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What is Finland aiming at in Southeast Asia? - Embassy of Finland, Singapore : Current Affairs


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News, 4/13/2015

What is Finland aiming at in Southeast Asia?

Economic development in Southeast Asia is rapid and the region's political weight is growing both in Asia and globally. A newly published Action Plan describes Finland's priorities in the region.

Southeast Asia currently draws growing international interest. Finland's Action Plan for Southeast Asia, published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs today, provides a condensed, general overview of Southeast Asia, its social and economic development, and the foreign policy of the countries in the region, including their participation in international cooperation.

The Action Plan includes an assessment of the region's significance to Finland, examples of how to deepen cooperation and how Finnish businesses could make use of the increasing opportunities in the region.

The Plan covers eleven countries: Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Duy Binh (on the left) and Nguyen Phong lift package materials at the UPM factory in Binh Duong, Vietnam. Photo: Juho Paavola.
Duy Binh (on the left) and Nguyen Phong lift package materials at the UPM factory in Binh Duong, Vietnam. Photo: Juho Paavola.

Extensive markets for Finnish businesses

The countries in Southeast Asia provide promising and extensive growth markets for Finnish export companies and at the same time opportunities to broaden the scope of their operations in Asia. Cooperation is facilitated by the development through which countries are opening up their economies, dismantling the barriers of trade and fighting corruption.

Finland's trade in Southeast Asia has been relatively moderate. Now, Finnish companies are encouraged to make use of the region's potential and engage in cooperation early on.

Phan Xoan puts together  polycane furniture at the Niemen Tehtaat factory in Binh Duong, Vietnam. Photo: Juho Paavola.
Phan Xoan puts together  polycane furniture at the Niemen Tehtaat factory in Binh Duong, Vietnam. Photo: Juho Paavola.

There is growth potential in many key areas, such as wood processing and the paper industry, the tech industry, ICT, cleantech and energy, the health sector, and educational export.

Finland’s trade, goods and services combined
Brunei 0,3 0,0 0,3
The Philippines 170,2 142,8 24,7
Indonesia 136,1 124,9 11,3
East Timor 0,03 0,06 -0,03
Cambodia 0,2 24,6 -24,40
Laos 4,5 0,5 4,0
Malaysia 244,1 180,3 63,8
Myanmar 2,1 0,6 1,5
Singapore 293,0 207,4 85,6
Thailand 193,4 240,0 -46,6
Vietnam 89,3 140,9 -51,6

Data from 2013, MEUR. Source: Finnish Customs

Area of rapid economic growth

Most of the region's countries have implemented significant reforms that have opened up the economy and society. Economic growth in Southeast Asia has been rapid and its share in the world-economy is growing very fast.

The region is dependent on the global economy, and, above all, on economic developments in the western industrialised countries as well as on Japan and China.

Alongside with growing prosperity and well-being, there still are prominent social ills in many of the countries. It is important to address these issues in order to facilitate the positive development of the societies and economies, and for the countries to be able to avoid the ‘middle-income trap’ characterised by stalling progress, slowing economic development, inequality and other social problems becoming permanent.

Southeast Asia is unified in its diversity

The countries in Southeast Asia range from the affluent and developed Singapore to the recently opened Myanmar; from Brunei with its 400,00 inhabitants to Indonesia which, with its population of 250 million people, is the world's fourth largest nation.

A rich range of nationalities and cultures, hundreds of languages and several religions characterise the area of Southeast Asia.

The political systems in Southeast Asia also vary greatly, ranging from democracies to single-party states and societies controlled by the military.

Population and the economy
Brunei 415 700 16,1 38 600 1,4
The Philippines 105 720 000 272,0 2 800 6,8
Indonesia 253 198 000 868,4 3 480 5,3
East Timor 1 172 000 6,1 5 200 8,1
Cambodia 15 206 000 15,3 1 000 7,0
Laos 6 804 000 11,1 1 650 8,3
Malaysia 30 090 000 312,4 10 510 4,7
Myanmar 51 400 000 59,4 1 150 6,8
Singapore 5 469 000 297,9 55 180 4,1
Thailand 67 091 000 387,3 5 780 2,9
Vietnam 91 519 000 171,4 1 910 5,3

Data from 2013, USD billion (gross national product , GNP) and USD (gross national product per capita). Source: World Bank.

Southeast Asia's future looks bright

Positive political and economic development in societies is the best way to improve security and stability in Southeast Asia.

The strengthening of regional cooperation, particularly within the framework of ASEAN, has had positive effects on the stability of the whole region and also on the internal development in the countries.

Nonetheless, some of the countries in the region have unresolved local crises or even actual armed conflicts. Regional cooperation is also required to resolve challenges associated with undocumented migration, extensive human and drug trafficking, human rights and gender equality, questions associated with working conditions and the terms and conditions of employment as well as persistent corruption.

Despite difficulties, democracy has progressed, the rule of law has been strengthened and even in undemocratically governed countries reforms have been made that have reduced poverty and gradually led to their societies opening up in many ways.

Even if the rate of progress varies, and occasionally takes a few steps back, the governments in the region invest resources in developing their societies and economies in a diverse manner as well as in numerous reforms.

Finland offers operating models

The countries in Southeast Asia offer prospects for versatile cooperation. Although the countries often want to solve their problems on a national basis, Finland can offer operating models and expertise to resolve them.

The countries in the region and ASEAN are not only useful regional interlocutors, they are also beneficial partners in many topical international questions. Throughout the years the region has been an important partner in Finland’s development cooperation.

Finland's Action Plan for Southeast Asia makes part of the series of country and regional strategies and action plans published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. 

Read more:

pdfFinland's Action Plan for Southeast Asia (PDF, 473 kb)

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Updated 4/13/2015

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