Minister Paatero's speech at the Myanmar and the Philippines Business Forum

Mrs. Sirpa Paatero, Minister for International Development of Finland. The Myanmar and the Philippines Business Forum, 3 December 2014.

Good afternoon!

Welcome to Finland for those of you that are visiting. December may not be the brightest month to visit here, but you are warmly welcome. And I'm also really glad to see so many Finnish companies here.

As a quite new Minister it has been really intresting to get to know what kind of activity we have in Asia. The development involves nowadays many kind of co-operation (trade, diplomatic, civil society).

Finland has excellent and deepening relations with both Myanmar and the Philippines. We have had 60 years of diplomatic relations with Myanmar and 59 years with the Philippines.

Both countries offer a lot of potential for Finnish companies. Myanmar has high potential for rapid growth and the Philippines' economy is growing at a pace of 6-7 % (per cent) which is among the fastest growth rates in Asia.

These countries have rich natural resources, abundant work-force and a strategic location. Kind of a gateway to the growing Asia.

In Myanmar, there is a lot of potential for co-operation for example in mining, construction machinery, energy production, forestry and the infrastructure sector.

In Myanmar, there is a lot of potential for cooperation in mining and construction machinery, energy production, forestry, and infrastructure sector. In the Philippines, potential sectors are for example energy, waste management and ICT. We could also work together in education in both countries.

The Philippines is one of the most populous countries in Asia and 12th most populous in the world. The skillful, English speaking work force and the location by the world's busiest maritime trade route make the Philippines a potential hub for foreign business.

Today, all eyes are on Myanmar. The structures and mechanisms of the economy are in change.

The international community welcomes the changes and is extending its support to Myanmar.

Myanmar will be one of our most important development partners in Asia and we are currently programming development assistance together with Myanmar's Government.

We aim at reaching a 15-18 million euros (€) annual level in the fields of education, democracy and rule of law, also covering good governance of natural resources. We also continue our support to the peace process.

Finland supported in the European Union lifting all sanctions on Myanmar. Sanctions were lifted last year. Finland also supported reinstatement of GSP preferences for Myanmar, which was granted last year as well.

Changing the structure of the economy takes a lot of time. There are a few challenges left still.

I’m aware that the Government of Myanmar is working actively in order to establish a sound environment for international companies.

The development has been very fast and many reforms are on their way.

Finland looks forward to developing closer trade relations with Myanmar and the Philippines. The Finnish Minister of Economy Mr. Vapaavuori will head a business delegation to Myanmar and the Philippines in February.

I hope you all find this seminar fruitful and useful and find new ways for co-operation! Thank you!