Sweden to strengthen ties with PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Sweden is eyeing stronger relations and more business investments in the Philippines this year, Swedish Ambassador-Delegate Harald Fries said Wednesday.

"The main priority is to enhance the business relations," Fried told The Source. "There [are] a lot of opportunities, and the role of the embassy is to promote trade relations and investment."

"But also to more broadly increase people-to-people exchange, student exchange, cultural exchange," he added.

The Swedish embassy reopened in Manila last December after closing in 2008.

Fries said it was "an easy decision" for the government to reopen the embassy given a large population and the rapid economic growth in the Philippines.

Business endeavors

Last year, a Swedish business delegation of roughly 25 Swedish companies and 60 to 70 top businessmen came to the Philippines to meet local counterparts and government officials, Fries said.

"They went home quite encouraged by what they saw and heard here," he said. "Now we will follow up and make sure this translates into real business deals."

He said that Swedish businessmen are eyeing "smart solutions in transportation, energy, and when it comes to traffic management, traffic light, toll systems to make traffic run better, bus rapid transfer systems."

Fries also noted that established Swedish businesses in the Philippines are expanding, while new ones are coming in.

Among them are home appliance manufacturer Electrolux, car company Volvo, clothing retailer H&M, and Swedish Match, which develops tobacco and light products.

Fries also estimated the business process outsourcing company Transcom to have employed up to 12,000 Filipinos across Metro Manila, Bacolod, and Iloilo.

The furniture retail company IKEA is among the Swedish companies expected to open shop in the Philippines this year.

Fries said that a lot of Filipinos are not aware that these brands and services are from Sweden.

"I know that the knowledge among Filipinos of Sweden is not that great," said Fries. "So I... and the embassy will, work [on that]."

Cultural exchange

Fries said that for cultural exchange, the embassy is also looking to make film and music festivals possible.

"I would like to have one of the well known Swedish bands, musicians coming here," said Fries. "You will see more of Sweden here in 2017."

He noted that a lot of popular musicians such as Avicii, Robyn, Zara Larsson, and Swedish House Mafia are also from Sweden, but not a lot of people know that they are.

The gaming company King, which launched the popular Candy Crush, and Mojang, which is known for developing Minecraft, are also Swedish companies.

Popular apps Skype and Spotify were founded in Sweden as well.

"I would like to promote Sweden as a creative, innovative country and make people here know better that side of Sweden, and not only the Northern Lights or how cold it might be [there]," said Fries.

He added that they are also aiming to boost tourism to the Philippines from Sweden.

"I think that with better infrastructure here, airports, ports, roads, there will be many more Swedes coming," said Fries.