Päivi Marianne Pohjanheimo
Ambassador
Embassy of Finland for Mexico and Central America
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Mexico- Finland Cooperation Transcends Business Relations

By Alessa Flores | Thu, 05/28/2020 - 09:36

Q: What have been the greatest achievements of the Finnish Embassy in terms of promotion and consolidation of exports and internationalization of Finnish companies in Mexico?

A: Finland’s economy relies heavily on our international exports, so promotion and internationalization of our companies is one of the main priorities of our embassy and the country’s diplomatic network around the world, and Mexico is no exception. We commit to this work and these efforts with other government stakeholders, especially Business Finland here in Mexico. 

I believe that one of the most important achievements for us in the recent past is our success in boosting the image of Finland in Mexico. We have created a level of intimacy with local stakeholders in a way that is enabling Finland to do meaningful things for Mexico well beyond the business domain. As an example, together with ECOCE, Grupo Bimbo, Italika, Microsoft Mexico, Cisco Systems Mexico and a group of Finnish companies, we have partnered with the government of Mexico City to launch an innovation contest called RetoCDMX. Our objective is to provide visibility to creative people in Mexico City. They can propose technical solutions in two fields:  the solid waste circular economy and the congestion of urban mobility. We have been greatly impressed by the level of creativity and engagement of the participants. We can feel that we are empowering citizens, that people are responding, and we have been amazed by our Mexican industrial partners. We strongly wish to help find solutions to Mexico’s challenges and that our friendship should be strengthened by working together. 

Q: What economic sectors or areas are most appealing to Finnish companies in Mexico?

A: Due to the size of the domestic market of my country, one of Finland´s economic pillars is truly its exports, both in knowledge and technology. Mexico is a potential partner for us since it is proactively willing to begin to shift from the economy of production to the economy of innovation. There is a great deal of talent and know-how in Mexico. It is a country that believes in open markets and just finalized the modernization of the free trade agreements with the US and Canada and also with the EU. 

Its population, interlinked production and value chains with major regional markets in the north, and developing society are driving demand for more specialized goods and services. Having said that, if we look at sectors, connectivity, healthcare, energy, cybersecurity, mining, and technologies related to the bio circular economy are appealing to Finnish companies. Those are all sectors where Finland can contribute to Mexico. 

Q: What does Mexico offer that other countries in the region do not provide to foreign companies?

A: Mexico is an extensive and highly populated country, and it is an economic leader in the region with very rich natural resources. It possesses a privileged geographical position both in terms of access and port infrastructure. Mexico is an internationally connected trade partner through its free trade agreements and it is also the most important commercial partner to the biggest market in the world: the US. Nevertheless, it is still developing its own footprint in many sectors. That creates opportunities for Finnish companies that could thrive in the market, helping them to flourish in the region, since Mexico is the spearhead to other Latin American countries. And we should not forget that Mexico also provides a competitive advantage to foreign companies through its highly trained labor force.
  
Q: What are some of the opportunities that the Finnish market offers to Mexican companies and business people seeking to do business in Finland?

A: One of the wealthiest countries and most stable societies in the world, Finland is at or near the top in most international comparison studies that look at growth and development in the economic, technological and social spheres. Finland has a tradition of business-friendly governments, and the country has a developed infrastructure, a skilled workforce and competitive operating costs. Red tape is minimal and Finland is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. 

In Finland, foreign-owned companies have the opportunity to benefit from government investment incentives and the latest research stemming from the extensive cooperation between Finnish universities and the private sector. Companies can also benefit from the clusters and centers of high-level expertise in different business sectors that aim to maximize the benefits of research, networking and international cooperation. As one of the most competitive and open economies in the world, we believe that Finland has a great deal to offer foreign investors and its international partners.

Q: Where does the trade balance between Mexico and Finland stand today? 

A: According to the most recent statistics, imports from Mexico to Finland in 2019 totaled €298.6 million, exports to Mexico from Finland that same year were €498.4 million. The most imported products were related to motor boats for sports alongside agricultural and forestry tractors. The highest export products from Finland were metallic products, machinery and equipment for the paper industry and specialized machines.

I wish to underline the importance of political visits and the Team Finland delegation visits from Finland to Mexico as very prominent vehicles to establish direct contacts between bilateral public actors and the private sector. From time to time, our work and cooperation on the ground supporting the Finnish companies that are already established in Mexico or new ones with interest in reaching the Mexican market, need to be reconfirmed by different levels of visits from Helsinki, Finland’s capital city. Last year, we received three ministerial delegations to Mexico. Firstly, the visit of the minister of foreign trade, then the president of the Finnish National Education Agency and then the vice minister of defense, not to mention the high-level expert visits on the circular economy and cybersecurity that also provide great perspectives to share from our best practices and to help map out possible cooperation projects between the two countries.

Q: What other missions does the Finnish Embassy in Mexico have, besides those in the commercial sphere?

A: The good political relations between the countries form the platform for all activities. Had we not had reliable and transparent political relations, it would be very challenging indeed to promote commercial and trade activities. As always in diplomacy, the embassy promotes a wide range of bilateral relations between Finland and Mexico. I should remind you that I am also accredited to six countries in Central America, but the focus of our activities is in Mexico. The aim is to promote political, commercial, economic and cultural co-operation, increase the knowledge of Finland as a destination to travel, to work and invest or to study, and to monitor the interests of Finland and its citizens. Other than our commercial activities, the embassy conveys political assessments from Mexico to Finnish decision-makers, increases the knowledge of the country, our expertise and culture, assists Finnish citizens and provides consular and other legislative services. 

Q: What other matters could Mexico address and improve by engaging in noncommercial bilateral cooperation with Finland?

A: Bilateral relations between Finland and Mexico are excellent and contacts between our countries have steadily increased and diversified over time. In addition to the commercial bilateral cooperation there is a great deal of political cooperation at the bilateral, EU-Mexico and global levels. And as the world around us is changing rapidly, there are good opportunities to increase and diversify the cooperation and do it as well in a mutually beneficial manner. 

If we look at the bilateral opportunities the changing times are providing, the list starts with education and life-long learning and all that the sector can provide for any country willing to enjoy stability and growing prosperity. Finland has gained a lot of added value due to its long-time focus on this sector. One of the keys to development has been the collaboration between the authorities, private sector companies and the education sector to search for new solutions for the future. In Finland, we believe that a high-quality education is a platform for all economies and industries to confront and adapt to the challenges and to succeed. R&D and innovation in education is an area of fruitful possibilities between our countries. Luckily, we already enjoy an active student exchange, which is based on a 1982 agreement and will be amplified thanks to an MoU signed with the Mexico City university network. 

One sector that we already are elaborating together is the circular economy and urban sustainability, with the goal to improve the well-being of cities and all its citizens. We have been sharing our sustainable public and private sector solutions with Mexico and Mexico City and the future cooperation between different stakeholders is very promising. 

There are also more possibilities to broaden our existing cooperation on cybersecurity, starting with research and reinforcing our shared knowledge, which in turn bolsters our responsiveness and resilience to face these challenges. 

I would also like to add that there is a relatively lively cultural exchange between Finland and Mexico. Finish music, films, performance art, literature, design and science have been particularly popular in Mexico. Several Finnish bands as well as musicians and representatives of visual, video and dance arts have visited Mexico.

Alessa Flores Alessa Flores Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst