The tiny Baltic state of Latvia is betting on meat exports to the UAE to beef up the value of trade between the two countries after opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
With the help of a greater flow of tourists between the two countries and other economic ties in industries including information technology and construction, Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics is forecasting that last year’s €40 million (Dh160m) in trade between the two countries will double or triple in the next four or five years.
“We’re hoping to boost that because it’s not very high,” Mr Rinkevics said. “It’s not something that we should be proud of. It’s just the beginning. It’s not about creating targets. It’s about creating cooperation.”
“There is a key interest for our lamb,” he said. “We had adjusted our legislation to make it possible to do halal and have halal certificates. There is also chicken, and we also have producers of beef.”
The UAE is the first Arabian Gulf country that Latvia has planted its diplomatic flag on, and while there are no concrete plans as yet to open more embassies in region, the Baltic country is open to the idea. In the Middle East, Latvia has embassies in Egypt and Israel.
Other areas of economic ties between the two countries that may flourish include health care and financial services, with the UAE health minister planning to visit Latvia by the end of this year, Mr Rinkevics said.
“We have very good doctors and some of them are already working in this country, but also we want to look at the possibility of having consultations online, the exchange of medical staff and hospitals. That could be another potential area of cooperation,” he said.
Like the city of Abu Dhabi, Latvia has a population of about 2 million. Latvian expatriates in the UAE number in the hundreds, Mr Rinkevics said.
The warm climate in the UAE attracts many Latvian holidaymakers wishing to escape the cold winter months, and the minister is keen to get more tourists from the UAE to visit his home country.
“We have already good cooperation in tourism, but it’s a one-way street,” he said.
“Riga, Latvia and the Baltic states can become the next destination to explore a different destination to explore a different part of Europe, especially in the summertime if someone wants to experience a different weather from here. They can explore the Baltics in the winter time, which is a completely different experience.”
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