Seppo Honkapohja
Johtokunnan jäsen
Pohjois-Karjalan Talousfoorumi, avaussanat
Outokumpu 21.3.2014

Pohjois-Karjalan talousfoorumi - North Carelia Economic Forum

Hyvät talousfoorumin osanottajat, ladies and gentlemen
Minulla on järjestäjien puolesta ilo toivottaa teidät tervetulleeksi Pohjois-Karjalan talousfoorumiin, jota maakuntaliitto isännöi. Ohjelma on toteutettu yhdessä Pohjois-Karjalan valtuuskunnan kanssa.
Foorumin teemana ovat Euroopan ja Suomen talouskasvun haasteet ja myös Pohjois-Karjalan tulevan kehityksen suunnan hahmottaminen. Keskustelujen lähtökohtana on Euroopan ja Suomen heikko talouskehitys vuodesta 2008 alkaen. Kuvio 1 havainnollistaa tilannetta. 
This forum focuses on the growth challenges in Europe, Finland and the region of North Karelia. Let me start with Figure 1.
Figure 1 shows a good starting point for our discussions. Growth performance of the United States, Euro area and Finland has been very slow and all three entities have fallen far behind the past trends. In the recovery from the crisis, performance of the euro area has been noticeably worse than that of the United States, while Finnish performance is somewhat worse than that of the euro area average.
Let me focus on Finland a little bit more. Figure 2 shows the time paths of industrial production levels in major sectors: forest industry (in yellow), metal excluding electricity and electronics (in red), electricity and electronics (in green) and chemicals (in blue). Major shocks have hit our two biggest sectors. There is a gradual decline in the forest sector while in the electronics we see a huge drop in 2009 and further gradual decline after that.
These shocks are not the only difficulties faced by the Finnish economy. The problem with population aging and declining labor force at present and in the future is a known problem. The latest shock comes from the crisis in Ukraine. The Russian economy is going to be adversely affected. We already know that the Russian rouble and stock markets have significantly depreciated. This is bound to have an adverse impact on Finnish exports to Russia. These exports are over 9 percent of total Finnish exports.
Clearly, these shocks mean that the Finnish economy faces a difficult period ahead. This period is likely to be lengthy and policies have to try to mitigate the impacts of these shocks. In particular, strengthening our industrial base into new areas and directions is a very timely goal for Finland. (I use the term "industry" in a broad sense and include the service sectors.)
I will not try to pre-empt our speakers today. Let conclude by pointing out that Northern Karelia region is known for its innovative activities in the forest sector, one of the problem sectors mentioned above. In this region there are new companies that are extending the use of wood in very novel directions.
Let me just mention two new wood products. The first example is pyrolysis oil that is obtained from wood biomass waste and is a new substitute for fuel oil. The second example is dissolving pulp that is a potential substitute for cotton in textile industry.  As many participants know, there are several other North Karelian firms that produce new and products in the forest and other industries.
After these remarks we move to the program of the Forum.