DUBAI: Imports and exports between Finland and the UAE reached a combined value of more than half-a-billion dollars in 2020, re-enforcing the need to further strengthen ties between the two countries, Finnish Ambassador Marianne Nissilä told Arab News.
The combined level of business puts the UAE as the biggest trading partner with the Scandinavian country in the Gulf region.
Nissilä said Expo served as the optimal platform to build on Finnish relations with the UAE and the wider Gulf region, speaking on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Finand Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of her country’s pavilion.
“Our participation is a very strong sign of interest in the UAE and the Gulf region,” Nissilä said.
Despite being relatively remote geographically, the UAE is Finland's second-largest export partner and largest import partner in the Gulf region, with over 70 Finnish companies operating in the Emirates.
Saudi Arabia is Finland’s largest partner with a value of $387.52 million, with the UAE coming second with Finnish exports to the Emirates amounting to $327 million.
But imports to Finland from the Kingdom amounted to some $20 million in 2020, while the UAE exported around $345 million.
With more than 120 Finnish companies participating in this year’s mega-event, this represents the largest convergence of business from Finland in the Arabian Peninsula, Nissilä said.
“Expo 2020 Dubai provides a vital platform for Finland and our 120 partner companies, enabling us to strengthen our shared goals in areas such as sustainability, education, digitalization and happiness.” Mika Lintilä, Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs, said.
Nissilä, a career diplomat, highlighted the importance of Finnish companies sharing their “know-how, solutions, products and services” with the UAE, which has made great strides in sustainable development.
“Together with the UAE and the global business community, we aim to co-create and innovate agile, sustainable, and smart solutions for future business opportunities and societal development,” Lintilä noted.
One of the companies is Soletair Power, which has developed a system that captures CO2 from the air and synthesizes it with hydrogen captured from water to make hydrocarbons, which can later be refined to produce clean fuel, gas and sustainable plastic production.
Using renewable energies like solar and wind, their machine produces hydrogen after splitting water atoms before mixing them with CO2 collected from the air.
“The idea is to power it using renewable energy,” Alexandre Eykerman, the Energy Business Director of Wärtsilä, a company that has invested in Soletair Power, told Arab News.
Expo 2020 Dubai, which was postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has put sustainability to the forefront as the climate change crisis shows no signs of abating.
192 countries from around the world have gathered to put forth ideas to show what a sustainable future could be.
“Finland and the host country, the UAE, have outstanding diplomatic and business relations. However, there is still scope for deepening them. We can achieve this through dialogue and learning from each other,” Lintilä said.
“New trade deals are in the making,” she told Arab News, adding she had “every reason to believe” the UAE saw Finland as an “essential trading partner and a lucrative investment destination.”
“The next steps in developing economic cooperation and trade have already been designed – now it is time to move ahead,” she added.
Yet cooperation between both countries is not merely limited to economic activity, with the UAE and Finland signing last month a memorandum of understanding on enhancing political consultations.
“There is an active political dialogue between the two countries as well as cooperation in other areas like education,” she concluded.
“In designing the pavilion, we sought to bring a fragment of Finnish nature to the UAE and Dubai. The pavilion was inspired by the thin white layer of first snow that covers the Finnish landscape at the beginning of winter,” Teemu Kurkela, the founder of the firm, said.
The main entrance, meanwhile, was inspired by a traditional Arabic tent, giving way for “two cultures to meet in the architectural concept of the pavilion,” he added.