WITH the vast distance, one would be excused for assuming that Finland, the world’s northernmost country, has not got Malaysia within its “radar.”
Finnish Ambassador Lauri Korpinen is out to dispel this “myth” (Finland is known as the land of myths and legends, by the way).
The burly envoy who carries two Nokia cell phones has been making a “connection” with Malaysia.
“Most Finns know Malaysia as a tourist country through the advertisements they have seen on TV.
“Each week, we have Finns arriving in Langkawi on chartered flights. Last year, we had 14,000 arrivals in Malaysia and I am trying to promote Sabah and Sarawak, which have great diving spots.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see many Finnish tourists in Kota Kinabalu recently. Now, I have to do more to better expose my country here,” he said in an interview on Thursday, a day after President Tarja Halonen was sworn in for a second six-year term following her electoral success in January.
Although Malaysians might generally be unaware of Finland’s tourist draw – with 188,000 lakes and a quarter of its territory lying north of the Artic Circle, the winter can be enjoyed like nowhere else – the Nordic country is known the world over for its technological exploits.
For years, Finland has been ranked top in the world for use of computer networks and the Internet.
And the world’s first regular mobile telephone service was launched jointly by Telecom Finland and Nokia, Finland, back in 1972.
The telecommunications and electronics sectors are among the main industries of Finland.
The Helsinki-based Oy Nokia Ab is the world’s largest producer of cellular phones, and holds the largest market share in Malaysia in terms of sales.
Nokia is among the 45 Finnish enterprises operating here in niche fields that include power generation, aviation, construction, finance, education, pulp and paper, fertiliser production, special machinery sales and engineering software.
The big names include Tekcnomen (software), Fortum Power (power production), Kone (elevators), Storaenso (paper milling), Kemira (fertilisers), Vaisala (weather forecasting), Comptel (telecommunications) and Partek (material handling systems for harbours/terminals).
Korpinen said his Government was eager to step up dealings with Malaysia, adding that the visit of Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Mari Kiviniemi with a trade delegation here last October was proof of this.
Kiviniemi brought along 16 business leaders representing prominent Finnish industries such as export financing, information and communications technology, and equipment and machinery manufacturing.
“The business seminars and discussions went very well. More Finnish companies are looking for business opportunities in Malaysia,” said Korpinen, who is preparing for another highlight – the visit of Finnish Defence Minister Dr Seppo Kaariainen.
Dr Kaariainen is scheduled to arrive sometime this month at the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
This will be a key visit as Finland is attempting a breakthrough into Malaysia’s defence industry.
Malaysia has purchased defence equipment from Finland’s Scandinavian neighbour Sweden, but no weaponry has been sourced from Finland, which is said to be interested in assembling armoured vehicles here and is looking for potential partners to manufacture or assemble the vehicles.
Korpinen named Patria, Finland’s armoured modular vehicle (AMV) maker, as the interested party.
Korpinen said it was time to explore business with Malaysia in the defence arena.
On the brighter side of things, Korpinen, who is into his mid-term since his posting here in 2004, was pleased to announce that Finnish companies in Malaysia were performing well.
Jeks Construction has expanded its plant in Seremban and Vaisala would also get bigger, he said.
“Malaysia is becoming an investment target for Finnish firms due to your excellent infrastructure and airport, lower costs plus the availability of broadband and telecommunication services.”
“There is also less bureaucracy and red-tape involved now,” added Korpinen, who was previously ambassador to South Korea.
Bilateral trade volume last year totalled 450mil euros (RM2.25bil), with Malaysian exports registering an 11% increase.
Korpinen also raised another interesting fact about his country – its expertise in shipbuilding.
Finland loves building record-breaking ships and lays claim to the following: building the world’s biggest night ferry, Color Fantasy; biggest cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas; biggest catamaran, Stena Explorer; and biggest day ferry, Ulysses.
And one more record is to fall – the world’s largest and most expensive cruise liner, Genesis, is under construction in Finland. Korpinen said the US$1.24bil (RM4.58bil) liner, ordered by Royal Caribbean International, will hold up to 6,400 passengers.
There was another record that the envoy wanted highlighted: a recent World Economic Forum report listed Finland as the most competitive country in the world.
“In the growth competitiveness index, Finland is now No 1 for the third time in a row, and four times in five years. As such, Malaysian firms should consider investing in Finland,” he concluded.
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