Interest of the Estonian business community towards Asian markets has been growing steadily from year to year. Moreover, Asian traders are also increasingly more interested in possibilities to work with Estonian companies and in invest in Estonia. Companies from China have been the most active, but Japanese and South Korean companies have also taken a foothold here.
The share of Asian countries in foreign trade is small. The leading position here is held by China, which is not surprising considering the size of China’s economy and market. An overview of the development of Estonia’s economic and trade relations with China can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By the end of 2014 Estonia’s exports to China amounted to 1.2% of the total export volume, while imports represented 4.5% of the total volume, which is a significant increase vis-à-vis the year 2013 (0.8% of the total exports and 3.3% of the total imports respectively). Besides China, the key export partners of Estonian businesses in Asia are Japan and the Republic of Korea, and import partners – Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In recent years, interest of Estonian entrepreneurs in China’s target markets has grown considerably. The number of companies entering into China’s market has increased – mainly in the capacity of exporters, though some direct investments can be observed as well. Likewise, the fact that China is gradually ceasing to be a low-cost production environment has not affected the interest of Estonian businesses in the Chinese market. Estonian traders have rather welcomed the maturing process of China’s market, as well as the improved consciousness of consumers who prefer quality of products over low cost.
As of 2015 the Enterprise Estonia Foundation (EAS) offers a separate service package ‘Export China’ targeted at China, the objective of which is, above all, to respond to the need of businesses to increase the knowledge, skills and experience of their employees required for entering into the China’s target market, and understanding of the local business environment. EAS is also supporting exporters’ efforts towards Asia via the ‘Gateway to Asia’ initiative, which offers useful information and overviews by individual countries. When they enter into and operate on China’s markets Estonian businesses can also benefit from the project BENCH (Beneficial Business Relations between the Central Baltic Region and China) and the manual Handbook for Small and Medium-sized Companies.