Welcoming Address by Dr. Paavo Väyrynen
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development
Finland - China - Russia Economic Forum
30 October 2008, Helsinki
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you to this forum, which has has been organised in cooperation between the Chinese and Russian Embassies and Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry for Employment and Economy. During the next two days Finnish, Russian and Chinese representatives will have an opportunity to exchange views and develop contacs focusing on three sectors, which offer ample opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation. We have a lot of common interests in the fields of forestry, logistics, transportation, energy and environment.
In the agenda environment is combined with energy, and rightly so, but it must be taken into account also in forestry, transport and logistics. All our activities must be ecologically sustainable.
Ladies and Gentlemen
A precondition for successful cooperation between China, Russia and Finland – both bilaterally and trilaterally – is a favourable international business environment and a rule based system for trade and investments.
Finland is a strong supporter of economic integration and multilateral system of trade and services, which offers transparent, common rules for trading partners all over the world.
The current financial crisis has clearly demonstrated that we live in a real global economy. The financial crisis will have repercussions in the economies of our three countries, as well. Diminishing export volumes and slowing down of economic growth is a serious risk facing us. Our national actions to cope with the crisis are not enough, we need efficient multilateral cooperation even more than before.
The Russian economy is still heavily dependent on oil prices. Now the efforts to diversify the economy are even more important. Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is important not only to its own business life but also for the global economy. Finland continues to support Russia's accession to the WTO and hopes that the remaining open issues between the EU and Russia will be solved at the earliest possible date.
Also, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) plays an important role in promoting sustainable economic growth and expanding world trade based on multilateralism. Best policy practices are identified and recommendations are given to the governments in areas where innovative reforms are necessary for countries to make progress in a globalised economy.
In 2007 Russia was nominated as a candidate for accession in the organisation and China as a partner country for enhanced engagement. Finland welcomes this development and I strongly encourage Russia and China to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the OECD.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The growing volume of trade between China, Russia and Finland means growing need for transport capacity. Intense cooperation between our three countries is necessary for the development of the Trans Siberian railway as a competitive solution with essentially shorter transport time compared to sea freight. There is a mutual interest of railway companies of all three countries to develop a regular container train service between China, Russia and Finland; this rail link could also serve the other Nordic countires and the other countries around the Baltic Sea.
Barents cooperation has promoted improvement of East-West transport infrastructure and projects to make the Northern Transport Corridor a viable and well-functioning multi-modal transport corridor. Projects such as the Barents Link are needed to include the Barents region in the wider global network of economic cooperation. The Barents Link railway is designed to cut across from Narvik in Norway, through Sweden to Finland and crossing over to Russia and further to the Far East.
Another important potential railway link in the Barents region is the connection from the Nordic countries to North West Russia via Salla and Kantalahti. A national feasibility study on this connection has been made a few years ago and it is now being updated. This route would open a direct rail connection from Murmansk to the Baltic Sea region. When the Northern Sea Route is opened for regular traffic from Asia to Europe, the Murmansk harbour could become an important hub for container traffic between Asia, America, North Western Russia and the Baltic Sea Region.
Let me also mention the growing air traffic between Europe and Asia. Finland is an important gateway offering the shortest and fastest flight connections from Europe to Asia. A well functioning aviation network connecting Asia with the EU and the North Western parts of Russia benefits us all.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The EU and Russia are major trading partners and the Finnish-Russian border is an important gateway into the Russian market. In addition to transport there are other important sectors in the economic cooperation between the European Union and Russia. Economic and environmental issues form one of the four so called 'Common Spaces' in the EU-Russia relations. The decision to replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with a new comprehensive agreement has been made. The new agreement could pave the way for a future free trade area between the EU and Russia once Russia has become a member of the WTO.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage economic operators in Finland, in the Russian Federation and in China to seek new business opportunities and ideas. The global financial crisis may bring also positive effects by enhancing the competitiveness and boosting innovative solutions. Now it is even more important to engage in international cooperation and networking, which is the goal of this economic forum.