Why good relations with Saudi Arabia are important

Writing in business daily Dagens Industri, Maria Rannka and Mikael Wolf, the chief executive and the chairman of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, note that Stefan Löfven’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia has stirred massive debate as to whether the PM should travel to a country that is far removed from Sweden in terms of values and culture, whether companies should do business in undemocratic countries and whether the PM should travel with business representatives.

Rannka and Wolf stress that it is almost always better to engage in dialogue and trade than to remain silent or call for a boycott.

One could easily believe that Sweden’s trade with Saudi Arabia focuses on defence-related products and services, but a closer look at the statistics shows that this sector accounts for less than 10% of exports in the past five years.

Areas identified as being of specific interest include energy efficiency and sustainability, education and care. Saudi Arabia is an important country in a region with significant challenges and in need of innovation. Rannka and Wolf are convinced Sweden can contribute to a change

Unrepentant PM

Just 6% of Sweden’s business leaders have confidence in Stefan Löfven, according to a DI/Ipsos poll published last week. Despite this, the PM says he has a good relationship with the business community. Admitting that growth has been curbed by the shortage of housing and outdated infrastructure, the PM is convinced the government is addressing the problem with its autumn budget bill and future investment. Suggesting that the discontent among business leaders has to do with taxation, Stefan Löfven appears unrepentant about recent tax hikes: “I know these issues are important. But, we may have different views about certain tax issues,” he told Dagens Industri.