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.”
Telia is being fined USD 965, around SEK 7.7 billion, for having bribed those in power in Uzbekistan. The company has reached agreement with the American authorities over corruption accusations and has admitted paying bribes of around SEK 2.6 billion.
The sum is in line with expectations and the company has made provisions for it. The sum is made up of a fine of around SEK 4.4 billion and a further SEK 3.6 billion for profits that they are considered to have made from paying the bribes.
CEO Johan Dennelind writes in a press release that the deal puts an end to a sad chapter in Telia Company’s history.
After almost five months in the White House, Donald Trump’s trade policy is still unclear. This uncertainty is affecting Swedish export companies.
“The only concrete things we have seen is that he wants to renegotiate the North American free trade agreement Nafta, and that he has withdrawn the USA from TPP, the deal with Asia. We do not know more than this,” says Anna Stellinger, director general for the National Board of Trade. She continues, “Uncertainty is never positive. Not for trade and not for companies that want to invest.”
Anna Stellinger points out how important a market the USA is for Swedish companies. The board has calculated that 139,000 Swedish jobs are linked to Swedish exports to the USA.
Today Sweden and the USA sign a deal so that passengers can pass through American border controls in Sweden. The preclearance deal makes it easier for people to travel and makes Sweden more attractive for businesses to place their head offices, according to the government.
French President François Hollande does not intend to support a trade deal with the USA in its present form, he said at a press conference and demanded that negotiations end.
His comments have surprised European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who says, “The negotiations are underway and I have a telephone meeting with the USA’s trade minister today.”
According to Matthias Fekl, France’s trade minister, there is no longer political support for the negotiations and he is planning to propose, at the meeting of trade ministers in Bratislava in September, that the negotiations are ended so that they can start again on a solid foundation. This comes several days after German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel claimed negotiations had stranded.
Malmström says: “You must remember that in France and Germany, but also in Austria and Belgium, there is very strong opposition to TTIP, and that is affecting the debate and the ministers’ approaches. However the German government is completely behind TTIP and the majority of the countries support it.”