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Czech Prime Minister Sobotka to visit to Korea in February for increased cooperationPositive economic trends of the Czech Republic expected to continue in 2015

The Czech Republic plans to increase its cooperation with the Republic of Korea in the New Year and as part of this plan Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Czech Republic is expected to visit Korea next month. The Czech Republic had positive economic trends last year and the trends are expected to continue into this year characterized by stable economic growth, low inflation rate and dropping unemployment. This was learned at a recentl interview with Ambassador Tomas Husak of the Czech Republic in Seoul on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the founding of The Korea Post Media. Details of the interview follow:

▲Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Czech Republic (left), President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic (right)

Qustion: What is estimated economic growth of the Czech Republic in the New Year?
Answer:
The positive economic trends of the Czech economy and economic recovery established in the year 2014 are expected to continue in 2015 in the form of stable economic growth, low inflation rate and dropping unemployment. According to the last economic forecasts, GDP growth should be at around 2.5 % and inflation rate should not be higher than 1.0 %. Higher wages, bigger pensions and more money spent on social welfare is expected to boost consumer spending. Also, the economy will benefit from government investments into large infrastructure projects in the construction industry, which will create thousands of new jobs. We expect that the unemployment could drop to about 6.5 %.
The outlooks for foreign trade on the other hand are not so optimistic, due to the economic slow-down of the Eurozone and the impact of the recession in Russia. An important factor in the year 2015 would be the European central bank decision concerning the threat of deflation in the Eurozone. The Czech central bank has already made it clear that the forex interventions launched in November 2013 in order to prevent deflation will remain in place throughout next year. Some analysts predict the interventions could stretch to the end of the year 2016.

Q: Do you have economic-business delegation scheduled to visit to Korea in the New Year?
A:
For the time being we are negotiating about the program of several very important events in the year 2015. Not only about the most important one ? the Czech Prime Minister visit in February, but also about several economic ministers, their deputies and other high-ranking Czech government officials visits to Korea. Also, we prepare program for the experts from Czech Chamber of Commerce and top businessmen and entrepreneurs, who will participate on business seminars (including two investment ones) and bilateral meetings in different Korean cities. Because of excellent bilateral cooperation in the sphere of investment, during the official visit of our Prime Minister B. Sobotka to Korea, the Czech government investment agency Czech Invest will open its office in Seoul. Czech Invest is the investment and business development agency of the Czech Republic whose services and development programs contribute to attracting foreign investment and to developing Czech companies. Its mission is to support investment activities to the highest level of competence not only through our information service and consultancy but also by linkage with structural funds of the EU. During this year we will also organize a roadshow which will lead the ambassador of the Czech Republic to Korea, Mr. Tomas Husak and, that will include series of meetings in different Korean cities in order to improve bilateral ties between our two countries.

Q: Do you have any important development plan?
A:
Czech export accounts for a considerable part of its GDP. There are similarities between Czech and Korean export portfolio. Czech Republic is a country with limited natural resources and dependency on international trade and cooperation. Therefore, the Czech government defined the strategic framework for pro-export policy. The 2012-2020 Export Strategy of the Czech Republic summarizes the general vision of pro-export activities by the state, their objectives as well as the measures to be taken in order to achieve these objectives. The Strategy aims at a relatively broad approach to pro-export activities. This means that it focuses not only on the activities and methods that are directly and exclusively related to the export processes, but also on other related and follow-up policies of the state. The Strategy has the ambition to make maximum use of synergies arising from various activities carried out by public institutions, in order to promote and develop Czech export. Also, the Strategy fully supports the approach chosen under the 2012-2020 International Competitiveness Strategy for the Czech Republic and, accordingly, declares to help the Czech Republic to become one of the 20 most competitive countries in the world by 2020. The accomplishment of the measures proposed in the 2012-2020 International Competitiveness Strategy for the Czech Republic is seen as an essential and necessary prerequisite for the success of projects in the scope of export and internationalization support.
The objective of all measures is to open the doors for Czech exporters especially to non-European markets and to strengthen their position in global production chains, through active networking and building a good trademark of the Czech Republic.

Q: Which industrial areas are expected to be most active?
A:
Czech industrial production has a very long tradition. Industry is still very important to the economy of the Czech Republic. As regards the percentage share, industry stands at 35 % (62.3 % services, 2.8 % agriculture). Over 40 % of all economically active citizens work in the industrial sector. The main pillars of the Czech industry are engineering and machine engineering, mining, chemistry and foodstuff production, followed by the energy industry, civil engineering and consumer industry. The engineering industry is ranked among the most traditional industrial branches in the Czech Republic. Automotive industry, which employs over 150 thousand people, is a very strong export branch and one of the most important part of the Czech industry. Czech Republic hosts one of the highest concentrations of automotive-related manufacturing and design activity in the world. With passenger car production at 107.5 vehicles per 1,000 persons, the Czech Republic has maintained its supreme position among world automotive leaders in terms of per-capita output. While the country has the capacity and resources to accommodate three major carmakers ? ?koda Auto (Volkswagen group), TPCA (Toyota - Peugeot - Citro?n joint venture) and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech ? and holds excellent business opportunities for suppliers, the Czech Republic is poised to consolidate its position as one of the leading European centers for automotive-related design and R&D activity. For example, in 2014 the biggest car maker ?koda Auto, produced more than 1 million cars, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech over 300 thousands passenger cars and TPCA around 200 thousands cars.

