Maine signs agreement to facilitate Maine-Finland forest collaboration

Finland Prime Minister Antti Rinne and Maine Governor Janet Mills signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)  courtesy photo

By Ramona du Houx

October 10, 2019

Reykjavik, ICELAND  Governor Janet Mills and Finland Prime Minister Antti Rinne signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enhance forest sector collaboration, with a focus on forest bioeconomy innovation, at a signing ceremony today in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

The collaborative effort between the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Finland Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry established under the MOU will help leverage the culture, insights, strengths and resources of Maine and Finland to strengthen respective forest-based sectors and enhance forest health and sustainability in the face of climate change.

“Maine’s forests have supported our rural communities and powered our economy for generations and, today, our forest products industry is experiencing a remarkable revitalization driven by world-class innovation,” said Governor Janet Mills. “With the signing of this MOU, Maine will partner closely with Finland to share expertise, leverage resources, and implement best practices to grow our economies and ensure that our forests play as integral role in our future as they have in our past.” 

“In our relations with the United States it is also important to have concrete collaboration at all levels, including with states. The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry shows the way forward in building these new avenues for cooperation. Finland and the State of Maine have a lot in common in forest issues,” said Prime Minister Antti Rinne. 

With substantial forest lands, both Maine and Finland are focused on promoting innovation in their forest-based bioeconomies. Examples of future collaboration include possible joint development and manufacture of new products ranging from medical devices to food additives to wood-based textiles and advanced building materials. Maine has research and development (R&D) expertise in developing advanced materials and composites with wood fiber, and the University of Maine is the only entity in the world producing nanocellulose in commercial quantities.

The MOU is the direct result of a meeting between Governor Mills and Jana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary for Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, in May 2019. The agreement grew from a recognition and discussion of shared values, opportunities, and challenges of Maine and Finland’s forests. Husu-Kallio was in Portland to deliver the keynote address at Maine International Trade Center’s annual Trade Day conference, where she spoke about the transformation of Finland’s traditional forest industry to a robust forest bioeconomy. 

As a result of this MOU, the Maine International Trade Center’s Maine North Atlantic Development Office, in cooperation with FOR/Maine initiative partners, will conduct an industry study mission to Finland in June 2020. 

Governor Mills is in Reykjavik at the Arctic Circle Assembly leading the Maine delegation of over 60 individuals representing Maine businesses, academic institutions, and state and local governments with the Maine International Trade Center.

Since 2014, Maine International Trade Center's Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO) organized the Maine delegation for the annual event. Maine is the only US state with a significant presence.

MENADO assists with meeting schedules during and around the event, coordinates high-level discussions with international partners, and hosts Maine networking events to add value to the Arctic Circle Assembly experience for Maine participants.

"MENADO Director Dana Eidsness has worked thoughtfully and tirelessly for the last 5 years to build relationships and ensure that Maine has a voice at the table in this rapidly changing, globally strategic region," said Maine International Trade Center President Wade Merritt. "This annual trip to Iceland is a unique opportunity to strengthen existing relationships, make new connections, and develop additional collaborations. The Maine delegation size has increased each year, which is a positive sign of growing interest and momentum."