Finland and Kazakhstan have signed $545 million worth of deals during President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s two-day visit to Finland from October 16-17, ranging from projects focused on logistics and manufacturing to the finance and energy sectors.
As a part of the trip, the leader of what is Central Asia’s wealthiest country met representatives of Finnish businesses. Nazarbayev also met with President Sauli Niinistö to discuss ways on how the two countries can strengthen ties.
“We agreed to increase the efficiency of the Kazakh-Finnish intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation, as well as speed up the launch of the working groups created within its framework in such areas as energy, transport, agriculture and education,” the official website of the Kazakhstani president cited Nazarbayev as saying.
“We also discussed new opportunities for the presence of Finnish capital and technologies in projects [aimed] at modernization of Kazakhstan’s economy,” he added.
The $545 million in more than 23 contracts include those between Nurminen Logistics and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy Express; air-handling equipment manufacturer Koja Group and Kazakh Invest; power equipment manufacturer Wartsila and Kazakhstan’s Energy Ministry.
Officials in Astana believe the deal with Nurminen Logistics, which provides services such as forwarding and cargo handling, will increase the volume of cargo transportation along the route that ultimately links China, Kazakhstan’s eastern neighbor, and Finland through the territories of Kazakhstan and Russia.
The very first freight train operating on the new route left on October 17. Up to eight freight trains per month are planned to pass through this route. Meanwhile, the route allows Kazakhstan to transport its goods to Europe.
“If tomorrow our goods are in Finland, the day after tomorrow they may be in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. For us, Finland is the gateway to Northern Europe, and Kazakhstan for Finland is a window to Asia,” Murat Nurtleuov, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Finland told Atameken in 2017, at a time when the route was being discussed as a real possibility.
Following Nazarbayev’s recent visit to Helsinki, the two sides inked a deal that provides Finland’s national flag air carrier Finn Air the right to operate seven flights a week to Almaty and Astana, as well as the right to use any type of aircraft without capacity restrictions.
With 18 million people and a gross domestic product of over $161 billion, Nazarbayev is looking to push Kazakhstan up from the world’s 48th largest economy to at least 30th by 2050.
“In geopolitical terms, Kazakhstan looks attractive due to its proximity to China, Iran, the countries of Central Asia, and the southern region of Russia, which forms a common market of about 500 million people,” Ambassador Nurtleuov said.
Relations between Finland and Kazakhstan are not new – yet they have been on the upswing. In 1992, trade barely reached $6.7 million, while this figure reached already $1.1 billion in 2014. According to Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, trade between the two states reached $307 million in 2017. Today there are more than 50 enterprises with Finnish capital in Kazakhstan.
Since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, only Nokia, a Finnish multinational telecommunications, IT and consumer electronics company, has invested more than $300 million in the Caspian country. The list of the Finnish companies operating in Kazakhstan also includes Tikkurila, a manufacturer of paints and lacquers. In 2015, the company launched $1 million factory in the Almaty region with a production capacity of more than 2,000,000 liters per year.
“What is the strength of the Finnish economy? Small and medium businesses. And they successfully operate in Kazakhstan: Finnish companies are already supplying equipment for the mining and processing industry, as well as air transport,” Atameken cited Nurtleuov as saying.