In conversation with Jiri Rak, Director of CzechTrade, UK and Ireland

On CzechTrade activities in general and in the COVID-19 reality, first impressions when living in London, plans for 2021, and so much more...

Please share some information about yourself.

My professional career began in 1987 when I finished my university studies in Prague. During the first 10 years I worked for large trading house Motokov and then for newly established private Czech Rubber Co. Ltd. as their commercial director. I also spent several years in Johannesburg, South Africa and in New York, US. From 2005 I have been working for the governmental sector – including six years in Abu Dhabi, UAE as commercial counsellor of the Czech Embassy, five years in Tel Aviv, Israel as director of CzechTrade and now in London as director of CzechTrade activities in the UK and Ireland. All my professional positions, private or public, were connected with business and trade.

How long have you been in the UK?

I arrived in August 2020 to replace my predecessor Martin Macourek, who did an excellent job here for the last seven years.

What are your first impressions when living in London?

My first impressions are very positive in spite of current restrictions. We have rented a nice apartment in Notting Hill and our son has started attending a local school here. Before the lockdown we visited parks, museums, restaurants and of course typical local pubs. London is a very vibrant city with so many options to enjoy so we are looking forward to exploring them further.

Can you summarise the CzechTrade programme and what it does?

CzechTrade is a government trade promotion agency of the Czech Republic with over 50 offices operating worldwide. Our main objective is to develop cooperation between foreign entities and Czech exporters, especially SMEs. There are different ways to reach this objective – organising consultations, business visits, trade shows, tailored matchmaking, networking events, sourcing days and many others. However, our most usual activity, especially in the current situation, looks as follows – Czech companies would like to extend their export activities to the UK or Ireland, so they send us requests with their export portfolio and ideas. Together with them, we specify a target group of potential business partners and then we do our homework, so searching for local companies and identifying right persons and information. The final list can contain verified contact details of up to 20-30 local companies and this year, we have done almost 80 such searches. Sometimes it works the other way around – UK companies would like to find a supplier in the Czech Republic and therefore, they submit their specific enquiry to us. Lately those have been, for example, John Lewis, Halfords or Leidos UK. 

How can you assist entities and companies which are based in the UK?

As mentioned above, together with our Prague headquarters we can locate for them reliable suppliers of products or specific services. Now it is impossible but in the past, we also organised their business trips to the Czech Republic and meetings with selected manufacturers. We did this, for example, for Debenhams, INEOS Automotive, EMBRAER UK or ARVIA. Needless to say such service for foreign companies is free of charge.

What’s in store for CzechTrade in 2021, considering the COVID-19 impact?

We will continue to provide our individual assistance to Czech exporters as in 2020. Three times a year I will take part in ‘Meeting Point CzechTrade’, two-days free consultations for Czech exporters; depending on the situation, it will be either face-to-face in Prague and Brno or on-line. COVID-19 permitting, we plan to organise a Czech pavilion during the UK Construction Week Birmingham in October and Advanced Engineering Fair Birmingham in November. And we will repeat our very successful B2B promo event Czech Beer Day, organised together with the Czech Embassy; hopefully it will be possible on 10 June 2021. And of course, we are also looking forward to fruitful cooperation with the Czech British Chamber of Commerce.

Please define yourself in three words.

Professional, balanced, trustworthy.

Last word?

Please feel free to contact me when you have any business proposition which we could help with.




By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee

We are looking for more CBCC members to be interviewed! Please email tereza@cbcc.org.uk if you are interested.

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