Historical experiences and successful cooperation between Swedish authorities and companies in penetrating markets in the Middle East

[2012-12-07] Cooperation with Swedish authorities, trade related organizations and interest groups has shown good results, despite the Swedish companies’ lack of understanding trade traditions in the Middle East. These experiences could also help to inform and guide Swedish trade with the region today, according to Ahmad Hussein, whose dissertation shows how Swedish trade developed in Lebanon during the years 1920-1975.

– Swedish companies mainly collaborated with trade related sections and commissions of the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs and other trade related departments, as well as the leading business organization General Export Association of Sweden, but collaboration was also vital in building personal networks between authorities, organizations and individual companies, says Ahmad Hussein, Umeå University.

During the 1930s Lebanon functioned as a trade route due to its strong trading tradition and links to both Western Europe and the Middle East which made Lebanon a gateway to the larger markets in the region. Because of Lebanon’s transit trade with the Middle East and the decrease of the French and British supremacy in the region, Swedish companies’ interest in the country increased after World War II. At the same time, the country was characterized by great internal political instability. Lebanon was also impacted by events in the surrounding states, the Cold War and the influence of the superpowers in the region.

Besides the political instability, Swedes lack of knowledge about the Middle East markets and corporate cultures hampered their opportunity to build contacts in Lebanon. The development of trade relations in this politically turbulent region led to a need for specific knowledge.
– As the Swedish companies’ attempts to establish business in Lebanon often fell short, the role played by Swedish authorities, headed by the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as trade-related organizations, was very important in providing continuity and experience for Swedish trade in Lebanon and the Middle East.

One example is LM Ericsson’s presence in Lebanon in the early 1950s, in competition with French, U.S. and Japanese companies. Support from the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs and General Export Association of Sweden was therefore particularly important in achieving early market penetration, for example, when LM Ericsson risked being penalized in a business tender of great importance.
– The ability to create stable and reliable networks in the Lebanese state apparatus was as important as providing competitive products. Therefore, both LM Ericsson and the Swedish State’s cooperation proved fruitful in Lebanon until Civil War broke out in 1975, says Ahmad Hussein.

About the dissertation

Friday December 14 Ahmad Hussein, department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University, defends his doctoral thesis “The road to Beirut: Swedish trade promotion initiatives in Lebanon,1920-1975”, Swedish title: “Vägen till Beirut. Svenska handelsfrämjande åtgärder i Libanon 1920-1975”. The dissertation take places at 10.15 in hörsal A, building of Social Sciences, Umeå University. Faculty opponent is Associate Professor Peter Hedberg from the department of Economic History, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Download the thesis at:

For more information, please contact:

Ahmad Hussein, department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University
E-post: ahmad.hussein@ekhist.umu.se
Phones: (+46) 070-0547751, 090-7865280

Editor: Eva Stoianov

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Umeå University Faculty of Social Sciences