Minister Lehtomäki’s export promotion trips continue
“I calculated this morning that during my ministerial term of about 3.5 years, I’ve visited as many as 53 countries and there have been more than a hundred travel days each year. When all of my trips are added up, I’ve spent over a year travelling,” said Paula Lehtomäki, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development during a breakfast meeting with journalists on 24 January. Lehtomäki made her latest trips to promote exports and internationalisation in January, when she went to Kazakhstan and to the Persian Gulf region, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“On my trip to Kazakhstan I was accompanied by a trade delegation of over 30 people, whereas in the Gulf region I was travelling with a business delegation of more than 20 people,” Lehtomäki said. “Both trips were made to countries where Finland’s export promotion efforts make a difference. Finland’s trade with Kazakhstan is rising rapidly. For this reason, I inaugurated Finpro’s new export centre in Kazakhstan. We also signed an agreement on the protection of investments between the two countries,” the Minister continued.
The Persian Gulf region commercially important for Finland
Among countries outside Europe, the United Arab Emirates is the third most important target country for Finland’s exports, after the USA and China. Like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates is a very wealthy country, with which Finland should continue to maintain active trade relations. Maintenance of bilateral trade relations is also important because the European Union is not always identified very clearly in the region.
Lehtomäki underlined that it is in Finland’s interests to maintain varied trade relations in all directions, also with countries that are less familiar to us.
EU free trade agreements prepared during Finland’s EU Presidency
As concerns achievements made in trade and development policies during Finland’s six-month Presidency of the European Union in the latter half of 2006, Lehtomäki mentioned that there had been activity in many issues, even though the WTO negotiation round had hardly budged between July and the end of December. Instead – as the WTO negotiations slowed down – preparations were made for extensive free trade agreements that the EU plans to conclude, for instance, with South Korea, India and ASEAN.
These free trade agreements stem from the expanding field of trade policy. The issues have been discussed in Finland’s Trade Policy Programme and, at EU level, in the Global Europe Communication published by the Commission during Finland’s Presidency. The themes of trade and development have emerged as a central topic, which was furthered within the EU during Finland’s Presidency by adopting the Aid for Trade initiative. This initiative concerns supporting developing countries’ trade capacity in various ways, in order to give them the opportunity for more diverse exports.
During Finland’s Presidency, the EU also decided on a model agreement to be applied to the protection of investments; in the sector of development policy, a decision was made on new financing mechanisms, Lehtomäki added
The current status of the Constitutional Treaty to be discussed in Madrid
Being also the Minister responsible for European affairs, Lehtomäki said that during Finland’s Presidency she led a negotiation round charting the status of the Constitutional Treaty. On Friday, 26 January, Spain will arrange a meeting in Madrid for discussing the current situation concerning the Treaty. Lehtomäki will represent Finland at that meeting.
The meeting in Madrid is intended to support the efforts being made by the current Presidency, Germany, to create a road map for continued work on the Constitutional Treaty. Lehtomäki thought that Germany’s goal is probably to hold a more detailed negotiation round on continued work with Member States in April-May.