Q: What are your main exports to Korea?
A:
Among the most important Czech export items to Korea are not only its famous beer, but also steam turbines, measuring equipment, tool machinery, pumps, electrical equipment, optical devices, components for transport means, foodstuff, sports equipment, toys and glass production. We believe that there is a bigger space for our export, bilateral trade and cooperation not only in these sectors, but also for example in chemicals and pharmaceuticals, information and communication technologies, energy sector, medical equipment and wood processing industry. It is important to say that in our bilateral exchange are many similar items and commodities, which are different in details, execution, trade mark etc.

Q: Which industries are best fit for the prospective Korean business to invest in?
A:
We understand that each sector has specific needs that must be met in order to prosper. The Czech Republic can satisfy the most demanding of those needs in many different sectors that fit to Korean Business - for example automotive industry, green mobility, nanotechnology & advanced materials, energy & environment, high-tech mechanical engineering, ICT and business support services. The Czech Republic is also an attractive location for Korean investment in electronics and microelectronics sectors, research and development and in the sphere of services - repair and technology centers. Investors particularly appreciate the country's high-quality human capital. With the help of EU structural funds, extensive research capacities, in the form of science and technology parks and incubators for example, are being developed.
Also, we believe that there is a great potential in investment and economic cooperation of Czech and Korean companies in third countries, for example in post-soviet countries like Kazakhstan, Georgia and others. Our companies understand the local market specifics and language. Similar potential exists in developing countries in Africa, Middle East and Latin America.

Q: Who are the Korean small-medium enterprises presently active in your country?
A:
Small and medium Korean enterprises are involved mostly in export of goods into the Czech Republic.

Q: Any cultural events in Korea scheduled for this year?
A:
In 2015 we will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and the Republic of Korea. On this occasion we plan several cultural activities. Currently it is possible to visit the exhibition “Prague ? the Fortress of Europe” in Seoul History Museum which is introducing the fortification system of our capital, its history and development.
The Czech Republic has a long history of glass and crystal production. The Exhibition of Czech historical glass in the National Museum in Seoul will be held February 10 ? April 26, 2015. In April NamSeoul University Art Gallery will present paintings of Moravian artist Irena Stanislavov?, she gets inspiration from music and travels and some of her artworks have Korean spirit too which comes from her stay at Mosan Museum where she participated at Art Symposium last September. Several photo exhibitions will introduce beauties of Czech Castles and Cities and attractive touristic destinations. Korea Foundation will host one of them ? “Beauty of Czech Castles “in June. Summer concerts of Czech classical music will be organized by SeoulOratorio in Seoul Art Center and Mokpo City between June and September; SeoulOratorio is going to hold its 6th Antonin Dvorak international composition competition as well. Young Czech performers will join May Seoul Friendship Festival and Autumn Festival of contemporary performing arts. Czech Center in Seoul and Czech Tourism are preparing several events connected to promotion of Czech spas, festivals of traditional music and dance and famous Czech products such as beer or crystal.

Q: Please introduce in detail Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka
A:
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was born in 1971. He studied at Faculty of Law of Masaryk University in Brno and his political career started in 1989 when he became member of Czech Social Democratic Party. In 1996 he was elected member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. He was reelected several times and chaired several committees (especially concentrated on financial matters). Since March 2011 he is the Chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party.
The Czech Republic is a democratic country with respect for law and human rights. It is an active member of European Union and a responsible partner in the framework of the international community. Sobotka´s government objectives are economic growth of the country, employment, investments and good working conditions. He is active in promoting the reforms in health care, pension and social systems, including social housing. He is supporting positive tax and social measures, progressive science, research and innovation projects.
Bohuslav Sobotka is married and he has two sons. His hobbies are travelling, history, literature (especially sci-fi and crime stories) and movies.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is scheduled to visit the Republic of Korea in February 2015 with other representatives of Czech government and business delegation.

About Ambassador Tom?? Hus?k:

▲Ambassador Tom?? Hus?k of the Czech Republic in Korea

Ambassador Tom?? Hus?k is one of the most senior Ambassadors of the Czech Republic. His post in Korea is his third post as Ambassador, first being Ambassador to Sweden on the brink of the century and second being Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to United Nation Offices in Geneva.
Anyhow, after finishing his University studies, he started his carrier in one of the Foreign Trade Companies of former Czechoslovakia. During this time he had been posted to Commercial Section of the Czech Republic in Thailand, albeit as a non-diplomatic staff, due to the fact, that his family was not friendly with communist regime. After the fall of communist regime he joined state service at the Ministry of Foreign Trade, where he went through the ranks up to the level of Director General. Later on he had been transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a Director General for External Economic Relations. During that time and in the following years, he had been appointed as a Member of the Board of the Czech Export Bank and of the Czech Export Insurance Company, member of several Governmental Councils and number of Steering Committees of governmental organizations. He cooperated with several Universities and published and lectured at home and abroad.

In the time being, his goals are to keep up excellent relation which exists between the Republic of Korea and the Czech Republic and to facilitate not only trade, economic and cultural exchange, but to contribute to further understanding between our two nations, which due to their history and geographic position between big neighbors do have a lot of in common.

His biography can be found on the internet pages of the Czech Embassy Seoul, i.e. "mzv.cz/seoul", together with number of other interesting information.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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