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Business people talk further internationalisation of Slovenia’s economy at Brdo pri Kranju

The second national conference on internationalisation of the Slovenian economy is under way at Brdo pri Kranju. This main annual event is being attended by more than 400 business people from all over Slovenia, and by top representatives of the state and foreign chambers of commerce and business clubs. Conference participants are discussing the competitive advantages of the Slovenian economy in the international market and the government priorities and its support for companies entering foreign markets. The title of this year’s conference highlights a joint and in fact ambitious target for the state and the economy, which is to achieve EUR 50 billion in exports and EUR 60,000 in value-added per employee by 2025.

Economic development minister Zdravko Počivalšek labelled the meeting a “Slovenian export economy summit” and welcomed the fact that this year is was being attended in even greater numbers than the previous year. He expressed his satisfaction with the positive state of Slovenia’s economy: “Further evidence is the economic growth of 4.5%, and the highest employment figures to date at the end of last year. Slovenia’s foreign merchandise trade continued to grow last year at a rate of 10%, to stand at EUR 74 billion. Import and export values were at their highest levels to date. This year too, economic growth remains above the EU average.” Here the Minister noted that the majority of Slovenia’s exports go to EU countries, and that only a small portion of Slovenian companies are exporting. “For this reason Slovenia must increase the number of export-oriented companies, mainly among small and medium-sized enterprises, which represent the main force of our economy. We need to spread exports to countries outside the EU and exploit market niches with high-technology products and services,” noted Počivalšek. 


Here the minister highlighted the International Challenges 2019-2020 action plan. For the coming two years the plan defines specific objectives, sectors and target foreign markets as well as tangible government measures to help companies. This year the Economic Development Ministry will allocate to companies over EUR 36 million for various measures of support for internationalisation, such as promoting partnerships for more effective presence in foreign markets, enhancing the marketing of brands, participation in international business events, organisation of economic delegations and national representations abroad, group fair appearances, market research, digital marketing, certificates of quality and the operation of Slovenian business clubs. 


The Minister of Foreign Affairs dr. Miro Cerar said that the guiding principle in economic diplomacy is to promote Slovenian export goods and services, and encourage the inflow of foreign direct investments and activities to protect Slovenian investments abroad. Cerar also underlined that “in addition to maintaining key Slovenian export markets in the EU countries, Slovenia must direct its exports to new markets with good prospects. In this, export-oriented Slovenian companies can count on the help of Slovenian diplomats, since economic diplomacy is one of the principal tasks of diplomatic and consular offices abroad.” The Ministry is carrying out various activities in the area of internationalisation, such as the organisation of economic delegations, business conferences, meetings of mixed commissions on economic cooperation and other international events (Africa Day, LAK Day, Three Seas Initiative). 

Diplomats in the field, including 22 economic advisers and more than 130 honorary consuls, provide information that offers the best picture of the situation in individual markets, business opportunities there, the method of doing business and possible pitfalls. Companies abroad most frequently use the services of diplomats in the field, and hold them in high regard. For this reason the Ministry intends to expand its network of diplomatic and consular offices in promising markets, and is making efforts to ensure that each representative office will have an economic adviser. A key area of operation of economic diplomacy is the internationalisation of Slovenian science, technology and innovation, with special emphasis on the promotion of Slovenian developments in the field of artificial intelligence. 


Acting Director of the public agency SPIRIT Slovenija Ajda Cuderman, noted that SPIRIT Slovenija, in line with the International Challenges action plan is implementing a range of different measures aimed at supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in all stages of internationalisation. “This year we have envisaged EUR 13.5 million for this, which is nearly twice as much as last year, of which EUR 8.8 million will be in financial incentives for companies to more easily penetrate foreign markets. Here our key guideline is help for companies in securing new business, increasing sales in foreign markets and strengthening their competence in export business, whereby we contribute our share towards higher competitiveness of the Slovenian economy, so this year we will be overhauling and enhancing our existing services for exporters and in this way adapt them even further to the needs of exporters. This year and in the coming years, we will upgrade all our activities in foreign markets with an integrated communication campaign to promote the Slovenian economy abroad as Green. Creative. Smart. This should serve to position Slovenia, its economy and companies appropriately on the map of potential foreign buyers, business partners and investors.”


