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Finland looks to win back export volumes to UAE

Abu Dhabi: Education and health care are key areas for Finnish companies to boost commercial relations with the UAE, the European country’s Ambassador has said.

“We know the potential of this country and area… we are talking about long-term business and trade opportunities,” Ilkka-Pekka Simila said, who added that Finnish exports to the UAE remain steady. In 2012, the country’s export volumes to the UAE totalled €250 million and the 2013 figure is expected to be at the same levels.

But Finland’s exports are far below the highs of 10 years ago when they were valued at more than €1 billion. “Since then exports have declined partly because Nokia’s phone production shifted to other countries,” Simila said.

Major Finnish exports to the UAE are currently telecommunications and sound recording equipment, electric and power generating machinery, paper, specialised machinery for industry and iron and steel.

But Simila is bullish on exports picking up again with prospects centred around multiple sectors including renewable energy, health care and education. Some 1,000 Finns live and work in the UAE; though small compared to other nationalities it is still sizable when taken in the context of Finland’s population of just 5.4 million.

More than 50 companies have also established a presence in the country. While the opportunities are there to increase trade relations, Simila admits that it is ultimately “up to the companies to come”. He said distance presents a hurdle for some.

The UAE and Finland have an open skies agreement, but so far Finnair, the national carrier, is the only airline directly connecting the two countries. But it only flies during the winter.

Simila said: “It is of course a decision for the airlines to increase flights. It would enhance bilateral relations.”