Anne Lammila – Finnish Ambassador to Mexico

WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN MEXICO SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT UNDER ENRIQUE PEñA NIETO?

Mexico’s economic situation looks promising. The “Pacto por Mexico” creates the conditions for resolving structural problems in the Mexican economy. The reforms concerning education, telecommunications and the banking sector have already been passed. Still in progress are the reforms for taxation and Pemex, the state-owned company. Provided that all these changes succeed in practice, Mexico has the possibility of climbing to the top ten of the world’s economies and later to go on even higher. 

AS AN AMBASSADOR WHAT IS YOUR ACTION PLAN FOR DEVELOPING AND STRENGTHENING RELATIONS BETWEEN FINLAND AND MEXICO?

I hope that president Enrique Peña Nieto will be able to visit Finland in the near future. It would be the fi rst visit of a Mexican president to Finland and therefore is very historic. There are also plans of high level visits both from Finland to Mexico and from here to Finland.

Our goal is to strengthen Finnish relations with Mexico especially in the fields of commerce and investment. Mexico is a very inviting country for Finnish companies, because the economy is growing and open, the geographical location is excellent and the population is young and relatively well-educated.

The business environment in Mexico is much easier than the ones in many other Latin American countries. We are also trying to draw Mexican investment into Finland. Finland is a gateway to Russia and from Finland it is also possible to access the markets of the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as Germany and other European Union countries. The labor force in Finland is extremely well-qualifi ed and educated and includes, for instance, many engineers who are worth capitalizing on.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT SITUATION OF THE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FINLAND AND MEXICO?

The relationship between our countries is excellent, but somewhat distant. The picture of Mexico transmitted to Finland by international news agencies is often too negative. It would be important to arrange more high level visits and by doing this stimulate people’s interest toward Mexico and Finland.

To our delight the Finnish Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade, Mr. Alexander Stubb, visited Mexico at the beginning of May with a business delegation of approximately 30 people. He was also accompanied by the Foreign Minister of Estonia, Mr. Urmas Paet. Hopefully this visit will generate more economic cooperation between Finnish, Estonian and Mexican companies.

In the fi eld of culture our cooperation is delightfully rich and diverse. Especially Finnish music, design, cinema, theater, dance and modern art. Each has gained wide popularity in Mexico.

WHAT ARE THE AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY THAT YOU SEE IN TERMS OF STRENGTHENING RELATIONS BETWEEN FINLAND AND MEXICO?

I believe that Mexico could benefi t from Finnish knowledge in the area of education. Finland has been placed right at the top in the OECD’s PISA studies in regard to literacy, mathematic and natural science capabilities with 15-year-old pupils. We are especially pleased to share our experiences with Mexico now that education has been made a priority during the new government.

We could also strengthen our cooperation in the environmental fi eld. Finland and Mexico have already co-operated for over thirty years in the forest sector and the majority of the Mexican forest experts have visited Finland. Finland also took part in formulating Mexico’s 25-year national forest strategy. Now, it would seem, is the time to widen the cooperation toward commerce in the fi eld of forest and pulp technologies. Also, the water sector as well as the waste management sector offer exciting new possibilities.

Other promising areas are green construction; clean technologies; health care and well-being; the food industry and retail trade. Add to the list energy and the mining industry. There are also infrastructure; offshore industry and information and communication technology (IT).

HOW HAS THE COMMERCE BETWEEN MEXICO AND FINLAND EVOLVED OVER THE PAST 5 YEARS?

The Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and the European Union has benefi ted the commerce between Finland and Mexico. The year 2008 was by this far the best year as the trade between the countries rose to over 600 million Euros. The year 2009 saw a drop in the trade in consequence of the global fi nancial crisis. In 2012 the trade between Finland and Mexico amounted to 420 million Euros. Compared to the year before, the Mexican exports to Finland decreased by 10% for a, total of 183 million Euros. The value of the Finnish exports to Mexico was 236 million Euros. This meant a 33% increase compared to the previous year.

Only a few years ago Mexico passed Chile as Finland’s second most important trading partner in Latin America, coming in right after Brazil. Of the total Finnish exports the Mexican share is 0.4% and in total imports 0.3%. However, it is important to remember that a substantial part of Finnish exports to Mexico takes place through third countries such as the Netherlands and the U.S. This trade, however, does not appear in the statistics.

WHAT IS THE ROLE PLAYED BY MEXICO REGARDING FINNISH INVESTMENT FOR NORTH AMERICA?

Approximately 40 Finnish companies have installed themselves in Mexico and the majority of their sales are directed to North America. The biggest companies include the mobile phone manufacturer Nokia and the elevator company Kone. Large companies present in the Mexican market are also Luvata, which makes copper plates and KPC, which concentrates on car part manufacturing. In addition to those already established in Mexico, there are over 70 Finnish companies that have their representatives in Mexico. For example, Vaisala has installed over 600 weather stations on the Mexican coast.

HOW HAS THE FINNISH INVESTMENT IN MEXICO EVOLVED?

The metal industry companies have the longest history in Mexico. They have already operated here for approximately 25 years. The cost basis of the Finnish investments in Mexico in 2012 was 96 million Euros according to statistics from the Bank of Finland. There have been only a few new investments from Finland in Mexico during recent years. Many of the companies have been frightened by the negative and one-sided picture that the media has given regarding the security situation in the country. And instead of Mexico, they have decided on investing in the growing Asian markets.

WHAT IS THE SATISFACTION LEVEL OF FINNISH FIRMS WITH THEIR OPERATIONS IN MEXICO?

The companies operating in Mexico are mainly quite satisfi ed with their operations in the country. Only few have reported problems, mostly with the bureaucracy. There has been some concern at the northern border of the country as the security situation there has gotten worse. Nevertheless, none of the Finnish companies have abandoned Mexico. In general, the companies operating in the country see a lot of potential both for their respective businesses as well as for Mexico’s economic growth.

CAN WE EXPECT ANY ADDITIONAL FINNISH INVESTMENT IN MEXICO IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

The Embassy’s Commercial Offi ce, Finpro, has recently received plenty of assignments from Finnish companies interested in investing in Mexico. The visit of Mr. Stubb, the Finnish Minister, was organized specifi cally at the request of these companies. I am confi dent that the visit will pay off and we will get to hear from new investments sometime this year and in the years to come. In the near future a Finnish company called JOT Automation will open an office in the state of Baja California.

ANY LAST COMMENT FOR THE MEXICONOW SUBSCRIBERS?

I am really happy to be able to represent my country particularly in Mexico. I have been here as an Ambassador for almost two years and I have enjoyed every moment. Mexico is truly a wonderful country. I have had the pleasure to visit your beautiful culture destinations, the pyramids, as well as the beaches and the mountains. Everywhere the reception has been friendly and the Mexicans have welcomed me in a wonderful way. My job is inspiring and rewarding. I see many possibilities for increasing and diversifying the cooperation between Finland and Mexico.