Speech by Minister Toivakka at the opening ceremony of the Astana Business Forum
Esteemed Minister of Energy Mr. Shkolnik,
Esteemed National Commissioner of Expo 2017 Mr. Zhoshybayev.
Distinguished Members of Business Communities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be in Astana with a Finnish business delegation. I would like to thank the Kaznex Invest and Finpro for organizing this seminar. This is a great opportunity for the members of my business delegation to meet with their Kazakh counterparts. It is a valuable occasion for networking and discovering new opportunities.
Since Finland's first State Visit to Kazakhstan in 1992, the leadership of both countries has lent their support to the development of business ties. The work has yielded results. Today, Kazakhstan is Finland’s biggest trade and investment partner in Central Asia. Close to one hundred Finnish companies are doing business with Kazakhstan and many more are studying the possibilities to do so. The economic relations between our countries are well-developed. Yet, there is significant potential for further development.
Yesterday, it was the 9th time Finland and Kazakhstan met in the framework of Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation. We had productive discussions with Minister Shkolnik about the bilateral trade relations between our countries. I look forward to continuing these discussions today with other interlocutors in Astana.
Two themes are well present in today's business forum. These are education and clean-tech.
Harsh winters are common in both Kazakhstan and Finland. Finland's cold climate and lack of fossil fuel resources are major reasons why our country has become a hotbed for environmental technology. In fact, relative to our GDP we are one of the leading clean-tech nations in the world.
Kazakhstan is a land of rich in natural resources. Despite this, your nation has understood the importance of diversification and strives towards a green economy. Finnish companies have much to offer for achieving such goals. Indeed, the Finnish delegation's members specialized in cleantech are global elite. They provide the best products for solving energy efficiency and environmental challenges.
From the beginning of the 1990's Kazakhstan has wisely invested in education. This is an investment for the future and development of the country. Finland joined the list of world's 30 most developed countries during the last century and our praised education system played a key role in this. The Finnish delegation's members in the field of education are top-class private companies, vocational institutions, universities and universities of applied sciences. Education is the necessary foundation of innovation and the cornerstone of economic growth in the 21st century.
Our economic relations have never been so intense and dynamic as they are today. Finland was actively involved in Kazakhstan's WTO accession negotiations and we are pleased with their successful conclusion. The WTO-membership demonstrates Kazakhstan's dedication for free trade and multilateral trading system. A new enhanced partnership agreement between the European Union and Kazakhstan is also on its way and will soon be signed.
This year, Kazakhstan is celebrating the 550th anniversary of Kazakh statehood. The country has always been an important transit point between Europe and Asia. The New Silk Road highlights this legacy. For Finnish citizens visiting Kazakhstan is easier than ever before because of the recent decision to grant visa-freedom for short visits. The next step for supporting movement between our countries would be opening direct flights. This would create new possibilities for the further development of business and tourism. It is time for the land of the great steppe and the land of the thousand lakes to get to know each other even better.
I wish all the participants of the business forum successful networking and a productive day. Let us inspire each other.