Via Skype, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross participated in a lunch with the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in New York on Tuesday. The US is Sweden’s most important trade partner outside the EU, and Wilbur Ross says he is prepared to resume the paused TTIP negotiations.
Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise Mikael Damberg also participated in the lunch and will meet Wilbur Ross today, Thursday. He does not share Wilbur Ross’s views of TTIP but says, “even if we have different views, it is important for us in the government to develop a relationship with this American administration”.
Wilbur Ross points out the major trade deficit – last year Sweden sold SEK 87 billion worth of goods and services to the US but imported only SEK 37 billion worth – although says, “We share many of our values with Sweden and have huge respect for the technical knowledge in the country.”
DN has previously reported that the Swedish-Danish Postnord is in crisis; a picture confirmed when the company presented its losses of almost SKr 1.6 billion for 2016.
Now Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg has called in external lawyers and financial advisers to decide how the government should move forward with Postnord.
It is mainly the Danish section that has pulled down the business and Mikael Damberg has reviewed the merger agreement. He points out shortcomings such as not having a long-term perspective and setting far too optimistic forecasts. There are also questions about how the merger’s structure was determined, as Sweden provided 70% of turnover but received only 60% of ownership.
The Swedish and Norwegian states have together sold 23 million shares in airline SAS (see SPR 13/10 Early Ed.).
Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg says he is satisfied with the timing of the deal despite SAS shares falling by over 30% this year.
DN reports that the government wants to sell more SAS shares, and ideally wants the whole group to be taken over by another airline. “Our message is that we are not a long term owner of SAS,” he says.
After discussions with Ericsson’s chair Leif Johansson, minister for enterprise Mikael Damberg chose to activate a crisis group for handling potentially huge redundancies.
The news that telecoms giant Ericsson plans to move all manufacturing from Sweden, which would cost 3,000 jobs, was met with surprise and dismay by employees, politicians and unions.
Mikael Damberg spoke directly to chair Leif Johansson on Thursday and says that he has been given confirmation that there is no closure decision. However the conversation did not provide any further reassurance as the minister decided to activate a crisis group of several state secretaries afterwards. “It is a group that works with large changes in business, which is now being activated to be able to act if a decision in that direction comes from the company,” says Mikael Damberg.
The Moderate Party has now made it clear that it plans to try and sell off more state companies if it wins the 2018 election. It has already singled out Telia, SAS and SBAB as objects for sale. Lars Hjälmered, party spokesperson for enterprise, says, “We do not consider the state to have a role to play in these companies.”
He is also critical of how Mikael Damberg, minister for enterprise and innovation, is dealing with the issue: “It is a very worrying situation that is being handled precariously. If you compare Mikael Damberg’s talk during the election campaign with how he has then managed the companies, there is a huge discrepancy.”
In particular he is critical of the extra dividends the state has extracted; SKr 6.5 billion from Akademiska Hus, the academic property company, and SKr 1.7 billion from SJ, the rail operator. “Of course that has an effect on the railways and the potential to build student accommodation. And they did that because of the desperation they have as a result of increasing costs for immigration and sick absences,” he says.
On Monday Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg and Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf signed an agreement to avoid double taxation.
In an interview with Dagens Industri (DI), Damberg says that cooperation between Sweden and Saudi Arabia will focus on civilian affairs and trade rather than on military matters, as was the case under the former alliance government. He emphasises that relations between the two countries are now back to normal, and that the newly signed agreement will enhance trade.
Both Damberg, and Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, Sweden’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, underline that Sweden has a good reputation as a traditional donor country and the fact that Sweden is taking its share of the current refugee burden is also looked upon favourably.