Sweden‘s ambassador to the U.S. underscored Georgia‘s importance to Sweden’s economy and said the country would fight for free trade and a global treaty on climate change when it gets a turn to lead the European Union.

The EU presidency rotates among the 27 member states, allowing each country to set the union’s agenda for a six-month period.  Sweden will assume that role on July 1, said Ambassador Jonas Hafstrom.

In an April 21 speech at the opening of the Swedish-American Entrepreneurial Days business conference in Savannah, Mr. Hafstrom said Sweden’s presidency will focus on cooperation with other countries to help bring the global economy out of the current crisis.

“We are witnessing something that we have not seen since the second World War, namely signs of simultaneous shrinkage in both the world economy and global trade,” Mr. Hafstrom said.

Sweden is particularly vulnerable to the “virtual freefall” that has occurred in global trade and manufacturing because it is a “small and open economy,” he said.

For that reason, Sweden will work with its trading partners to advocate free trade and fight protectionist sentiment that has emerged in the U.S. and across Europe, Mr. Hafstrom said.

“When things are tough, when people lose their jobs, there is a reflection saying, ‘Well, let’s close our borders; let’s try to save our jobs for Americans,'” he told GlobalGeorgia in a video interview. 

“But that is not the case anymore.  We are living in a globalized economy, and the lesson learned from the Great Depression is that more free trade, more economic integration is the recipe for success.”

Mr. Hafstrom said Georgia is an important state for Sweden in the U.S., the country’s second-largest trading partner.

He noted that Georgia’s exports to Sweden increased by 20 percent from 2007-08, giving it the third most exports to Sweden among U.S. states.

In addition to economic concerns, Mr. Hafstrom laid out two other main priorities for Sweden’s EU presidency.

At the top of the list is climate change.  The United Nations conference on climate change will be hosted in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.  Sweden will lead the EU’s delegation at the conference, which Mr. Hafstrom hopes will produce a “comprehensive global agreement to curb climate change.”

Sweden is a leader in alternative fuels and environmental technologies, and the country believes that what’s good for the environment can also benefit the economy, Mr. Hafstrom said.

“To invest in green technology, to invest in green economy, I think that is the future,” he said.

Sweden will also focus on EU enlargement, he said.

Click here to see GlobalGeorgia‘s full coverage of the Swedish Entrepreneurial Days conference.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...