REYKJAVÍK, Iceland — Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Thursday to increase forest sector collaboration and forest bioeconomy.

Gov. Mills is leading the Maine delegation – comprised of more than 60 individuals representing the state's businesses, academic institutions, and state and local governments – at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Forest bioeconomy is a push for more renewable and natural resources to be used for services and products. A push towards bioeconomy attempts to reduce a region’s dependence on fossil fuels while creating more jobs for the economy. The MOU represents a collaborative effort between the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Finland Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Overall, the agreement is meant to strengthen 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,” Mills said. “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.” 

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For both partners, future collaboration may include joint development and manufacturing new products. The products range from medical devices, food additives, wood-based textiles, and advanced building materials. Increased development and manufacturing will keep Maine at the top when it comes to developing advanced materials and composites with wood fibers. For example, the University of Maine in Orono is the only entity in the world that produces nanocellulose commercially on a commercial level. The memorandum expects to strengthen similar forest-economic success across the state. 

“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 Rinne. 

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The signed memorandum directly results from a previous meeting in May, between Mills and Jana Husu-Kallio, permanent secretary for Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The agreement began after both parties recognized that Maine and Finland have many shared values, challenges and future opportunities in forestry.

Husu-Kallio was in Portland, Maine, to deliver a keynote address 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.