The Australian Latvian 56th Arts Festival will be held in Melbourne this year. During the Festival another event – the World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum is scheduled for 29th and 30th December. Latvians Online spoke to the coordinator of the forum, Kristīne Saulīte.
What do you aim to achieve with this forum – to be held in Australia, so far away from Latvia?
Firstly, I’d like to mention that the President of Latvia, Mr. Raimonds Vējonis, is patron of this event and the forum is being organised in conjunction with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia. This is a jointly organised forum, as the Latvian government understands the desirability for Latvia to find new export markets outside Europe. The event has also been officially announced as one of Latvia’s centenary events (Latvia will be celebrating 100 years in 2018).
There are two main aims of the forum. Firstly, the interaction of the Latvian government with our diaspora has, until now, mainly been in the cultural arena and very little collaboration has taken place in the economic sphere — either in export, investment or sharing of expertise and knowledge. It’s time for those Latvians living outside of Latvia to share their experiences with Latvian-based entrepreneurs.
I mean this in a practical sense: for instance, what are the expectations if you wish to conduct business in Australia or other countries in this region? What are market realities, what is the business climate like and what are the business etiquettes in this region? It’s important to realise that you can’t conduct business in other countries relying on the business standards and practices of your own country. In order to be able to successfully develop an export business, you need to understand the business culture of the market that you are entering. You need to conduct market research, make contacts with others in the industry, research the best way to promote your product, and many other tasks associated with export.
The second aim is to attract business leaders of Latvian heritage living in the Asia/Pacific region, entrepreneurs or other business specialists interested in developing contacts and/or business projects in Latvia and to give them the opportunity to network with like-minded people.
Australia was chosen for the 2016 Forum as it is a stable, economically developed and mature country in the region with longstanding business connections in the strategically important countries of the region. Also, it is a particularly significant time at the moment, as the European Union is actively working towards establishing free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and other ASEAN countries. This could be a very appropriate time for Latvian businesses with a view to export to explore this region, and the intention is that our forum might better equip them to enter these markets.
This networking opportunity will give Australian and Latvian businesses a chance to meet, exchange ideas, provide a forum to learn about the Australian markets and business culture. There is no guarantee for anyone that this forum will lead to the signing of business deals, yet the personal connections participants will make will be invaluable and could serve as a springboard for further collaboration between businesses.
The previous World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum was held in 2015. This next one is being organised only a year later. Why so?
The two year gap between the first and second forums held in Rīga highlighted a certain loss of momentum by not having an annual event. Introducing a regional forum outside of Latvia on the “off years” that the Riga forum is not being held, will not only enhance continuity, but will also expand the quality of interactions available. With this in mind, the next regional forum outside of Latvia is anticipated to be held in the United States.
Have any participants from Latvia already confirmed they will be attending?
The opening session will be dedicated to Latvia’s vision for growth and building ties with Asia Pacific region. Participants in this session will be Dace Melbārde (Latvian Minister for Culture), Egīls Levits, (Judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union), and a Latvian Ambassador from the Asia Pacific Region. Other confirmed participants include Lāsma Līdaka from LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia) and Jānis Endziņš, representing LTRK (Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry).
A number of Latvian business owners are planning to attend – representatives from Latvijas Finieris (a large Latvian plywood company), Jānis Ošlejs, owner of Primex (industrial concrete floor construction), Arnis Petrānis from Peruza (customised production equipment), owner of translation services company Linearis – Voldemārs Brēdiķis and Jānis Jenzis, owner of a number of wine bars and restaurants in Rīga. Some of our ex-diaspora Latvians now living in Latvia will also be in Melbourne – Krišjānis Putniņš, owner of popular folk club ALA Pagrabs in Vecrīga, Pēteris Stupāns, Founder and Managing Director at Nordplay SIA, and Arnis Kākulis, Regional Director of AECOM (engineering design firm) and President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia.
Why is the forum being held during the Latvian Arts festival (Kultūras dienas)?
As there will be a large concentration of Latvians in one place, similar to the Latvian “Dziesmu Svētki” (Latvian National Song Festival, held every five years) we thought this the perfect time to organise this event. The forum has been coordinated with the Latvian Arts Festival organising committee and we have scheduled not to overlap with major festival events, but rather to complement their offering.
Where will the event be held?
In the centre of Melbourne – at the Rydges Hotel, Exhibition Street.
What will be the format of the event?
The first day (29th December) will be devoted to panel discussions related to Latvia building ties with the Asia Pacific region both from a visionary perspective as well as the practical side of conducting business in this region and 30th December will comprise a day of technical tours. These will be visits to various local businesses outside of Melbourne to see how they operate. This will also provide the opportunity for people to meet and network in a less formal environment.
What will be the working language of the event?
The event will be held in English, to maximize accessibility and reach out to as many interested participants as possible.