of British liberal economics and efficient legislation, and the Scandinavian welfare state reform.

Moreover, European society should be based on knowledge and the environment should be made a competitive advantage as compared in particular with Asia and the United States, Sustersic told participants of the Business Week conference, which wrapped up on Thursday, 21 April.

Alasdair Murray of the Centre for European Reform, a London-based think-tank, blamed political causes for the EU's failure to achieve better results over the past five years. The Union was unable to achieve reform consensus on the political level, he said.

Murray described the key economic indicators which show Europe lagging behind its objectives, but noted that there has been some success: the energy, financial and telecoms sectors have been liberalised and progress has been made in regulatory reform.

However, he pointed out, progress has been lackluster in research and development, where the EU is far behind the United States.

He noted that Slovenia places seventh in the EU in terms of development indicators, but a lot needs to be done to achieve the Lisbon targets, in particular in reforming the pension system and opening up to investment.

Source: Slovene Press Agency STA

Author: STA