Speech by Minister Väyrynen at the China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum

Speech by Minister Väyrynen at the China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum

China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum
Helsinki, 10 of July 2009

Opening speech by Dr. Paavo Väyrynen
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development

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Your Excellency, Vice-minister Gao Hucheng, distinguished members of the Chinese and Finnish delegations, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to warmly welcome our Chinese guests to Finland. It is a great honour for us and for me personally to be able to host this wide and diversified delegation. Only two weeks ago your Vice Premier Mr. Li Keqiang visited Finland. These visits are a strong proof of the excellent bilateral relations and an intensive dialogue and interaction between Finland and China.

Next year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries. Especially during the last 30 years our relations have been evolving remarkably. I have been in a privileged position to follow this development very closely. I had the honour to host as Foreign Minister the first official visit from China to Finland 1979 when your Vice Premier Geng Biao visited Finland. In 1984, still as Foreign Minister, I made an official visit to China. There were also 5 Finnish companies represented in my delegation – among them Kone and Nokia, which are present also today.

During the last three decades the development in Sino-Finnish economic and commercial relations has been enormous. Last year our bilateral trade volume reached almost 6,5 billion euros. China is our biggest trading partner in Asia - and our fourth biggest globally speaking. For China Finland is the biggest partner among all the Nordic countries.

Approximately 240 Finnish companies have a permanent presence in China - and despite the economic crises we are facing currently, more and more Finnish enterprises establish their presence in China. Today, Finnish companies have invested around 7 billion euros in China, their turnover in China exceeds 17 billion euros and they employ more than 30 000 people. All these figures are astonishing given the size of Finland.

Over the past few years a new phase in globalization has begun and the tide may be turning. In the past, the flow of foreign direct investments was primarily towards China. Now, the Chinese companies have started to look for new partnerships and investing abroad - and not only in sectors such as minerals, petroleum and other raw materials, but also in high technology. We welcome this new development.

Vice-minister Gao, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Economic and Trade Forum is extremely timely. Because of the recession economic activity has slowed down all over the world and the media is full of negative news. But your visit and this forum are definitely something very positive. It shows that the best way to meet the challenges of the economic crisis is to continue our efforts in promoting trade and investments and to search for partnerships for common benefit.

For open economies like China and Finland, it is of utmost importance that global trade and investment flows are as free as possible. As the latest figures show, the export led economies have been hit worse than ever before by the current crisis. So far, the biggest impact on most economies has been inflicted by the dramatic drop in global demand. There is no quick-fix for that problem as the demand will only return when overcapacity is reduced and when the financial markets return to normal. Nevertheless, I am confident that the economic bedrock for our industries and entrepreneurs will be stronger than ever after the current crisis than before.

Today it is more important than ever to stress the importance of free trade as one of the key elements in getting out from the current crisis. Major trading nations have - for the most part - resisted protectionist pressures for trade and investment. A slide into protectionism would have very negative consequences and would slow down the journey back to growth path.

Finland on her part continues to closely monitor developments in our exports markets. We want to promote openness and non-discrimination in trade and, more generally, transparent, accountable and effective public policies. We welcome the steps the WTO has taken to monitor by regular reporting on the measures the WTO members have taken due the current crisis.

A breakthrough in the WTO Doha Round negotiations would be needed to give a positive stimulus to the world economy. My high hope is that the negotiations on the modalities could be concluded by the end of this year. The conclusion of the Doha trade negotiations with an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive outcome is certainly in the interest of all WTO members.

Finland and China have a lot to gain, particularly in further liberalisation of trade in industrial products. Among the sectors to be discussed today between our economic operators are environmental technologies, machinery, information and communication technologies and forest-based industries. There are some obstacles to trade and investments in these sectors in China to be discussed later this morning with Vice-minister GAO. Removing them would be beneficial to both countries. Liberalisation packages of these sectors are also on the table in the WTO negotiations. I would very much like to work with our Chinese colleagues in building upon these initiatives in a manner that serves our respective economic operators.

Vice-minister Gao, ladies and gentlemen,

Finland and China have a lot to offer to each other in economic cooperation. Our trading relationship is based on mutual benefit and on pursuit of maintaining trade and investment flows open and free. This is in line with the objective of this Forum which is to facilitate trade between Chinese and Finnish companies and economic operators and to address any possible trading problems.

Finland and China may be of very different size but very similar in objectives and interests that relate to international economic cooperation. The fact that both China and Finland are actively seeking new markets, new investment possibilities and new partnerships is a positive and mutually beneficial phenomenon.

Vice-minister Gao,

your initiative on this Forum is an innovative and ground-breaking way of supporting the cooperation of our economic operators and I would once more like to congratulate and thank you for it.

I wish every success to this important forum. I hope that the business representatives are able to have fruitful contacts and dialogue and why not also new contracts during this morning and afternoon. I thank you for your attention.