Trade goes hand in hand with democracy: Sweden

Trade goes hand in hand with democracy: Sweden
Minister of Enterprise and Innovation Mikael Damberg (r) together with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT
Sweden's enterprise minister Mikael Damberg has promised that the development of democracy and human rights will be a key factor in a new export strategy set to be published in the spring.
Damberg has revealed that 26 new countries will be prioritized in the period up to 2020.
The selection criteria stipulates size and high economic growth, but also a lower comparative level of economic freedom. Among the countries targeted for exports include dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
"We believe that trade and contacts with countries is a way to promote human rights. What we are doing now, unlike the previous government, is that we will highlight the issue of sustainable business and human rights at a completely different level," Mikael Damberg said to the Dagens Nyheter daily.
Swedish businesses are set to be offered support to avoid some of the pitfalls common associated with exporting to undemocratic countries.
"For us it is important that this goes hand in hand, that one does not believe that one can only sell goods and then ignore issues such as human rights and sustainability," Damberg stated.
The government hopes that encouraging trade with countries such as Qatar, which has recently come under fire for the working conditions of migrant workers, will contribute to stimulating the development of democracy and human rights.
Swedish-Finnish telecom company Telia Sonera and furniture giant Ikea are among the Swedish firms which have been in the spotlight in recent years over corruption allegations in Uzbekistan and Russia respectively.