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Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here tonight.
Some of you I have met before. Some of you are new acquaintances, who I am looking forward to getting to know.
I brought with me, here tonight, this small plant of pine. It can be seen as a symbol of my country.
This little plant will need to grow for about 80 to 90 years before it is ready to fell.
So planting it is not something you do for yourself, but for your children and grandchildren. It is an investment for future generations.
Now, you may wonder, why am I talking to you about forests?
It is because I believe that there is a common ground between Swedish forestry and Japanese fishery.
They are both national industries that have been around for many, many generations. They are foundations of national prosperity, closely linked to our respective histories and cultures. And thanks to ground-breaking innovation and research, they are globally competitive.
This little plant is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, but it holds opportunities greater than we can imagine today.
The forest is a renewable resource with remarkable capacity. But like with all renewable resources, we need to manage it in a wise and sustainable way. Otherwise, we will no longer be able to make a living from it.
Fish is the largest source of animal protein in the world. Half of it comes from aquaculture, the other half is ocean harvested. There is a strong worldwide demand for good and affordable fish and seafood.
But to a growing extent, consumers are asking for more:
They want to know that their food is healthy, that it does not contain harmful substances, and that it has been produced in a way that does not threaten endangered species.
So there are strong reasons to act now to meet future global consumer demand. And, ultimately, to secure the conditions for a thriving seafood industry.
Sustainability is not a corporate buzz word. Sustainability is competitive.
In November, leaders of the global seafood industry held a dialogue meeting – the Soneva Dialogue – to discuss risks and opportunities connected to the state of our oceans. Some of you were there. And so was I.
The Dialogue resulted in a joint statement. The keystone actors have identified a number of areas that they will address together in order to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This is a major step forward! Moving from words to action.
Like this plant, the unique partnership founded in November has all the potential to develop into something strong and solid; something to build on for the future. But this will demand your effort, your commitment and your hard work.
For decades and centuries, your companies have been pioneers of the sea. I urge you now to grasp the opportunity to maintain that leadership.
I welcome you to the next dialogue meeting in Stockholm in May. I hope to see many of you there.