12. November 2021

Interview with Igor Sekardi

Mr. Igor Sekardi has been working with the Federation of Austrian Industries since 2013 and currently holds the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs and Markets. His main areas of expertise include, amongst others, international trade and investment policies, transatlantic relations as well as the CEE-Region. Prior to his current employment, he was working for various Austrian federal ministries in the field of international relations, including the ministry for foreign affairs.

1. 2021 could bring the greatest economic growth in 40 years. What would be the main reasons for a strong recovery?
According to IMF forecasts, the global economy is supposed to grow by 6% in 2021 – the strongest growth in decades.  The reasons for this are the continued international easing of anti-COVID measures and restrictions as well as a decline in uncertainty in the business sector, which stimulates investment. The main global players in this context are the US and China. Roughly half of global growth in 2021 is predicted to be generated by these two economies combined. The EU is projected to represent solely 13% of this global growth. It is therefore crucial for the EU to work on its competitiveness in all relevant policy fields, particularly R&D, trade, tax, energy and climate policy. In the aftermath of the COVID-crisis and throughout the recovery phase, this is of paramount importance.

2. Austria is an export focused country. Do you think that the digitalization of processes will have significant impact on the economy in the post Covid world?
The Austrian economy is strongly oriented towards international trade. With an export ratio of 53%, more than half of Austria’s GDP is generated by exports. According to the European Commission, 659,000 jobs in Austria and 35 million in the EU depend on EU exports to third countries. Against this background, the best possible access to global markets and fair international conditions are vital for Austrian and European industries. An active and ambitious EU trade policy including a comprehensive network of trade agreements is key. Digitalization has changed economic value chains locally as well as globally and this process will gather further momentum in the post-Covid era. These circumstances also need to be adequately taken into account in the EU’s trade policy.

3. The new strategy for research, technology and innovation has been implemented for the upcoming decade. What impact do you expect it to have in Austria?
In December 2020, Austria adopted its new strategy for research, technology and innovation.  It sets out concrete goals until 2030, such as strengthening Austria’s position in these areas, focusing on efficiency and excellence as well as promoting knowledge and talents. The strategy is based on legislative packages to be adopted every three years. The measures are expected to lift Austria up among the top-ranked countries in the fields of research, technology and innovation, which the Federation of Austrian Industries strongly supports and promotes given the essential importance of these topics – especially in times of crisis and the recovery period ahead of us. Furthermore, the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) are essential instruments for Austria and the EU to position Europe among the top-R&D locations worldwide.

4. Tell us about the key industries, where innovations and digitalization could bring the biggest value?
Digitalization is a great opportunity that needs to be seized. Studies show that corporate investments in digitalization clearly lead to an increase in turnover and generate additional value for society as a whole – also by strengthening the production location. Basically, all key industries are affected by and can benefit from the process of digitalization. Since Asia and America are ahead in various aspects of digitalization, it is vital that Europe catches up – especially in the fields of future key technologies, such as artificial intelligence. This is a major task for policymakers. Reducing bureaucracy, speeding up processes related to R&D and entrepreneurship or strengthening cooperation between science and business are key. 

5. What is your opinion about positioning WOF EXPO in the Central and Eastern Europe region?
The CEE-region is crucial for Austrian industries. Austrian companies have invested roughly 60 bn. € there and rank among the top foreign investors. According to the Austrian National Bank, these investments secured more than 512,000 jobs in the region in 2018. Against this background, an event such as the WOF EXPO that contributes to strengthening business relations is of major importance, as it can help to further boost economic recovery throughout the whole region.

The Federation of Austrian Industries is the voluntary and independent representation of the interests of the Austrian industry and its related sectors. Since 1946, the IV has taken part in all legislative processes as a recognised partner of politics. A federal organisation, nine regional groups and the IV office in Brussels represent the issues of currently more than 4,500 members from the manufacturing sector, credit and insurance, infrastructure and industry-oriented services in Austria and Europe. The Federation’s members represent more than 80 per cent of domestic manufacturing companies.