President Sauli Niinistö and Ambassador Bruce Oreck opened the U.S. Embassy’s Innovation Center. Photo: US Embassy Helsinki
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It is a great pleasure for me to speak here today, in this beautiful building. The inauguration of the Innovation Center of the US Embassy represents a milestone in our diplomatic relations. It is a bold step to promote innovation, cleantech and green growth in a whole new way. Let me begin by congratulating Ambassador Bruce Oreck and his able staff and the State Department for their achievement. We are very proud to host the Center and the new landmark Embassy here in the heart of Helsinki.
The aspiration to find creative solutions for the environment is something that our two countries share. President Obama has chosen climate change as one of the priorities for his second administration, and the US Government is actively promoting green growth. Here in Finland, the Government’s aim is to develop the cleantech sector into a 50 billion industry by 2020, and create as many as 40 000 new jobs .
Energy efficiency is the way of the future. Our countries are world leaders in developing smart technologies. I understand the Innovation Center is on track to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED Platinum Certificate .
This would make it the third building in Helsinki ever to achieve Platinum level , and the first ever embassy building in the world . This is a remarkable achievement. In turn, we have tried to do our share in Washington DC. Our Embassy building was the first Embassy in the US to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star for superior energy efficiency. It was also the first embassy in America to achieve the LEED certificate for green buildings . This is true green diplomacy.
It is not only green growth that connects us. This Innovation Center brings people together for trade: bilateral and regional. I warmly welcome American entrepreneurs to explore the various business opportunities and excellent infrastructure that our country can offer. The Finnish economy is knowledge-based, strong on innovation and open to foreign investment. We also have a skilled workforce and unique co-operation between educational and research institutions and industry. All these together make Finland an ideal place to test new solutions and technologies. We’re open for business!
Helsinki is an ideal location for this center: it is also a Gateway to East. Most of the transit trade from the EU to Russia already goes through Finland . Finns can offer logistics and location. After decades of successful trading with Russians, we have valuable know-how on how to do business in Russia. We are happy to share our experiences and work together to increase trade between the regions. Finland, a Nordic country next to the Baltic and Russia, is at the heart of a market of over 80 million people . This is a growing market that has to interest American investors and traders. The Russian accession to the WTO should also make it easier for foreigners to operate in the growing market.
Trade promotion is often seen as a sport, countries competing against each other. As a sport enthusiast, Ambassador, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that unlike, ice hockey, trade is not a zero-sum game. Trade creates value chains and better functioning business ecosystems.
Yes, sometimes we compete in the same markets – perhaps Nokia Lumia and the iPhone being the case in point, but overall, free trade benefits us all equally. The EU and the United States are each other’s biggest trading partners and form together half of the world GDP. There are great expectations that a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and the US can benefit both of us in a significant way.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Innovation Centre is a showcase of American innovation. It is a home away from home for academics, students, artists, start-ups or any American visiting Finland. For us Finns, it’s a place where we can interact with our American friends. I want to congratulate Ambassador Oreck for working so hard for this great achievement. Without his dedication and personal ambition, the Innovation Centre and the landmark Embassy would still be just great ideas. The fantastic work you and Cody have done to strengthen the ties between the United States and Finland, in so many ways, is warmly greeted by the Finnish people.