Israel's efforts to expand trade with foreign nations is paying off as the upcoming weeks will witness a flurry of delegations arriving to meet with local business leaders while Israeli groups travel abroad in the hope of expanding their overseas investments.
Delegations from Turkey and Switzerland were in the country this week and representatives from Russia and Ukraine will be arriving shortly. Additionally, Israeli groups will be traveling to Hungary and Australia.
"We have been working very hard to increase the amount of foreign investments in Israel and these visits are the fruits of our labor," said Ehud Gonen, the director of the East and Central Europe department in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.
Next week, the first meeting resulting from the international corporation formed last year between Russia and Israel will be held in Tel Aviv. The corporation, a result of efforts between Israel's Trade Ministry and the Russian Ministry of Science and Education, will focus on research and development and venture capital risk.
The two countries were in negotiations for three years before forming the corporation, Gonen noted, and now "our efforts are being rewarded."
Great efforts also have been undertaken to expand economic ties with Ukraine, and over the past year trade between Israel and Ukraine has increased by 21 percent to $452 million. The Ukrainian market, however, has gone mostly untapped as of yet, said Boaz Hirsch of the Trade Ministry.
Ukraine's business opportunities in the fields of consumer goods and logistics were showcased Thursday at a conference organized by the Israel Export Institute and the Trade Ministry.
Israel's economic focus on Eastern and Central Europe also extends to Hungary where a group of 30 Israeli businessmen will meet with approximately 60 Hungarian companies with the goal of increasing Israeli investments in that country.
According to Gonen, Israel currently is one of the world's largest investors in Hungary, trailing only the EU and the US, as Israelis have invested billions of dollars in the country in ventures such as real estate and technology. Since joining the EU in 2003, trade between Hungary and Israel has increased from $173m. to $496m. in 2006.
Meanwhile, on March 19, a group of representatives from 15 Israeli businesses is scheduled to leave for a four-day mission to Australia. The group, under the auspices of Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, will travel "down under" with the intention of expanding the presence of Israeli companies in Australia.
In 2006, 22 Israeli companies opened branches in Australia, bringing the total number of Israeli companies with operations there to over 1,300 while trade grew to $362m., according to Yechiel Assia, director general of the Israel Export Institute. Trade with Australia is expected to increase by 6% in 2007 to $383m.
Additional delegations are expected to arrive here from Poland, Romania and Slovakia in April.