Bilateral Relations between Latvia and the United States of America

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The United States of America is Latvia's strategic partner, with which a special relationship has developed. Our bilateral dialogue is based on the appreciation of shared values: freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The vision of a free, integrated and united Europe expressed by the U.S. President George Bush in summer 2001 in Warsaw fully accords with Latvia's vision of the future.

Latvia values highly the political support that the United States of America has given to our efforts in strengthening Latvia's national sovereignty and establishing an independent foreign policy. Close collaboration between Latvia and the U.S. has always been a priority in our foreign policy, in fostering our economic development and strengthening democracy. Latvia appreciates the genuine interest and strong support the United States of America has provided to Latvia's integration with European and Transatlantic structures.

Diplomatic History

Latvian-American relationship began on 10 December 1918 when the U.S. Senate passed the Resolution No. 379 supporting the secession of the three Baltic States from Russia. «All these nations must be free and independent, since the Baltic Sea coast belongs to them and this makes their independence important for the future peace and freedom of the world.«

Diplomatic relations between Latvia and the United States of America were first established on 28 July 1922, when the U.S. Government recognized the Republic of Latvia.

Little known is the fact that during the inter-war years, a number of prominent Americans visited or worked in Latvia. President Herbert Hoover visited Latvia in the early 1930s and wrote a laudatory article on Latvia's development. John F. Kennedy, while studying in London, visited Latvia and other East European countries on the eve of the Second World War. George F. Kennan, later to become an expert on Russia, was first stationed as a diplomat in Latvia during these years.

Since then Latvian-American diplomatic relations have played a unique role in Latvia's diplomatic history. The declaration by the U.S. Secretary of State Sumner Wells, issued on June 23, 1940 established the U.S. Baltic policy and ensured that the Baltic diplomatic missions continued to operate in Washington during the Soviet occupation. The Latvian mission in Washington was the only Latvia's foreign mission that continued to function throughout the years of its occupation. The United States of America never established official relations with the Soviet government in the occupied Latvia, thereby demonstrating its non-recognition policy to the world. The main aim of the Latvian mission in Washington was to continue represent Latvia existent de iure, preserve Latvia's international legal status, fight for Latvia's independence, and carry out an essential informative work — publish declarations, statements and other documents of western nations that refer to Latvia, and provide information from different sources on the state of affairs in the occupied Latvia.

Since 1989 Latvia's mission in Washington and the U.S. State Department began to expand cooperation, and in 1990 the U.S. government established unofficial contact with the Latvian (Popular Front) transitional Government.

President Bush Snr. played a critical role in the restoration of Baltic independence in 1991, as he negotiated with President Gorbachev and then President Yeltsin a peaceful break-up of the Soviet Union.

After the failure of the August 21, 1991 coup in Moscow, and the coming to power of Russian President Yeltsin, many countries including Russia began to officially recognize the independence of the Baltic States de facto. On September 5, 1991 a memorandum of understanding was signed by the U.S. and Latvian governments that re-established diplomatic relations, and, shortly thereafter, the U.S. opened its embassy in Riga.

Since 1992 the U.S. Embassy is situated in Riga, 7 Raina Blvd.

U.S. President Clinton's visit to Latvia in 1994 provided a fresh impetus to strengthening U.S.-Latvian, and U.S.-Baltic, relations, leading in 1998 to the signing of the U.S.-Baltic Charter.


U.S. Ambassadors to Latvia:

Ints Silins: 1992-95
Larry Napper: 1995-98
James Holmes: 1998-2001
Brian Carlson: 2001-8 December 2004
Catherine Todd Bailey: as of 4 February 2005 

Bilateral Relations between Latvia and the United States of America

Foto: AFI

Latvian Ambassadors to the U.S.:

Anatols Dinbergs: 1991-1992
Ojars Kalnins: 1992-1999
Aivis Ronis: 2000-September 2004
Maris Riekstins: as of 9 December 2004

Four honorary consuls have been appointed in the U.S.:

Alfreds Raisters — California
Stephen Payne — Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico
Karlis Steinmanis — Ohio
Gerta Feigin — New York
Roger Edward Anderson — Connecticut

U.S.-Baltic Partnership Charter

Long-term cooperation between Latvia and the United States of America was defined on January 16, 1998 when the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Charterwas signed. The aim of the Charter is complete integration of the Baltic States into European and Transatlantic political, economic, security and defence organizations.

The Charter demonstrates that the name of the Baltic States is known on the U.S. foreign policy stage; they have been recognized as the U.S. partners in the region. Cooperation under the Charter has fostered not only the development of cooperation with the United States but also the development of a closer partnership among the Baltic States themselves.


