Keynote spee?ch by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the “Next Steps in Turkey – Finland Trade Relations”, Business roundtable in Istanbul on 14 October 2015

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Before I start with today´s theme, I would like to deliver sincere condolences from the people of Finland regarding the terrorist attack where so many precious human lives were lost. Finland condemns these acts of terrorism, in any form they take place.

Cooperation is a powerful tool and that is also the reason for my visit and to our gathering here today. By staying united we prove how strong we are, and how only by cooperation – not by violence – we can achieve our goals. That is why I am pleased to see so many distinguished members of the business community present here today.

As you well know, Finland and Turkey share a long history of excellent relations. Turkey, or then the Ottoman Empire, was one of the first countries to recognize Finland´s independence almost a century ago, in 1917. Ever since, our political relations have been very close. Visits and high level political meetings have been frequent.

Our relations develop in time, and as problem solvers we constantly seek ways to improvement. This is why we both have emphasized especially the strengthening of our economic and business relations during last years. During the previous ministerial visit Finland and Turkey signed a declaration to establish a joint economic and trade commission, JETCO. This is a clear sign of mutual interest to deepen our trade relations. After my speech DEIK and Finpro will sign a Memorandum of Understanding regarding JETCO cooperation.

Our bilateral trade volume is currently around 1,1 billion EUR. Our shared goal should be to double our bilateral trade in the coming years.

Turkey has always been a close and important partner for Finland. Turkey´s strategic location between East and West has always been essential, but especially so today. Turkey has become a major player in the region which unites east and the west, the south and the north. Today, Turkey is the epicenter of crossing cultures.

Today´s Turkey is a dynamic G20 country with a young and dynamic population that will provide growth also in the future. Under Turkey´s capable chairmanship I am convinced that the G20 Summit in Antalya next month will achieve concrete results.

As for Finland, we provide gateway between East and West in the north. We have a central location in the expanding markets of Northern Europe, home to 80 million consumers – not to forget the EU´s internal market. We have a highly functional infrastructure and modern logistics and communications networks. Finland is also a gateway to the Arctic and Russia. It is estimated that investments worth around 140 billion EUR are planned in the Barents region alone.

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Finland has a lot to offer when it comes to possible next steps in our bilateral trade relations. The Finnish economy is knowledge-based and we have strong innovation skills. We are among the top countries globally in terms of R&D spending per capita. We have world class expertise in many sectors. These include companies specializing in wireless and mobile solutions, cleantech, healthcare and new material and processes. These sectors are well represented also here today.

Finland could offer a great deal to foreign investors. Finland is the 8th most competitive country in the world according to the World Economic Forum´s Global Competitiveness Report published at the end of September. Our strengths are transparent and efficient public institutions, primary and higher education and innovations.

Even if our market is small, with 5,4 million inhabitants, we are pragmatic and focus on functionality. Finns make sure that things work and keep on working.

Competitiveness calls for continuous development of the business environment. In Finland we are today experiencing a boom in innovative start-up companies, many of them originally spin-offs from Nokia. We have always put emphasis on finding new solutions for common challenges and finding new ways of doing business and finding business partners.

Slush usually means wet snow but in this context it is an event organized in Finland for startups by startups to meet with top-tier international investors, executives and media. Last year SLUSH brought together over 14 000 attendees and more than 3500 companies. It has grown to one of the leading events of this kind in the world. The aim is to help the next generation of interesting companies forward. I warmly welcome also Turkish participants to the SLUSH in November.

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Nature and sea are as present in Finland as they are here in Istanbul when looking over the beautiful Bosphorus bay. In Finland, over 70 % of the country is covered by forests and we have the biggest archipelago in the world. Thanks to our unique relationship with nature, sustainability and the efficient use of resources are self-evident in Finland. Sustainability is also the overarching theme of the business delegation with me today.

The Finnish business representatives at our event today are CEO´s of some of the leading Finnish cleantech, innovation and high technology companies and institutions, including the biggest Finnish investor to Turkey. Sustainability is at the very core of these businesses´ know-how. Turkey on the other hand has set ambitious goals to decrease energy dependency on foreign imports by increasing the share of renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and building nuclear power plants. We have a lot to offer to meet these challenges.

I wish to point out just a couple of examples. Finland has a long experience and high-level solutions when it comes to nuclear safety, environmental measurement and monitoring and state-of-the-art oil spill response solutions. Finnish know-how in nuclear waste management has a long history going back to the 1970´s when the first nuclear power plants were built in Finland. In the nuclear waste management we can offer unique capabilities in underground engineering, repository technology, long term safety analysis and licensing.

For Finland sea safety has always been a top priority since we are surrounded by water. Finnish expertise in sea safety is already used widely in the world ranging from Amazon Rain Forest to the cold areas in the north. We consider sea safety as a potential area for deeper cooperation. We have also present the world´s leading companies on energy efficiency and mineral and metal processing technologies.

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Another great opportunity to discuss practical next steps in our trade relations will be in the beginning of December in Helsinki. Minister for Foreign Trade, Ms. Toivakka will host the first JETCO meeting at the ministerial level on the 2nd of December to which you are warmly welcome.

In Turkey there is a saying “Bir kahvenin kirk yil hatiri vardir”, a cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship. As you may know Finns have the largest coffee consumption per capita in the world.  As with coffee, our commitment to friendships is for life. I hope this business roundtable event today opens a new chapter in the long history of Turkish-Finnish friendship and widening trade relations.