Let me welcome you all to this business seminar organized in conjunction with the state visit of President Ilves and Mrs. Ilves. I am very pleased to see that you Mr. President are accompanied by such a high-level business delegation with international experience and good connections to Finland.
Finnish-Estonian economic relations seem to constitute an exceptional phenomenon. In a way, the law of gravity does not apply here. What I mean by this? I refer to the fact that although economic growth in our countries has generally been slow our bilateral trade has continued to expand.
This positive trend has been important for both Finland and Estonia. Today, Finland is the number one trading partner for Estonia. But also for Finland the importance of Estonia as a partner is growing. Last year Estonia was on the 9th place in our foreign trade.
There are over 4000 Finnish companies in Estonia, and the number is steadily increasing. Estonian companies are also more and more interested in the Finnish market. At the moment there are over 1000 Estonian companies registered in Finland. These are big numbers for small countries. These are also signs that show how integrated our economies really are.
Both Finland and Estonia put an emphasis on increasing competitiveness and promoting innovation. A common challenge for our countries and businesses is to keep up the good work. The challenge is twice as hard today, when we have to compete not only against developed countries but also against developing ones.
One important factor in favor of us is education and training. A high level of education is traditionally valued in our countries. Finland is proud of the results our children get in the PISA assessments year after year. And Estonia is catching up fast, with results improving significantly. Together we are listed as the best European countries.
One especially promising area in our cooperation that I would like to point out is the ICT field. Estonia has been a forerunner in creating an easily accessible digital environment for everybody. Finland is pleased to cooperate with Estonia to improve our digital environment, based on the Estonian X-road solution.
Speaking about roads and links one can’t dismiss energy and transportation development. The Estlink 2 cable was successfully completed some months ago, and it integrates more efficiently the electricity markets of the Nordic and Baltic countries. It would also be important to go ahead with other big projects such as building the LNG terminal or terminals on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, and getting on with the Rail Baltica fast train connection.
I would like to thank President Ilves and the members of the business delegation for joining us at this seminar and for the valuable work you have done to improve the close ties of our countries.