Structures for Cooperation

The principal structure of cooperation between the four countries is the Partnership Commission, chaired by Foreign Ministers of the Baltic States and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.

The Commission meets once a year, and the issues discussed include the results of bilateral cooperation in economic, military and other fields, as well as the progress of the work under the Charter.

Since its inception, the Commission has met on:

  1. July 8, 1998, Riga, Latvia
  2. July 16, 1999, Washington
  3. June 7, 2000, Tallinn, Estonia
  4. December 10, 2001, Washington

Two Bilateral Working groups established under the Commission:

Bilateral Economic Working Group

The purpose of this group is to find ways to encourage U.S. investment and two-way trade, and to assist in the economic development of Latvia. The working group meets once a year.

Meetings of the group have taken place on:

  1. May 26, 1998, Washington
  2. March 11, 1999, Washington
  3. April 6, 2000, Riga
  4. May 22, 2001, Washington

Bilateral Working Group on Defence and Military Issues 

The purpose of this working group is to strengthen cooperation between Latvia and the U.S. in Defence and military spheres, and to assist the Latvian Armed Forces in their development and bring them closer to NATO standards. This working group was created well before the Charter was signed. It meets once a year, and the last meeting took place in Riga on April 10, 2002. 

Cooperation on Defence Issues 

Cooperation with the United States is one of Latvia's Defence Policy priorities. This cooperation rests on the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1995 between the Latvian Ministry of Defence and the U.S. Department of Defence on cooperation in the defence and military fields. The political, financial and material/ technical assistance provided by the United States for the development of Latvia's defence system and furthering Baltic States’ cooperation has been outstanding.

Accredited in Latvia are the U.S. Defence and Naval Lieutenant Colonel Ms. D.Leigh Sumner  (29.07.2004) resident in Riga, and U.S. Air Force Attaché Michael C. Sheen (29.09.99) resident in Stockholm.

Latvia's Military Attaché Ingus Vizulis and his assistant Karlis Lidaks have been accredited in the United States.

Major General H. Kievenaar's findings and recommendations for the long-term development of Latvian defence system have proved to be very helpful and important. 

Latvian-U.S. cooperation in the military field:

  1. In the field of training — IMET program (International Military Education and Training);
  2. Technical Assistance — FMF program (Foreign Military Financing) — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; a total of USD 21 million for 2002; USD 23.5 million for 2003;
  3. In the context of Military Liaison Group and Partnership for Peace, the United States supports Latvia's participation in PfP (Partnership for Peace) training exercises and in their planning conferences.

Cooperation also takes place in the context of the development of:

BALTBAT (Baltic Battalion)
BALTRON (Baltic Naval Squadron)
BALTNET (Baltic Air Surveillance Network)
BALTDEFCOL (Baltic Defence College) under multilateral projects.

More about these projects: http://www.am.gov.lv/e/?id=792

The U.S. has expressed strong support for Latvia's integration into NATO:

On May 17, 2002 the U.S. Senate adopted the Freedom Consolidation Act, expressing its support for further NATO expansion. A decision has been taken to foster the preparation process of the seven candidate countries, including Latvia, by allocating USD 55.5 million to each.

On July 30, 2002 the American Jewish Committee issued a statement expressing support for inviting the seven candidate countries, including Latvia, to join the Alliance at the NATO Summit in Prague in November 2002.

On September 4, 2002, Steven Sprinfield, the President of the Jewish Survivors of Latvia, sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte supporting Latvia's joining NATO at the Prague Summit.

On October 7, 2002 the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress passed two support resolutions: HCONRES 116 and The Transatlantic Security and NATO Enhancement Resolution of 2002.

On February, 11 2003 the U.S. Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Evan Bayh proposed a resolution on the support of the European allies for the disarmament of Iraq in compliance with the UN Security Council's Resolution 1441.


Cooperation in Judicial Affairs

The United States has provided a significant investment in the development of judicial affairs — technical support, and expert consultations with respect to current legal issues. With the assistance of the United States Latvian representatives have been given the opportunity to participate in conferences and educational courses.

Both countries cooperate closely in the fight against corruption and implementation of the Latvian criminal procedure reform.

On September 20, 2001 the U.S. Government and Latvian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing for U.S. assistance in the amount of USD 255,000 for the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Bureau and in reforming the criminal procedure in Latvia. On September 10, 2003 the Memorandum was amended to include another four projects in the assistance (USD 247 555): Police Personnel Management Course, Professional Responsibility/Ethics Assistance Project, Police Academy Classroom Upgrade and Renovation Project and Criminal Law Bench Book Project.

