New Zealand Embassy The Hague, The Netherlands

Speeches from the president of Finland's visit to New Zealand

Speeches from the president of Finland's visit to New Zealand

Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, visited New Zealand on the 18th to the 21st of February, 2007 to meet government, research and business leaders. During this time she also attended a state dinner hosted by the Governor-General Hon Anand Satyanand.

During the president's visit, two significant speeches were made. The following speech was delivered by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Hon Helen Clark at a State Luncheon for the President of Finland:

"It is my great pleasure to welcome Her Excellency, President Tarja Halonen, and her distinguished delegation to Parliament today.

While this is the first visit by a President of Finland to New Zealand, President Halonen has visited our country before. In January 1999 as Foreign Minister of Finland, President Halonen came through New Zealand at the invitation of Hon Simon Upton, en route to the "Ministerial on Ice" meeting at our Antarctic research station at Scott Base. You return this year as we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Scott Base, and we would like to thank Finland for its strong support for the Antarctic Treaty system.

Finland and New Zealand share many similarities - we have roughly the same land areas and population sizes - making us two of the least densely populated developed countries on earth. We are also part of a community of shared values, with our commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. New Zealand and Finland led the world in enabling women to enjoy equal political rights. While New Zealand was the first country in the world in which women won the right to vote, I understand that Finland was the first country to introduce equal and universal suffrage and full political rights for women. That led to nineteen women being elected in Finland's first modern democratic election in 1907 - a remarkable achievement at that time. Indeed it was not until many decades later that women's representation in New Zealand reached anything like those numbers. When I was first elected in 1981 - there were precisely eight women members - admittedly an improvement from the upper limit of four achieved before!

Last year, the Finnish Parliament celebrated 100 years of parliamentary reform and universal suffrage. Our Speaker, Hon Margaret Wilson - the first woman elected to that position in our Parliament - was pleased to take part in the celebrations.

New Zealand and Finland share a vision for a just, secure, and sustainable world. That sees us working actively and closely together in the international sphere on issues including development, security, human rights and the environment.

During our talks today, the President and I talked about our common hopes for a lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, and for future stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both our countries are contributing to these and other security goals around the world.

An area where Finland and New Zealand share a great interest is in international crisis management. Finland, like New Zealand, has long sent military peacekeepers to troubled nations. But, like New Zealand, it recognises that once law and order is stabilised, there is often a great deal of institutional rebuilding to be done and reconciliation to be achieved.

When President Halonen was Foreign Minister in Finland, she launched the European Union's initiative for civilian crisis management. Now Finland has developed a training centre for civilians who go to troubled nations in a range of capacities - including as election and human rights
monitors. This represents a professionalisation of work which our countries and others have undertaken for many years, and we are interested in learning more about the Centre's activities.

Finland, like New Zealand, has had to reshape its economy substantially to sustain high living standards for 21st century conditions. Policy makers here are very familiar with the Nokia story, and with how Finland has emerged over the past decade and a half as a leading innovator in information and communications technologies. Yesterday leading policy-makers and practitioners from Finland and New Zealand came together in Auckland to discuss the strengths and challenges of our respective innovation systems, and to make contacts for future collaboration in research and commercialisation. The seminar, at which President Halonen and the New Zealand Minister of Economic Development Trevor Mallard both spoke, has pointed the way to more collaboration between us. New Zealand has strengths in ICT, and also in the life sciences and biotechnology where Finland too is keen to innovate.

Our scientists and researchers may also interact more in future through New Zealand's relationship with the European Union's science programmes. We are currently seeking to upgrade our science relationship with the European Union from an arrangement to a formal agreement.

Overall Finland's accession to the European Union in 1995 has given more impetus to our bilateral relationship. The EU is New Zealand's second largest trading partner, after Australia, and a valuable partner for New Zealand on many international issues. Finland has just stepped down from its six-month Presidency of the European Union. We are fortunate to have the President and senior Finnish Foreign Affairs officials here so soon afterwards to discuss the experiences and insights gained during the Presidency. We in turn hope that our perspectives on the Asia Pacific region will be of interest to Finland. As partners with common values, we welcome Finland's and the EU's increasing interest and profile in this region.

At our dinner last night, we were able to discuss many policy areas where Finland and New Zealand can learn from each other. In the past year New Zealand Ministers have visited Finland to study both labour productivity and more enlightened penal policies. I see great potential for ongoing policy exchanges across economic, social, and environmental policy. I hope too that the profile this presidential visit gains in Finland will encourage more young Finns to travel to New Zealand under our relatively new working holiday agreement. They will be following in the footsteps of Finnish people who came here from the earliest times of European exploration and settlement, and of those who came in the 1950s to help us build our pulp and paper industry.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I now ask you to rise to a toast to the President and people of the Republic of Finland."

This second speech was made to the Finland-New Zealand Innovation Seminar, Langham Hotel, 83 Symmonds St, Auckland on 19 February 2007 by the Hon Trevor Mallard, Minister for Economic Affairs:

"I am very pleased to welcome to New Zealand Her Excellency Ms Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, and her delegation. I appreciate that each of you has travelled great distances to be here, and with the generous support of your government have made this event possible.

