Finland, a member of the European Union (EU) since 1995, has redefined itself from a quiet agricultural based economy to a trend setting, global center for technology. Finland has commercial clout far in excess of its modest 5.3 million population. Finland routinely ranks at the very top in international surveys of research and development funding, competitiveness, transparency, literacy, and education.
Helsinki, a pocket-sized green maritime metropolis, will be the Design Capital for 2012; a year-long event showcasing the global influence of Finnish design and innovation. In Finland, nature reigns supreme and it is no surprise that Helsinki was the site of the first LEED certified building in the Nordics. Finland, along with all its Nordic neighbors, has a focused interest in green build and energy efficient and intelligent building products, services and technologies.
Contrary to popular misconception, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia. It does share with Russia a 900-mile long border, the longest contiguous land border in the EU. Interestingly, nearly 40 percent of the EU’s overland transshipments into Russia go through Finland underscoring Finland’s role as a regional business hub complemented by its logistical capabilities. Russia is Finland’s largest trading partner and a variety of Finnish companies are successful in Russia, a challenging marketplace. We believe that there are opportunities for certain U.S. exporters to exploit this existing business by providing U.S. goods via the Finnish corridor. Finland is striving to capitalize upon its unique position as the center of a rapidly developing marketplace formed by northwestern Russia, the Scandinavian countries, and the Baltic States, with more than 80 million prospective consumers.
Two-way trade between the U.S. and Finland was about $6.9 billion in 2009, chiefly in the electronics, paper, medical equipment, and telecommunications industries. The U.S. remains an important trading partner for Finland outside of Europe. With Finnish imports of U.S. goods and services in 2009 valued at around $2.1 billion, the United States was Finland’s seventh largest supplier after Russia, Germany, Sweden, China, the Netherlands and France. In 2009, the U.S. was Finland’s fourth largest customer after Germany, Sweden, and Russia, with Finnish exports of goods and services to the United States valued at about $4.9 billion.
Finland is the only Nordic country to replace its national currency, the Finnish mark, with the euro. Finland has a largely homogeneous population. There are about 5,000 Americans resident in Finland and some 50,000 visit the country each year. Per capita income was about $44,725 in 2009.
Finland’s import climate is open and receptive to U.S. products and investments. While the domestic market is small, Finland can effectively serve as a base for business operations in the Nordic, Baltic, and/or Western Russian markets. There is one specific trade barrier that starkly contrasts with an otherwise remarkable transparent and predictable business environment. In 2008, the Finnish government approved a pharmaceutical reference pricing system. The new law casts products protected by process patents to the reference pricing restrictions applicable to generic products and deprives pharmaceutical process patent holders in Finland appropriate compensation for the value of the intellectual property they created in the original products.