In March 2003, U.S. Legal Attaché to the Baltic States James D. Nixon, expert in investigating economic crimes, corruption cases, and international terrorism commenced his duties.

Cooperation is ongoing between the Latvian Incarceration Board and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Institute of Corrections, and other organizations, which includes exchange of information, personnel training and attendance at conferences and congresses on penitentiary issues.

The Naturalization Board has received considerable support from the U.S. with respect to social integration. Members of the Board have participated in the programs organized by the U.S. non-governmental organization Freedom House and the International Development Agency (in 1999 and 2000), as well as in international forums and conferences on the issues of social integration. Several Freedom House experts have worked in the Naturalization Board (1999-2000).

Several initiatives of the Naturalization Board have been implemented with the financial assistance of the United States:

In 2001 the U.S. government and Freedom House awarded USD 80,000 for the initiative «Informing the public about and fostering its understanding of the issues of citizenship» (November 2001 — February 2002), USD 95,000 for the initiative «Implementation of the intensive Latvian language training program for the promotion of the naturalization process in Latvia», and USD 50,000 for the initiative «Optimisation of the naturalization process by developing a single system for Latvian language training».

In 2002 the Democracy Commission of the U.S. Embassy granted financial funds for two initiatives of the Naturalization Board — the initiative «Students' competition «Towards Civic Society»» (USD 13,500), and «Toll-free telephone line» (USD 25,988).

The Naturalization Board has also cooperated with the U.S. Information Service and the U.S. Information Agency.


Economic cooperation

Trade (according to data provided by the Central Statistical Bureau)

January-December 2004:

  • Exports

1. Great Britain — USD 495,627,673 or 12.9% of total Latvian exports
2. Germany — USD 470,010,411 or 12.3%
3. Sweden — USD 392,978,079 or 10.3%
4. Lithuania — USD 355,347,305 or 9.5%
5. Estonia — USD 307,775,433 or 8.2%
.
9. USA — 116,828,355 or 2.98

  • Imports

1. Germany — USD 959,596,119 or 14.5% of total Latvian imports
2. Lithuania — USD 829,610,760 or 12.4%
3. Russia — USD 616,527,140 or 8.9%
4. Estonia — USD 479,388,018 or 7.1%
5. Finland — USD 438,254,632 or 6.5%

17. USA — USD 92,401,695 or 2.36%

Latvia has a negative trade balance with the U.S. in the amount of USD — 24,426,660.

Principal exports to the U.S. by commodity types in 2004

Commodity
type

Mil. USD

Share of
total
exports

total

116.82

100%

base metals
and articles
of base metals

44.58

38,1%

wood and
articles of wood

23.49

20.1%

prepared
foodstuffs

12.41

10.62%

textile materials
and articles

8.1

6.94%

miscellaneous manufactured
articles

7.45

6.37%

Stone, plaster, cement, glass and ceramic products

7.17

6.14%

machinery and mechanical
appliances;
electrical
equipment

5.75

4.72%

Principal imports from the U.S. by commodity types in 2004

Commodity
type

Mil. USD


Share
of total
exports

total

92,4

100%

machinery
and mechanical appliances;
electrical
equipment

28.49

30.84%

means
of transport

25.55

27.65%

metals and
articles
of base metals

7 .88

8.55%

optical devices
and apparatus,
clocks, watches, musical
instruments

5.73

6.2%

products
of chemical
and allied
industries

4.73

5.1%

prepared
foodstuffs

3.7

4%


Latvian-U.S. trade 1998-2004, in USD

Year

Exports

Imports

1998

51 905 044

65 259 360

1999

90 462 646

59 873 206

2000

62 679 173

63 447 760

2001

51 932 678

64 717 610

2002

97 005 473

63 977 295

2003

83 691 156

91 258 609

2004

116,828,355

92,401,695

Investments (according to the data provided by the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia)

As of the end of the 2004, the U.S. investment in Latvia constitutes USD 156.30 million, ranking it 6th among the biggest investors. The amount of Latvia's investment in the U.S. is comparatively small.

On 2 February 2005, 1593 U.S.-Latvian joint enterprises were registered in the Latvian Enterprise Register. 

