Foreign ministry: Support for Estonian firms abroad needs centralizing

Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Tallinn.
Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Tallinn. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

State support for Estonian firms operating in foreign markets should be both consistent and reliable, the foreign ministry says, and operate as a unified team.

The ministry was responding to a report published by the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) on commercial diplomacy Wednesday, which the ministry says was a substantial analysis of the cooperation between state agencies in advancing the overseas interests of Estonian companies. 

As such this has important foreign policy ramifications as boosting external trade is one of the three pillars of Estonia's foreign policy strategy, the ministry says, and is accompanied by the ministry stepping up its cooperation with strategic partners and boosting support to Estonian firms working in international markets.

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the most important consideration is to offer support to companies as a unified team.

"Companies wish to see joint action by the Foreign Ministry and other agencies when advancing the interests of Estonian companies on foreign markets," Reinsalu said, via a ministry press release.

"We have launched Team Estonia cooperation format on focus markets that have foreign advisors of Enterprise Estonia in addition to business diplomats," he added.

As reported on ERR News, the audit office said in its report that while the private sector is generally happy with Estonia's approach to commercial diplomacy, there is room for improvement in communications, cooperation and organization.

Rivalry between state trade body Enterprise Estonia and the foreign ministry, as well as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, have led to obstructions and a duplication of tasks, the audit office added, though the two bodies generally complement each other.

The audit office also touted the idea of bringing Enterprise Estonia more firmly under the foreign ministry's control.

The foreign ministry itself says it supports creating a shared private and the public sector information space to manage cooperation opportunities abroad and publicize their availability.

More virtual visits and digital "pop-up" embassies were also on the table, the ministry said.

Several Estonian foreign missions have business and investment officers and commercially-oriented diplomats, the ministry added, claiming that it has received positive feedback on these from Estonian firms engaged in foreign trade.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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