Your visit presents valuable opportunities for cooperating and sharing ideas. Aside from their status as small, developed countries, Finland and New Zealand have many economic and social fundamentals in common. Socially, there is our shared tradition of a comprehensive welfare state and commitments to democracy and social rights. Both states were leaders in granting political rights to women. Economically, both countries were originally built on natural resources. In New Zealand's case, these were land and a climate suitable for pastoral agriculture. Both have undergone a great deal of diversification and growth over several decades. New Zealand wine is a good example of diversification into a new industry. In 1988 New Zealand exported $13 million of wine. By 2005 that had grown to $469 million. Around that time our film industry was decidedly cottage: it now regularly produces Hollywood blockbusters. The point here is that both countries have diversified from, but also away from, their traditional economic underpinnings. Neither country should undervalue its historical economic strengths, but both should be open to previously undreamed of opportunities.

Both economies now operate in a world of much more open and rapid flows of finance, labour, and technology. Despite that, neither needs to see its future in mimicking the industrial structures of the global giants. An encouraging feature of recent country experiences is that it is possible - and often essential - to build success around a distinct national economic identity. The future is in being more like ourselves. Each country is now outward focussed, with growth based on the performance of dynamic, market-led firms, and out of the particular strengths of our resource base, our firm and sector specialties and our particular innovation cultures. There are naturally differences, and understanding these is one of the keys to learning from each other.

New Zealand has excelled in many ways over the past decade. New Zealand's system of regulation supports entrepreneurship and provides one of the world's easiest environments to create new firms. Partly as a result of that, and partly because we are a highly inventive and adaptive people, it has one of the highest rates of firms starting up. The problem is that not enough of them kick on to be reasonably sized and globally connected. Achieving high growth rates from now on will require New Zealand firms to be more productive. We need to build an economy that is more innovative and export-led. It must be one that plays to our strengths and delivers high-value products and services.

This is a core element of the New Zealand government’s strategy for economic transformation. In achieving our aims, we are aware that there is no single recipe for success, and the successful models of particular countries cannot necessarily be directly imported. Our success formula must be tailored to our unique circumstances. Despite that, we must learn from others, and Finland’s experiences with the transformation of its economy must be a source of ideas and inspiration.

My officials tell me that recent examples of Finnish innovation include dairy company Valio's process for extracting lactose from milk, and new high-strength structural steels produced by Ruukki. Companies like Metso Paper supply international markets with advanced machinery based on Finnish expertise in the paper industry. It is in seminars like this – and perhaps more importantly in the informal exchanges that take place outside of set piece presentations – that we learn not just what Finland did, but how it did it, and what particular initiatives made the difference.

New Zealand has experienced impressive growth in many industries, for instance dairy farming, wine, tourism, and film. But it has not yet leveraged off these and other strengths to the extent it could. One example of success is the use of merino wool, a traditional New Zealand export, for high quality clothing by firms like Icebreaker. Or Gallager Group, who developed electric fences to control livestock, and diversified into animal management systems, and eventually security and access control systems.

But we need more firms like these.

Finland is a source of ideas, because it was one of the first countries to consider innovation as an integrated system. This is a theme that I have been exploring during my time as Minister of Economic Development, and one that I will continue to emphasise in my interactions with colleagues, government agencies, and relevant stakeholders in the private sector.

We need to deepen our understandings of innovation as an entire and interactive institutional framework of clustered firms, financiers, research organisations, universities, market development agencies, retail networks, consumers and government. That can lead us to new ways of thinking about regulation, research, finance, and risk, and more importantly about relationships and interactions within that complex system. In the past, we have tended to put too much emphasis on the science system as the basic shaper and driver of innovation. It is still a crucial part of that system, but only a part of it nonetheless.

I will now mention a few policy challenges New Zealand has identified in its economic transformation agenda. One of its key themes is New Zealand's need to internationalise its economy, and to develop more globally competitive firms. Integration into the world economy, in terms of exports and investment abroad, is a key requirement for New Zealand firms to grow. In some ways, this is comparatively difficult for New Zealand. Geographically, New Zealand is more isolated than Finland. Finland shares a continent with many of its closest partners.

One consequence is that New Zealand firms must be even more determined, and more networked, to reach out to overseas markets and access knowledge from abroad. New Zealand's government is supporting this in partnership with industry through Export Year 2007, an initiative aimed at increasing export awareness and capability and helping exporters find opportunities. This has the backing of all the main business groups in New Zealand. New Zealand firms will need to repeatedly renew themselves to compete in international markets. New Zealand has long identified that, for many reasons, its firms perform little research and development - they spend only 0.5 per cent of their value added on R&D. One of New Zealand's recent responses to this has been to consider introducing a tax credit on business R&D expenditures.

In comparison, Finland's firms spend 3.5 percent of value added on R&D. We need to understand the factors that influence this performance and see if any can be replicated here. Differences in policies create the possibility of fruitful dialogue to identify our individual strengths and weaknesses. As part of the economic transformation agenda New Zealand is also focussing on increasing the links between its research organisations, higher education system, and firms.

Financing innovation is a key concern in New Zealand. Its venture capital market has historically been small and underdeveloped. For early stage financing we have in the past few years created public-private venture capital funds, such as the Venture Investment Fund.

In these and other areas, we seek to learn from your experiences, and if possible, to offer you insights from ours. I look forward to an ongoing, valuable relationship with Finland on ways to support innovation.

Thank you again and I wish you well for this morning's session."

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