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The new ambassador of the Slovak Republic hopes that Japan will help his country shift from a centrally planned socialist economy to a democratic, market-oriented industrial economy.

Mikulas Sedlak on Friday praised the first yen-denominated loan to Slovakia agreed upon recently as Sedlak part of Japan’s efforts to support his country’s industrialization.

Only a few days after he presented his credentials to the Emperor, Sedlak signed an agreement with the governmental Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund for a 11.09 billion yen loan. The loan will be used to finance highway expansion.

When it was part of Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, Slovakia’s heavy industries, such as metal and machinery, were dedicated to military production, and now need money and technology to modernize and restructure in order to shift to civilian markets, Sedlak said.

The country also needs more exportable, finished consumer-oriented products, in addition to steel and machinery, to improve its large international payments deficit, the ambassador said during a visit to The Japan Times.

He said he hopes the Slovak Republic will be able to attract investment from Japanese companies, particularly manufacturers. The country currently hosts a Sony factory.

Sedlak, who was an economics professor at the University of Economics in Bratislava and later president of the university, said he wants to promote exchanges and cooperation between Japanese and Slovak universities, and grassroots exchanges between the two countries’ people, using his personal contacts with Japanese scholars, as well as official exchanges of visits by the two governments’ leaders. He has studied Japanese economics and management, and one of his books on economics has a chapter on Japanese management.

He added that he wants to bring more Slovak “special products,” such as folk music troupes and art exhibitions, to Japan to promote Slovakia as a tourist destination, as Japanese people he has spoken to in the past month as ambassador have shown a keen interest in the country and its culture.

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