Slovakian Ambassador Peter Kmec has been in Washington for less than a year but has already outlined an “economic agenda where we are trying to promote different sectors of our economy,” which will take advantage of the fact that “Slovakia is one of the major producers of cars in the world; per capita we are the largest producer in the world.”
Ambassador Kmec made the remarks in an interview with Qorvis Focus Washington.
Now, Slovakia is “looking for R&D intensive industries where you can combine both state-of-the-art manufacturing with new sectors, especially IT. And, as the US is one of the strongholds of IT production and the IT industry, we are looking for partners to cooperate with and to merge the IT development with manufacturing” he told interviewer Chuck Conconi.
With low labor rates and a corporate tax rate of just 23%, Slovakia is an ideal place for foreign investment.
Ambassador Kmec says that Slovakia is already well on its way to achieving those goals, and the US is a primary target for investment.
“There are already a number of multinationals headquartered from the United States that are building their operations in Slovakia, mainly AT&T, Dell, Microsoft, a number of the others. So those are already present and they are still building their presence there. They are employing thousands of young Slovaks who are actually specialists in IT, and we have a very good educational system in those areas.”
The country has made significant improvements since its days as part of Czechoslovakia, including a sharp rise in income.
“Since that time, one figure that is very important, as Slovakia was joining the European Union with 48% of average of the European Union,’ he said. “ Now we are having 73% of average of the European GDP, so the 10 years of our membership have been productive.”
But the advantages have not been one-sided, and the E.U. has also benefitted from Slovakia’s membership.
“Besides those deep reforms that we have experienced in the last 20 years combined with the European integration, we provide a very skilled labor force in the IT sector,” he said. “And also, Slovakia enjoys the highest productivity rate in Central and Eastern Europe, so these are very important aspects for looking for placing the investments.”
Those factors have encouraged significant investment from Europe and Asia, making Slovakia one of Europe’s major manufacturing hubs and one of the world’s largest producers of automobiles.
“There is actually a very big German investment by Volkswagen Group,” Ambassador Kmec said, “so all those SUVs that you see also running here in the US—Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Toureg, Audi Q7—are produced in Slovakia exclusively. Then, we have the French investment, Citron Peugot, and Korean Kia.”
Global and Regional Alliances
Slovakia has forged a strong partnership with the United States and its other NATO allies, and has been a major contributor to joint operations around the world.
“As you know, Slovakia is a strategic ally to the United States through the North Atlantic Alliance, and we have been doing a lot of joint operations and missions abroad,” Ambassador Kmec said. “Just to mention one, the most important one, is the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. So we have been with the United States since the very beginning of the fight against terrorism,”
With the situation in Slovakia well stabilized “from the perspective of political-military aspects,” Ambassador Kmec said, “- in economic terms, [Slovakia] has a huge potential to develop… There are more than 100 U.S. companies in Slovakia, employing 50,000 people.”
Slovakia and its neighbors—the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, which are the most advanced economies of the former Eastern bloc—have joined together to promote their common political and economic interests and to attract foreign investment.
“We try to present our region as a very stable one. We are the so-called group of Visegrád countries… and we have been doing a number of activities to promote interests both in the European Union, in NATO, and in global affairs.”