Libya, an oil-rich nation that recently got out of international isolation, is again hoping to attract Finnish companies to trade with the country.
Paula Lehtomäki (Centre), Finland’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, is set to take representatives of more than 20 Finnish companies on an export promotion tour of Libya and Algeria during the weekend.
There is plenty of need for repairs in Libya after the long period of embargo. The oil production facilities of the major petroleum producing country are not up to present standards, information technology is in its infancy, and few homes have been built in over a decade. Promised economic reforms are barely starting.
The Finnish trade delegation will include representatives of the traditional forest, paper, chemicals, and engineering industries. Banks and the mobile telephone sector will also be on the move.
Golden memories of the 1970s and 1980s lurk in the backs of the minds of many Finnish companies. In the 1980s Finnish companies had 20 massive construction projects in Libya, and hundreds of Finns worked in the country. During that time Libya was the third-largest target of Finnish construction exports - right after the Soviet Union and Iraq.
In the record year - 1981 - construction projects in Libya were worth 800 million Finnish markka.
There were sometimes difficulties in getting payment for the projects. Libya still owes Finnvera half a million dollars. Helsingin Sanomat was told by a top official at the Libyan Foreign Ministry in December that the debt would be paid, but that it still requires some red tape.
The re-establishment of economic relations between Finland and Libya is starting almost from scratch. Nokia has already set up a one-person office in Tripoli. In the autumn the company received an order for a mobile phone network worth 120 million US dollars.
Finland currently does not have an embassy or even a charge d’affaires in Libya, which makes visa issues somewhat difficult.
Lehtomäki said on Wednesday that in her discussions during the visit she would also take up issues involving human rights and democracy. She also said that she believes that trade ties can promote fundamental rights in Libya, if economic development remains positive, and if the local population also benefit from it.
(Source: Helsingin Sanomat)