Finland has taken a strong stance against the growing trend of protectionist policy within the European Union (EU). This position was made public in a recent speech by the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elina Valtonen (kok).
Valtonen was speaking at the Finnish Export Day of the Central Chamber of Commerce and ICC. In her address, she emphasized the importance of trade openness for Finland’s foreign policy. She made it clear that the EU should lean towards a more market-oriented economy, distancing itself from protectionism.
“Protectionism has no place in the internal market, and it certainly doesn’t across the Atlantic,” Valtonen proclaimed, in reference to EU-US bilateral relations. She pointed out that protectionist practices distort competition, citing the heavy government subsidies poured into companies by Germany and France as an example.
In her speech, Valtonen drew attention to the bilateral trade agreements between Japan and Canada, which were concluded by the EU, as concrete examples of successful open trade. She highlighted how Finnish companies have been leading beneficiaries among EU countries in terms of the agreement with Japan. She also noted that Finnish exports to Canada have seen the highest increase compared to any other EU country.
Currently, the EU is in the midst of negotiating trade agreements with the South American free trade area Mercosur and Australia. Valtonen expressed optimism for positive outcomes from the ongoing Mercosur negotiations in the coming weeks.
Finland’s Alliances within the EU
Following Valtonen’s speech, the event’s host, journalist Tapio Nurminen, queried about Finland’s alliances within the EU. Valtonen acknowledged the myriad discussions taking place at the EU tables, noting that no one openly admits to practicing protectionism.
“However, those who are state-subsidized tend to be marginalized,” she observed. She identified Sweden and the Netherlands as countries that share Finland’s viewpoint, forming a familiar reference group for Finland in economic matters. She also pointed out that Finland’s stance is well understood in Eastern and Southern Europe.
“Consider Portugal’s economic rise. It’s not based on state subsidies, proving that a free-market economy can indeed thrive,” she concluded.