Canada and Finland have much in common as bilingual northern parliamentary democracies with similar geography, climate and natural resources, particularly forestry. Shared values and commitment to a rules-based international system provide the foundation for similar approaches to issues on the global agenda, such as promotion of international security, democratic development, environmental protection, sustainable northern development, indigenous affairs and regulation of information technology.
Canada is one of few countries mentioned in PM Jyrki Katainen’s government policy program. Finland’s Canada Action Plan “Finland and Canada – Northern Partners” was published in 2011. The Canada Plan seeks to strengthen the bilateral relations via outlining areas for closer cooperation and presenting a number of concrete objectives. Canada and Finland benefit from bilateral visits and meetings.
Canada-Finland relations on Arctic issues are strong. Cooperation takes place predominantly through the Arctic Council, which both countries regard as the leading forum for multilateral cooperation on Arctic issues. With one third of Finnish territory north of the Arctic Circle and 99% north of 60 degrees, Finland is a natural partner for Canada at the Arctic Council.
Finland has high tech Arctic expertise and experience which provide the basis for frequent Canada-Finland exchanges on best practices. Canadian mining companies have a strong presence in Northern Finland; roughly one third of all Finnish mines are Canadian-owned. Overall, Canadian companies are the largest foreign employer in Lapland. Canadian and Finnish officials as well as companies collaborate closely in the area of winter navigation, ice-breaking and shipbuilding.
Relations between Canada and Finland on circumpolar matters have expanded rapidly. Canadian indigenous groups have established regular exchanges with the Sámi indigenous people of northern Finland and Scandinavia. Finland initiated and promotes the EU "Northern Dimension" policy. Canada's involvement as an observer has added momentum to these shared interests, not only on traditional circumpolar matters but also vis-à-vis Northwest Russia and the Baltic Rim.
Finland, like Canada, has traditionally played a very active role in promotion and protection of human rights, humanitarian assistance as well as arms control and disarmament, peacekeeping and crisis management. Over the past few years, Finland has demonstrated particular interest in Canada's human security policies (including Responsibility to Protect), and increasingly on the Canadian "model of multiculturalism".
Finland is a sophisticated and thriving economy that consistently ranks as one of the most competitive and attractive business climates in the world. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2012-20132, Finland had the third-most competitive economy in the world and the second-most competitive economy in Europe, after Switzerland. The main pillars of the Finnish economy are information and communications technologies, industrial equipment manufacturing and forestry sector related activities such as bio-energy from wood biomass and pulp and paper. The country has a growing, vibrant and well-supported cleantech sector and a strong mining cluster in Lapland (northern Finland).
Prior to the economic downturn, Canadian merchandise exports to Finland experienced substantial increases - from $473.9 million in 2006 to $1.0 billion in 2008. In 2010, exports to Finland plummeted to $400.9 million, repositioning Finland from 25th in 2008 to 38th as a market for Canadian exports. . However, in 2012, exports totalled $423.6 million, showing an increase. Canada’s main exports to Finland were mineral fuels and oils (mainly coal), ores, vehicles and aircrafts. Canada’s main import products from Finland were oil (not crude), machinery, pharmaceutical products, and vehicles. In 2012, Canadian merchandise imports totalled $1.046 billion, down from $1.074 billion in 2010 but up from $942 million in 2009.
Finland is a large investor in Canada and a priority market for investment attraction. In 2010, direct investment from Finland in Canada was officially listed at $1.1 billion, making Finland Canada's 18th largest investor. Major Finnish investors in Canada include Nokia, Metso, Wihuri (Winpak), Kemira and others. Canadian direct investment in Finland was officially listed at $152 million for the same time. Canadian companies active in Finland include Bombardier Recreational Products, EXFO and mining firms Agnico-Eagle, InMet and First Quantum Minerals. Canada’s mining presence in Finland is estimated at over $1 billion in cumulative mining assets.
Finnish innovation system has become a model for many countries. Interest from Canada is strong at all levels: Provinces and Territories, national organizations and federal departments. Several visits and exchanges between Finland and Canada have occurred in this area in recent years, and Finnish input has been sought on Canada's R&D Review as well as on telecommunications strategy and other policy areas. Finnish technology in forestry and bio-renewable energy is world-leading and there have been several exchanges with Canada on this subject.
The Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) works closely with Canadian entities focusing on the areas of forest industry (particularly pertaining to pulp, paper and board), renewable energy, water, and regional innovation strategies. VTT has about 30 collaborative projects annually with Canadian research centres and enterprises, as does Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. In 2011, Tekes launched a Canada strategy to develop SME engagement with Canadian companies and opportunities. In 2012, Tekes signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures and has since launched two joint S&T development project calls between Alberta and Finland Negotiations between National Research Council of Canada and Tekes are also on-going.
Related to innovation, Finnish expertise in Arctic-related shipping technologies is of interest to Canada. This includes ship design (ice breakers, defense), oil spill recovery technologies in Arctic conditions and cargo scanners for port security. Finnish companies and Canadian subsidiaries are involved in the Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel and ice-breaker projects as part of the national shipbuilding strategy.
In the Canada-Finland action plan, the Finnish Government commits to enhance trade and innovation with Canada. Finland and Canada have few bilateral irritants and Finland is generally supportive of Canadian positions with regard to EU trade policy issues. With regard to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Finland has been a steady but quiet supporter of negotiations and is expected to ratify CETA upon conclusion of the agreement.
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