Julkivapaa: 22.04.2007 19:00
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KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND TARJA HALONEN AT THE FINNISH-QATAR BUSINESS SEMINAR IN DOHA ON 22 APRIL 2007
It is a pleasure to visit Qatar again and I am delighted to be here to address this audience.
Qatar has an active role in the multilateral political and economic cooperation system. Qatar and Doha are remembered of the launch of the Doha Development Round in the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in 2001. After that successful launch we have been very concerned on the slow progress in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations. Finland has called for flexibility and strong political leadership, both at home as well as in the international arena, from all main players to finalise the negotiations as soon as possible. While having the multilateral negotiations as a priority, Finland has also strongly supported enhancing our trade and economic relations at the EU-level, through finalising the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council free trade negotiations.
Promoting democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, development and free trade are themes well represented in the international agenda and also in the programme of my official visit. Finland is often considered as an example of a country that has been able to reach a democratic society with sustainable economic growth. This has been done, despite scarce natural resources, by capitalising on free trade and opportunities offered by globalisation, and by investing heavily in knowledge and innovation.
We Finns are a small nation, so we can never compete with quantity, only with quality. For this, we need expertise and expertise is generated through investments in education, in research and development, and in support for innovation. In Qatar, we have paid attention to the development of the Education City and congratulate you for the efforts made to offer high quality education to Qatari people, to add to the sufficiency of well educated work force needed to ensure the economic flourishing.
Commitment by the government and businesses alike to market driven economy based on education, innovation and open government has made Finland one of the most open and competitive economies as well as also one of the leading knowledge-based economies in the world. Finland is close to the top in many international rankings - for example in competitiveness, environmental sustainability, technology, industry-science relations and research and development expenditure. Spending on research and development relative to GDP is today one of the highest in the world - at about 3.5%. Moreover, to foster innovation and R&D, a transparent and predictable regulatory environment has been a prerequisite for favourable developments in this area.
This has enabled the development of specialised companies that stand among global market leaders in their respective fields. Open markets represent an essential discipline if competitive businesses are to perform at the top of their game.
This leads me to my next point. The relations between Finland and Qatar are good, politically, economically and culturally. However, there are many untapped opportunities for considerably intensifying these relations, especially in the field of economic and business relations. There exist marked complementarities in our economies. Qatar is quickly building up infrastructure and industrial base while Finnish companies have highly advanced technology, machinery and services especially in these fields. At the same time, Qatar is the main producer of natural gas and has vast financial resources. I wish that this event provides you with an opportunity to further explore these complementarities.
The business communities are key driving forces in improving economic co-operation between our two countries. Thus, I've noted with satisfaction the increasing interest of Finnish business towards Qatar, which has quickly gained momentum over the last few years. Information and communication technologies, machinery and equipment and paper industry are well-known areas of Finnish business expertise. Potential for increasing trade and investment can be found in many sectors, for example in the areas of infrastructure and logistics, energy and metallurgy, healthcare and well-being as well as other knowledge intensive services.
A high-level business delegation representing several strong areas of Finnish business expertise is participating in this visit, underlining the interest of the Finnish business community in intensifying its co-operation with Qatari business. I am confident that our visit will be a success in this respect. I would also like to warmly welcome Qatari companies to get acquainted with the many excellent investment opportunities provided by Finland. I believe that Minister Pekkarinen will further elaborate on this issue.
To conclude, I would like to warmly thank our hosts, the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry for their efforts in developing relations between Finland and Qatar and contributing to the success of this visit. I wish you a productive and also enjoyable evening.