Address by the Prime Minister of Iceland, Mr. Davíð Oddsson
Iceland-Ukraine Business Forum. Premier Palace Hotel, Kiev, 23 February 2004
Icelandic companies are increasingly looking beyond their traditional markets in order to diversify exports of goods and services from Iceland.
Time is ripe for an initiative to boost trade between Iceland and the Ukraine and it is a pleasure for me to address this forum which is being held to explore ways to create new opportunities in trade between our countries. Iceland is highly dependent on foreign trade. Greater globalisation of business and trade is an important and positive development for us. Our geographical location is much less of a challenge now than it once was. With liberalised international trade, great possibilities have opened up for a small nation such as Iceland, with its rich natural resources and a well educated workforce. In recent decades Iceland has witnessed much economic progress, which is not least due to the fact that we have always had to take an active part in international trade and compete in world markets.
Extensive economic reforms have been made in order to strengthen Iceland’s global competitiveness. Since the beginning of the nineteen-nineties, a systematic programme has been under way aimed at reducing the state’s role in the economy. State enterprises, large and small, were sold, the banking system has been privatised, the Central Bank of Iceland was granted full independence to determine interest rates, and the Icelandic currency was floated in the market. These reforms, together with a fiscal surplus for many years now, have led to robust economic growth and at the same time have laid the foundation for further growth in the years to come.
Fisheries products and aluminium constitute our main exports, while tourism has grown rapidly to become an extremely important sector. Icelandic companies have experience and knowhow in various fields, especially in fisheries and fish processing but also in other areas of food processing. In recent years Icelandic entrepreneurs have also been establishing themselves in global markets in other sectors, including financial services and pharmaceuticals.
The Ukraine is an interesting and exciting option for foreign businessmen for various reasons. It builds upon high educational standards, rich resources and advanced industries. Thus the economy is based on a firm foundation. Proof of this can be seen in the Ukraine’s high level of growth, dynamic economy and progressive outlook, which I am certain will secure greater prosperity for the Ukrainian people and create numerous business opportunities, for Icelandic businessmen among others.
I hope that this forum will prove successful and generate profitable business for Icelandic and Ukrainian companies alike. I look forward to having the opportunity to meet you again at the reception at the end of this forum.