Nordic Region of Opportunity – Close to You -seminar

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

[Nordic countries, Norden, Scandinavia, Nordic cooperation, Finnish presidency, globalisation]

Nordic countries – also known as Norden or Scandinavia as many of you conceive us – consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. All five countries and their autonomous territories participate in the Nordic cooperation which, at the official level, began in 1952. Over the decades the cooperation has developed to be one of the most extensive forms of regional collaboration in the world, covering political, economical and cultural dimensions. Today it plays an important role not only regionally, but also at the European and global levels.

Finland is currently holding the rotating Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, which is responsible for the official governmental Nordic cooperation. The overarching theme of our Presidency is globalization – the enormous acceleration of interaction and growing interdependence between the countries, economies and peoples of the world, creating both opportunities as well as new challenges.

It gives me great pleasure, as the Finnish minister for Nordic cooperation and as the chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers, to be here in Shanghai, in the incontestable centre of globalisation, and to have the opportunity to elaborate on some of the developments that has transformed the Nordic countries into an ever more vibrant and dynamic area, offering many possibilities for cooperation between China and Norden.

[Nordic model, Nordic-type welfare society, Nordic strengths and expertise at global level]

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will not go into deep historical analysis of the Nordic cooperation and its achievements. Nevertheless I would like to highlight some major characteristics of the so-called Nordic model. Including issues such as common labour market and exemption from requirement of passport, it became from the very beginning a role model to the European community in many areas of transnational reforms.

By hard work and determination, the Nordic countries have succeeded in making the region one of the most successful, competitive and innovative areas in the world. One of the most significant achievements has been the establishment of the Nordic-type welfare society with high respect for democracy, dynamic constitutional principles, free state education, social and health services available to everybody, small income disparities, little poverty, maximum equality and affinity with nature. All this combined with an appreciation of education and work, investments in research and development, a spirit of enterprise and technology optimism as well as motivated and competent individuals has created a unique area of welfare states. Moreover, a distinctive feature of the Nordic model has been the successful combination of welfare society, good social security and its competitive ability which has supported economic growth – an achievement that can be seen as one of the success stories of our time.

A large number of indicators place Scandinavia among the top performers in the world. For example the Nordic countries regularly come out at top in international studies concerning information and communication technologies, research and development, competitiveness, creativeness, sustainable development, education, welfare, living standards and equality. In addition Nordic countries are among the least corrupt countries in the world which make them very reliable partners.

On the whole Scandinavian countries are very competitive and skilful nations. Today our success is based above all on top-level education system as well as on the big focus on science, technology and innovation policies. We have expertise and strong know-how in many fields, for example in information and communication technology, competitiveness and efficiency, innovations, environmental technology and energy efficiency.

Next I will elaborate some concrete areas where the Nordic countries have a lot to offer.

[Concrete examples]

Dear participants,

1) First of all we believe that world-class innovation activity is a crucial competitive factor in global economy. Nordic countries have made substantial investments in the advancement of research and development activities as well as in innovation policy. Our innovation system is one of the world’s best, using contributions to research and development and the share of high technology in the Nordic industrial production and exports as indicators.

Scandinavian flexibility and adaptability combined with our relatively small market enables testing and implementation of innovations, making Scandinavia a great launching platform for new products and services. Worth noticing is also that innovation activity must be extended to the entire society, not only to business sector. We have a strong belief in our public-private -partnership which we are looking to further endorse. In the future the Nordic countries aim to be leaders in innovations.

We know that also China is investing significantly in science, research and technology. Therefore I believe that intensified cooperation between China and Norden in technological and innovation policy could offer endless possibilities.

Many Nordic innovation actors are already present in China, but we are looking forward to deepen this cooperation. In more concrete terms this could take shape in forms of sharing knowledge, exchange of researchers or common research projects. Nordic countries have long tradition in scientific and technological cooperation, and I am convinced that increased cooperation in this area would be mutually beneficial. In addition all Nordic countries actively participate in European research programmes. Our well established contacts within Europe could also facilitate Chinese researchers access to European research platforms.

2) Secondly, the Nordic countries are models on combining environmental sustainability and competitiveness. We are actively seeking for new solutions to maintain the balanced course of sustainable development, emphasising at the same time our economic productivity, competitiveness, the social well-being of our citizens as well as the ecological aspects. We see the Nordic countries as creators of sustainable solutions and believe that our model might interest China as well.

Taking into account the rise of global environmental consciousness, the challenge of climate change, the question of energy supplies as well as the prices we are expecting a lasting boom in the demand for new solutions. Expanding regulations lead to development of environmentally friendly technologies. Therefore clean and climate friendly technologies are expected to become a remarkable growth sector. The Nordic region is a forerunner in the reduction of greenhouse gases. We have a competitive edge for example in environmental protection, energy efficiency, renewable energy and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

Nordic countries are known and internationally recognized for high level of environmental and high technology know-how, which provides a good platform for the development of innovative and sustainable cleantech solutions also suitable for China’s current needs. Efficient systems in energy efficiency, waste management and recycling, sustainable management of water resources and environmental monitoring are just some examples of the areas where China and the Nordic countries can work together in creating well-being societies and better global environment.

In this context I would like to mention that the Nordic countries not only have similar strengths, but also complement each others in many ways. For example in the field of environmentally friendly energy consumption every Nordic country has its own strength. Denmark is a forerunner in wind power technology, Finland in utilization of bioenergy, Iceland in volcanic geothermal energy, Norway in carbon capture and storage at the bottom of the sea while Sweden has top-knowledge in utilising the energy from the seawater. Consequently the Nordic countries can offer top-level know-how on energy resources at large scale.

3) Finally I would like to mention that Nordic countries are among the first in the world to face the challenges of aging societies. All around the world people are living longer than before and in many countries the proportion of senior population is increasing. This creates new and major challenges especially for the service sector. We are at this very moment searching to develop new and more productive and creative solutions to the service sector. Those can not be obtained without a strong private-public -partnership, from which we already have lot of experience. We believe that in the future our knowledge in this area can benefit China as well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We live in a world of unexpected opportunities where the only certainty is change. The major common denominator of the change factor is globalisation, which can be crystallised in two features, mobility and dependence. Capital, products, services and ideas, as well as production factors such as R&D operations and labour, are moving faster and more extensively across the borders. At the same time, the mutual cooperation and interdependence of regional economies is strengthening.

In this context I believe that the Scandinavian countries have a lot to offer to China and vice versa. We are here today not only to tell you about the Nordic model and it’s strengths, but also to express our willingness to deepen and intensify the cooperation between Scandinavia and China in all levels. Many Nordic enterprises have already successfully landed to the Chinese and Asian markets. At the same time products originating from China are being sold in increasing amounts in Nordic countries. But we believe that it’s not only about businesses and technology, although their role is central. As important is sharing knowledge and experiences, learning from each other and together finding best practices for developing our societies to meet the challenges of the new century.

In the following speeches you will hear in a more detailed way about the Nordic countries going global, about Nordic research and innovation policy as well as about the matchmaking between China and Norden. I truly believe that these kind of meetings provide considerable momentum and indispensable opportunities for network-building, intensified contacts and cooperation. I look forward, like many others here, that the seminar will be fruitful and will create new ideas and open new doors for the cooperation between China and the Nordic countries.

Thank you for your attention.