Latvia – Finland Business Cooperation-seminaari, Helsinki

Muutokset puhuttaessa mahdollisia

Distinguished President Bērziņš,
Esteemed Ministers,
Representatives of Latvian and Finnish business communities,
Dāmas un kungi,

Finland and Latvia are small, northern located countries in Europe. We are both open and export orientated economies and we highlight promotion of free trade. Competitiveness and innovation are high on our agendas. I believe we have a lot of mutual interests that form a strong basis for good cooperation in various fields. Therefore I am very pleased that President Bērziņš is accompanied by such a large high-level business delegation with international experience and good connections to Finland.

So, let me welcome you all warmly today to this business seminar which is organized in conjunction with the state visit of President Bērziņš to Finland.

The deepening cooperation between Finland and Latvia during the past decades and the increasing interaction between our societies and businesses are good examples of a successful integration process in Europe. People move freely, and trade and investment flow in both directions.

In addition to our close bilateral relations, our two countries are connected by our European Union membership, our common currency euro, and of course, through our geographical common denominator, the Baltic Sea.

Latvia holds currently the rotating EU presidency which deepens even further our cooperation. The Latvian presidency priorities; Competitive Europe, Digital Europe and Engaged Europe – or with other words; competitiveness, growth and employment, digital agenda and external action – are very similar to our priorities and we fully support Latvia in this task.

With this background it is obvious that Finland and Latvia should have one common goal: to continue efforts to build the Baltic Sea region as one of the most competitive regions of Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The economic development in Europe and also in our Baltic region is currently fragile. Finland’s economic structure is going through a major change since couple of years. This change is not just a momentary phenomenon due to business cycle, but something we have to take more seriously, as the global competition increases and digitalization re-shapes our industries among other things. And it doesn’t affect only us but the Europe as a whole.

The only way for us to secure Europe’s economic success also in the future is to continue the renewal of our economic structures. In Finland we believe that investing heavily in education, r&d and innovation, despite the harsh economic times, is one of the key factors. An innovative business climate is essential for attracting investments and creating new businesses to our countries. In European level we also have to make sure that common policies support our objectives. Inside the EU we have to pay attention to the functionality of the Single Market. Internationally the EU has an important task in promoting liberal trade and resisting protectionist voices.

In addition we have to ensure that our energy policies support competitiveness. The international energy agenda sometimes focuses in competitiveness, sometimes in security of supply and sometimes in climate change. For me it is crucial to acknowledge that all three dimensions form an integral part of responsible and forward-looking energy policy. EU’s plans of Energy Union or energy efficiency are good examples of initiatives that take into account all of them. Also I would like to highlight the importance to improve the gas pipeline infrastructure. I believe our countries have a lot of common interests in this regard due to our close geographical situation and similarities in our economies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me now turn to the prospects for economic and trade cooperation between our two countries. Finland is among the top ten trading partners for Latvia, and Latvia’s importance as a trading partner for Finland is also increasing. There are over 370 Finnish companies operating in Latvia. For some Finnish companies the Baltic and the Latvian markets are practically a part of their home market.

This logic works equally as well in the other direction. The attendance in today’s seminar by over 80-member multi-sector business delegation from Latvia shows that also the Latvian companies are more and more interested in the Finnish market. Even so, I believe there is still much potential left for developing our economic and business relations further.

In recent years Finnish companies have been investing in Latvia and the amount of investments continued to increase in 2014 as well. In return, I have noted with pleasure the same development for Latvian investments in Finland, albeit the figures still remain lower. I am confident that Finland offers an excellent operating environment for Latvian businesses, and we very much welcome new investments from Latvia to Finland.

Finally, I would like to point out a couple of very promising areas in our cooperation, where I see lot of potential: clean technologies, digitalization as well as education.

Cleantech business is one of the key priorities for the Finnish Government and Finland belongs to the world’s leading countries in energy and environment technology. We believe that there is a fast growing global need of products, services and processes that enable sustainable use of natural resources while decreasing the harmful process impacts in the environment. Cleantech solutions can be seen as enablers to cost-efficient climate and energy actions.

Finnish cleantech-solutions are based on efficient, competitive market-based solutions, which reduce emissions to the environment. Finnish strengths in cleantech include energy efficiency, renewable energy and biofuels, smart city and services, just to name a few.

I am pleased that Finnish-Latvian cleantech cooperation and businesses have recently been taking steps ahead. We both are among the leaders in the EU in the field of renewable energy, including bioenergy. We have already examples of commercial cooperation in this field, for example Finnish biomass boiler technologies have been utilized in Latvia. I encourage Finnish and Latvian companies and research organizations to do deeper business-oriented innovation cooperation to develop and promote clean technologies and solutions.

Secondly, digitalization is re-shaping manufacturing, services and public sectors everywhere. Digital world changes constantly and therefore in Finland we invest heavily in digitalization through research, development and innovation funding. Finnish companies combine products, services and digitalization in various sectors such as in machinery, energy, health and wellbeing. I am sure that these solutions are of interest to Latvian companies.

Both Finland and Latvia keep also stressing the development of the digital single market at the European level. This would greatly benefit European competitiveness. Finland is happy to cooperate with Latvia to improve our mutual digital environment.

Thirdly, in the agenda of this state visit have been discussions on prospects of cooperation in the field of education between Latvia and Finland. A high level of education is traditionally valued in our countries and is also the key issue for successful economic development. You, as successful business operators, know how crucial it is that high quality education matches the needs of your companies. During this visit Memorandums of Understanding on cooperation will be signed between our Universities.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr President,

Today’s seminars participants represent various sectors which illustrates the potential for vast and mutually beneficial cooperation between Finnish and Latvian businesses. Active and close relations between our countries create ideal conditions for this. The prospects seem good to me – so a common task for us all is to keep up the good work and make it even better.

Thank you – kiitos – paldies!