Although only 62 square miles large and landlocked with a population of 35,000, Liechtenstein in Central Europe maintains the highest gross domestic product per capita of any country in the world.
Known for its low business taxes, the German-speaking principality receives the largest percentage of its GDP from industry and exports, while its financial services sector now accounts for only about 30 percent of its revenues.
For many years, it was considered the Cayman Islands of Europe, but since 2008, Liechtenstein has enacted many bilateral tax and trade agreements that have greatly increased its banking transparency.
In 2009, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development removed it from its “black list’ citing its many agreements to exchange tax information including with the U.S.
“In terms of financial services, over the years, we’ve had a reputational problem because a number of financial services offered in Liechtenstein have been used to not only manage assets but to hide assets,” Liechtenstein’s ambassador to the U.S., Claudia Fritsche, told Global Atlanta while visiting here Oct. 19.
“In that respect, our financial center has transformed itself from what some people would have called opaque to fully transparent.”
Ms. Fritsche was in Atlanta with Aurelia Frick, Liechtenstein’s foreign minister, for meetings at Atlanta City Hall, the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and the Carter Center and a tour of CNN.
During the event with faculty and students at the World Affairs Council held at Georgia State’s Buckhead Center, the officials said that they are promoting their country’s connectivity with the rest of the world and want to encourage more ties with the South.
They said that the appointment of Macon-based Bruce Allen as Liechtenstein’s first honorary consul anywhere in the world in 2007 was a step in this direction.
Dr. Allen works directly with the Liechtenstein’s embassy in Washington, and his official consular region is the southern U.S. since three other honorary consulates have subsequently been set up to cover the other regions of the country.
During her presentation to the council, Ms. Frick said the presence of an honorary consulate in Georgia is important to Liechtenstein’s long-term goals for greater cross-cultural partnerships, educational exchanges and the development of business ties throughout the region.
“For us the South is a very important location, Ms. Fritsche told Global Atlanta. “With the state of Georgia, we are very much interested in, first and foremost, forging cultural and educational ties, which we have already seen are happening on a practical manner here at Georgia State University.
During the eventful day, the officials met with Camille Love, director of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, to discuss a potential overseas artist exchange program.
For more information about Liechtenstein and its ties to the South, please see the Embassy of Liechtenstein website at http://www.embassyli.org/