Why is there the new foreign trade strategy?

SchramböckFor a small, open economy like Austria, international integration is of immense importance. The success of our companies abroad creates growth, jobs, social security and prosperity in Austria. We want to bundle existing competences and position Austria as an innovative and digital player worldwide. The new foreign trade strategy is an important basis for bringing all relevant players together.

"The new foreign trade strategy is a basis for bringing all relevant players together." M. Schramböck

What is the time frame for the new strategy?

Schramböck: We build on the foreign economic model from the year 2008. However, preserving and further enhancing the competitiveness of our economy in a rapidly changing global environment has necessitated a reorientation that takes into account future trends. The result is a comprehensive, systematic and future-oriented strategy that sets the course for foreign trade policy in the coming years.

Where are the priorities?

Schramböck: We have prepared a comprehensive strategy paper with seven action areas and 63 interlinked measures. The latter aim to further strengthen the Austrian export industry through a coordinated presence in growth regions as well as targeted support for companies that wish to operate abroad. The focus is on innovation and digitalization. For example, Austrian SMEs do not yet use the full potential of digitization. Furthermore, we are currently working on the continuation of the "go-international" funding program so that Austrian companies can succeed in new emerging markets.

Which markets do you think of?

Schramböck: In general, Austria's export industry is very European-heavy: Around 80 percent of its exports go to this home market. However, more than 40 percent of global economic growth takes place in Asia, especially in China, and Africa and South America also have great potential. We want to open up these global growth markets in order to implement Austrian strengths outside the traditional export markets. In addition to the strategic target regions, we set industry-accentuated accents: within the framework of "go-international", targeted support programs are being developed for promising country-sector priorities such as China and e-mobility.

How can the development landscape be further developed? Where are there new accents, where is savings made?

Schramböck: Austrian foreign trade has a well-developed support system with a wide range of offers. It ranges from market information for newcomers to export support and hedging of direct investments. The emphasis is now on providing companies with the best possible information on the opportunities and opportunities of external promotional instruments and ensuring clear and unbureaucratic processing. For this purpose, commercial banks should also be more involved in the communication.

What else can companies expect from politics?

Schramböck: I also see a task of politics as being a door opener. In a dynamic and global environment, strategic support for our economy is critical to long-term success. Foresighted and broadly based visiting diplomacy promotes Austria's image and can provide targeted support for entrepreneurial activities. Joint delegation trips with top representatives enable our companies to deposit their concerns at the highest level, which is especially important in strategic large-scale projects.

In order to integrate SMEs into international value chains, the foreign trade strategy relies on cooperation. How should that work better?

Schramböck: SMEs are often reluctant to work abroad. This is due to the lack of clarity about legal framework conditions as well as the bureaucracy involved in participating in major international projects. This is where the sector-specific support services of "go-international" are to take effect. Particular attention is paid to the formation of consortia of leading companies and SMEs for participation in major projects. In addition, a digital networking platform will be set up with sectors, countries and regions which, in addition to the Austrian companies, will include all foreign economic institutions. Likewise, a "Business Intelligence Platform" will be created to identify strategic projects as early as possible.

The new strategy puts a much stronger emphasis on value-conscious foreign trade policy than its predecessor. Why?

Schramböck: Values ​​such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights are among the basic social consensus in Austria. This is lived by Austrian companies and benefits them in many ways. You can position yourself positively in the international competition, build trust and strengthen your reputation as a reliable partner.

What significance do the global sustainable development goals have?

Schramböck: For Austrian companies, the Sustainable Development Goals are an indicator of future markets. At the same time, they serve as a catalyst for the transformation of the Austrian economy towards more sustainability. The challenge of the future is the bridge between innovation, sustainability and internationalization in emerging and developing countries. In the foreign trade strategy we therefore intend to make better use of the innovation potential of sustainable development, to strive for research cooperation between Austrian companies with non-European partners and to involve start-ups. We also address sustainable future markets as part of our flagship initiative SDG Business Forum.

"We intend to make better use of the innovation potential of sustainable development." M. Schramböck

There are only a dozen Austrian companies that successfully cooperate with international development financiers. The stated goal is to achieve a higher participation. Which levers are conceivable?

Schramböck: Especially for SMEs, the high bureaucratic effort and the financial risk of an unsuccessful application are often reasons to refrain from participating in such tenders. We want to counter this, because introducing projects to international financing institutions offers enormous potential. The best possible support is provided by a coherent approach that combines activities at home and abroad. This is about community building, partner fairs for the formation of consortia or the mediation of financing competence and procurement know-how as well as networking with key players at the institutions or access to local partner companies.

Austrian development cooperation misses pots through which companies can develop reference projects. Is remedy in sight?

Schramböck: In terms of cooperation with companies, Austrian development cooperation certainly has potential in an international comparison. Because domestic companies have products and services that are particularly suitable for markets in emerging and developing countries and can make a contribution to sustainable development there. We therefore want to promote the interaction between development cooperation and foreign trade in the future. In this sense, the new foreign trade strategy also provides for strengthening the partnership between business and development, promoting business partnerships and jointly setting thematic and regional priorities. We will approach this strategically together with Austrian companies and the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs as well as the other relevant institutions.

Many thanks for the interview!
Photo: Christian Lendl

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