Boštjan Gorjup, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, stressed at the conference: “A time has come for us to review the commitments we set ourselves in the area of targets set under the Development Partnership of three generations. We have come EUR 3.5 billion closer to the target of EUR 50 billion by 2025, and last year attained EUR 39.2 billion. For the large exporters, according to Chamber estimates the value-added per employee already amounts to over EUR 58,000; across the entire Slovenian economy, however, it is just EUR 44,616. There is not much time left for us to be able to say in 2025 that we have achieved the target of EUR 60,000 in value-added per employee.” 
Here Gorjup pointed out that the realistic expectations of companies need to be addressed through a stabilisation of priorities in Slovenia’s internationalisation, a transparent distribution of roles among key players and those in charge of the support environment and by selecting appropriate incentives and measures. The Chamber conducts services in the area of internationalisation under the trademark Go International Slovenia. Each year it conducts around 100 very diverse events with an international theme and provides close to 1,000 individual consultations with companies related to entering foreign market places or expanding business networks. The range of services covering internationalisation will soon include the possibility of accessing the German business network, which will be provided through an agreement between the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and the Slovenian-German Chamber of Commerce. 


The second national conference on internationalisation was organised by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the public agency SPIRIT Slovenija, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia and the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.



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International Challenges 2019–2020

The action plan sets out specific targets, which are to increase the value of exports by 5%, to increase FDI as a proportion of GDP by 0.5 percentage points, to increase value-added per employee by 5% and to increase the share of total exports accounted for by SMEs by 2 percentage points.

Slovenia will continue to internationalise its economy in priority markets, mostly those within 2,000 km. These markets are accessible, culturally similar and already open to trade. The list of target countries includes EU Member States such as Germany, Austria, Italy and France, Switzerland, the Visegrad Group, Balkan countries and the USA and China among more distant countries. The wider list of target markets includes Russia, the UK, the Benelux nations, Ukraine, the UAE, Romania, Bulgaria, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. 


The government will support internationalisation in particular in sectors where Slovenia has a competitive advantage and where demand is highest. These sectors are vehicles, electrical and electronic equipment, machinery and appliances, tourism, transport and products with the highest growth potential (wood and wood products, furniture, optical, technical, medical and other equipment, and the food industry). 


Slovenia will also strengthen its efforts to attract foreign direct investment, in countries that have traditionally invested in it, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. There is also potential in the USA and in Japan. Slovenia will also encourage FDI in sectors where it has abundant natural resources, skilled labour and competitive advantage. These sectors are transport and logistics, machinery and electronic equipment, the car industry, fabricated metal tools, pharmaceutical products, wood and wood products, and tourism.


To encourage the internationalisation of Slovenian firms and to attract FDI, the economic development ministry will carry out a number of measures together with other departments. These measures will be grouped into three areas: i) general and systemic measures for improving the ecosystem for internationalisation, such as strengthening knowledge and skills, making organisational improvements, raising Slovenia’s profile; ii) measures to encourage internationalisation (e.g. advisory services for exporters, market research, training, international certification, identification of potential export opportunities, financing and insurance, for example via SID banka); and iii) measures to encourage inward FDI (e.g. identification of potential investors, support services during the investment process and after completion of investment, financial incentives such as 40% tax relief, subsidies).


State of imports/exports in 2018 and FDI in 2017

Exports of goods and services amounted to EUR 38.8 billion in 2018, up 9.2% on 2017. Imports of goods and services are also increasing: they amounted to EUR 35.5 billion in 2018, up 9.0% on the previous year. Germany, Italy, Croatia, Austria and France accounted for more than half of Slovenia’s total merchandise trade in 2018. Slovenia’s largest exports are vehicles, medical and pharmaceutical products, and electrical machinery and appliances. Its largest imports are vehicles, oil and refined petroleum products, and electrical machinery and appliances. 

Inward FDI has also been increasing in Slovenia in recent years: the stock amounted to EUR 14.7 billion at the end of 2018, up 7% on the end of 2017. The largest inward FDI was in manufacturing (32.9% of the total), financial and insurance activities (22.3%), and wholesale and retail trade, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles.

Direct investments by Slovenian companies abroad totalled EUR 5.9 billion at the end of 2018. Their largest holdings of outward FDI are in manufacturing. Four former Yugoslav republics (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia) account for just over 60% of outward FDI.