Dynamics of US investment in Latvia between 1998 and 2003


Year

Investment, mil USD

1998

119.7

1999

131.1

2000

127.8

2001

141.5

2002

134.8

2003

172.9

Biggest U.S. investors (Lursoft data base statistics about information gathered in the Enterprise Register of 11 November, 2004), in mil USD:

  1.  
    1. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas — 39,65 
    2. Itera Cis L.l.c. — 7,54 
    3. Pbr Hotel Ltd — 4,69 
    4. GB Baltics Llc — 3,82 
    5. Mc Donalds Restaurant Operations, Inc — 2,97 
    6. Woodison Trading Lic -2,80 
    7. Amertech Corp. — 2,44 
    8. Grifin Trade LIc. — 1,98 
    9. Plotkins Aleksandrs — 1,97 
    Norbition Assets Inc. — 1,92

Exchange of visits in 2005

March 2-3

Working visit to Latvia by the U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Rockwell Anthony Schnabel. The ambassador's visit included meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Artis Pabriks, and the Minister of Economy, Krisjanis Karins, an address at the Riga Business School, and a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Latvia.

February 5–12 

Working visit of the Latvian Minister of Interior, Eriks Jekabsons, Chief of State Police, Janis Zascerinskis; Chief of Security Police, Janis Reiniks; Director of the European Affairs and International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Interior, Ilze Petersone; and Head of the International Affairs Bureau of the Central Administrative Department of the State Police, Gatis Svika, to the United States. The Latvian officials met their colleagues in the US Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defence

January 30

Working visit of the Secretary of Saeima, Janis Smits, to the US

Exchange of visits in 2001

Exchange of visits in 2002

Exchange of visits in 2003 

Exchange of visits in 2004

Agreements Signed

  • Investment Incentive Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America (in force since 28.10.1991);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America Concerning the Program of the Peace Corps of the United States in the Republic of Latvia (in force since 06.02.1992; the program was terminated on 30.09.2002);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America on Mutual Payment of Social Insurance Benefits (in force since 05.11.1992);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America Concerning the Development of Trade and Investment Relations (in force since 13.04.1993)
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Fishery at the Coasts of the United States (in force since 29.10.1993); extended in April 2002 until 31.12.2005;
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America on Science and Technology Cooperation (in force since 06.07.1994); validity — 5 years, extended on 08.09.2000 (in force backdated to 06.07.1999) by a note of Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to the U.S. Embassy in Riga;
  • Agreement between the Republic of Latvia and the United States of America on Trade Relations and Intellectual Property Rights Protection (in force since 20.01.1995);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America concerning technical assistance related to the elimination of conventional weapons systems and facilities formerly controlled by the Russian Federation Armed Forces stationed in the territory of the Republic of Latvia (in force since 12.08.1994)
  • Agreement between the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia and the Department of Defence of the United States of America concerning the Provision of Assistance related to the Dismantlement of the Unfinished Skrunda LPAR Facility formerly controlled by the Russian Federation Armed Forces stationed in the territory of the Republic of Latvia (in force since 12.08.1994);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the United States of America Concerning Economic, Technical and Related Assistance (in force since 07.02.1996); the Agreement stipulates that the persons involved in the implementation of the project be exempted from direct and indirect taxes existing in the Republic of Latvia.
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America Concerning the Facilitation of the Travel of Their Citizens in Each Other's Country (since 1 January 1996 a visa-free regime for the period of 90 days is applied to U.S. citizens)
  • The Bilateral Work Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America on working permits for dependents of staff of diplomatic representations (in force since 16.07.1996);
  • Grant Agreement of the US Trade and Development Agency on allocation of USD 600,000 to the Latvian state informatics and communications centre for establishment of state communications network, in force since 29. 07. 1996;
  • Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America Pertaining to Provision of SY-71E Communications Security Equipment and Services (in force since 01.11.1996);
  • Treaty between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Latvia for the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment (in force since 27.12.1996). On September 22, 2003 in Brussels Latvia as a future EU member state signed an additional Protocol to the Agreement BIT Political Understanding among Commission, the U.S. and Acceding States.
  • Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Government of the United States of America as represented by the National Security Agency Information Systems Security Organization (NSA/ISSO) and the Government of Latvia as represented by the Ministry of Defence (in force since 11.12.1997);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the United States of America Concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information (in force since 15.01.1998);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America regarding Mutual Assistance between Their Customs Administrations (in force since 23.07.1999);
  • Treaty Between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (with exchange of ratification letters; in force since 17.09.1999).
  • Letter of Agreement on Law Enforcement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States (signed 30.09.1999);
  • Convention between the Republic of Latvia and the United States of America for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income (in force since 01.01.2000);
  • Letter of Agreement on Law Enforcement between the Republic of Latvia and the United States of America (signed on 20.09.2001. Amendments signed 10.09.2003.);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America concerning cooperation in the area of the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (in force since 05.05.2003);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America on the Protection and Preservation of Certain Cultural Properties (signed 07.10.2002);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America concerning the status of private educational institution «The International School of Latvia» (signed 12.03.2003; not in force);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America on cooperation in protection of rights, signed on 27. 09. 2004.

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