Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is to begin a three-day trip to China next week, including a meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, accompanied by Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg, Trade Minister Ann Linde and Environment Minister Karolina Skog, along with a business delegation that includes Ericsson, ABB, Astra Zeneca, Scania and Volvo Cars and Volvo Group.
Sweden’s exports to China amounted to SKr 46 billion in 2016. During the first quarter this year exports grew by 33%, compared to the same period last year.
Mikael Damberg says that China’s efforts to move forward on the global political arena in terms of trade and climate makes it easier to find a shared agenda.
On Saturday prime minister Stefan Löfven travels to Saudi Arabia. In addition to meeting representatives of the Saudi royal family and the country’s foreign minister the prime minister will meet business representatives, including a reception at the Swedish embassy.
Although the visit has been criticised by politicians the business world is praising the visit. Marcus Wallenberg, chair of the Swedish Saudi Business Council, considers the visit an opportunity to anchor the council’s work at the highest political level. Dag Andersson, CEO of the dialysis company Diaverum is also pleased the visit has materialised.
Ali Shakir, trade secretary and country director for Business Sweden, says that the country has previously had unlimited funding but is now working on becoming less oil dependent and is searching for smarter solutions and turning to countries such as Sweden.
In his address on fair working conditions to the UN Economic & Social Council on Monday, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stressed the universal right to go on strike and launched the idea of a new ‘Global Deal’ involving companies, employers and workers to attain gender equality and improved labour rights and better working conditions for vulnerable workers. He also highlighted the fact that 2 million people die at their workplaces all over the world every year, and reminded his audience of the collapsed factory building in Bangladesh in 2013 when 1,129 textile workers died, adding that Sweden was no exception when it comes to workplace deaths.
In his address Löfven also emphasised policy areas that the Swedish government has outlined as priorities in its candidacy for a seat to the UN Security Council; i.e. feminism, human rights and sustainability, and which coincide with the UN’s new sustainable development goals. The PM said in his address: “… true globalisation builds on the realisation that we share one planet, we share a global economy and increasingly we also share a global labour market, and for this we must begin to take joint responsibility.”
Afterwards the PM had the opportunity to mingle with some 90 UN ambassadors and other senior UN directors before heading to Washington DC this morning.
At a press conference on Saturday morning Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said that the government had sent its official emissary Björn von Sydow, the former (S) defence minister and Riksdag Speaker, to Saudi Arabia last Friday for talks with the Saudi government and King Salman. The government’s emissary had handed over two letters; one from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and one from Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
Immediately afterwards Saudi Arabia is said to have decided to normalise relations with Sweden.
A happy and relieved Margot Wallström told the press meeting that the Saudi ambassador to Stockholm would be returning as soon as possible, but her and Stefan Löfven’s response to journalists’ repeated question “Has Sweden has apologised?” appeared rehearsed:
“We’ve been able to sort out misunderstandings that we have criticised Islam or slighted the Saudi government,” was the reply both Wallström and Löfven gave.
At Saturday’s press meeting, neither Wallström nor von Sydow wished to comment on the content of the letters, but von Sydow said that it was evident in his talks with the Saudi authorities that the relations between the Swedish and Saudi monarchies are good.
Arab News reported on Sunday that “Sweden has apologised” for the “insulting statements by its foreign minister, and hoped for better relations between the two countries”.
On Sunday evening Wallström clarified on SVT’s Agenda programme that Sweden had not apologised, but that the government had via its emissary conveyed its regret over the breach in diplomatic relations between the two countries, and explained that Sweden had not wished to attack Islam or insult Saudi Arabia.
According to the Swedish foreign ministry (MFA), the issue of halted business visas for Swedish citizens in Saudi Arabia has still not been resolved, but the hope is that the situation will “return to normal”. Erik Wirkensjö, press officer at the MFA, was unable to confirm at the weekend whether the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador would also be returning, but said the MFA hoped and believed he would.