It is a great pleasure for me to address this Finnish-Canadian business seminar. I am also pleased to see that such a high-level and numerous business audience is present here today. That is a good sign! It shows that we are on to something here!
The reason we are gathered here is to speak about Finnish-Canadian economic relations. This topic has not generated nearly as much attention it should have. Today, we are going to change this. This seminar will examine the prospects to intensify our economic cooperation with Canada. I believe we have a real momentum for this.
It stems from both our past and future. Geographically, Canada is a far-away country for us. Distance between Helsinki and Ottawa is over 6000 kilometers. But still Canada feels very close – and not only because of ice-hockey. We share similar democratic values. We both have been able to cope with the harsh climate and we have succeeded here in the North. In the past, many Finns have moved to Canada, which still has over 130 000 people of Finnish origin. So, our ties are strong. But they hopefully will become stronger.
Rising arctic opportunities bring us closer today and even more in the future. Arctic technology, clean energy and mining. In all these fields there are always two countries, which stand out and which are top in different surveys and comparisons. Namely Canada and Finland.
Finland´s expertise in ice management, shipbuilding and maritime infrastructure has also gained a good reputation in Canada. If you look for the best arctic shipbuilding or weather forecasting you turn to Finland. If you need the best construction for extremely cold environment you turn to Finland.
Besides snow-how, or cold-how Finland also has a strong expertise in green mining. Clean energy and biomass offer a lot of potential. New opportunities can also be found in waste treatment, district heating, water technology, forestry and nanotechnology. In all these fields Finnish companies have developed solutions that could be of interest to Canadian entities and businesses. And I’m sure that our Finnish business leaders here today will be more than happy to give even more examples!
For Finnish companies, Canada has been one of the most interesting new market areas. There are already some big Finnish companies which are active in Canada. Now the time has come for small and medium sized companies to follow. The first ones have already taken the leap over the Atlantic.
And never before has this leap been easier. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between EU and Canada (CETA) will help substantially to increase our business. As a result of CETA all import duties on industrial products will be lifted. As our trade nears a billion euros mark, we can now shift gears and lift our foot from the brake.
I will personally do my best to boost ties between Finland and Canada. Therefore, I am making a state visit to Canada in October. The state visit will hopefully help to open new doors for Finnish and Canadian companies and also for investments. I will be accompanied by minister Vapaavuori and a high-level business delegation. I already look forward to our discussions with the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
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The business communities are driving forces in helping our nations prosper. I hope that today’s event will show excellent opportunities for both Finnish and Canadian businesses to exchange ideas, network and strengthen their existing relations.
I wish all the participants a very fruitful seminar and successful business-to-business interactions.