Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at a luncheon in honour of the official visit of Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on 10 July 2017

Honourable Prime Minister Abe, Dear Mrs Abe,

Your visit is a great honour and pleasure for my spouse and me. We have many fond memories of our visit to Japan last year. I greatly appreciate the discussion we held then, which we have continued today. We are also delighted and honoured that you are visiting Finland at just this time, when we are celebrating the centenary of our independence.

The relations between our countries are excellent. We share similar strengths and challenges, and are seeking solutions together. In the spirit of our declaration of strategic partnership, our cooperation extends to a large number of sectors and areas of international policy.

A strong sense of duty and work ethic characterise both of our peoples. In addition, a special, mutual understanding exists between the Japanese and Finnish people. We also often have the same view of the changes occurring around us.

Unfortunately, the world is becoming more uncertain. Old conflicts have not been resolved and new threats have emerged. Our rule-based international system is being challenged. As the representatives of two stable, well-functioning democracies, we know that the future of our planet can only be secured through cooperation between nations. The UN system, WTO and many other global and regional cooperation forums need our support.

Like the EU and Japan, Finland and Japan could cooperate even more than now. We must uphold international agreements and standards together. We can shore up agreement-based multilateralism, the liberalisation of trade and investment, and the search for solutions to global problems.

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Both the Japanese and Finns are great sports lovers. We are keenly looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games of 2020. We know that Japan will provide a stunning backdrop to outstanding sporting achievements.

I would like to share an example of successful Finnish-Japanese cooperation which connects sports and high technology. Tommi Mäkinen, who was the World Rally Champion four times, designed and built the racing car for the Toyota Gazoo Racing stable, which Toyota has used to return to the top of the event. He did this, alongside his team, here in Finland. In addition, just a few weeks ago the Toyota Group made a major investment in the development of autonomous vehicles in Finland.

Toyota’s example shows that, when we combine our skills, expertise and resources, Finland and Japan can be the best in the world. Our task is to encourage the growth of successful cooperation of this kind in new areas, as we approach the centenary of our diplomatic relations in 2019.

I propose a toast to friendship and cooperation. Kampai – kippis!