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CNBC Transcript: Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland

Below is the transcript of a CNBC Exclusive interview with Finnish Prime Minister, Antti Rinne. The interview was first broadcast on CNBC's Capital Connection on 16 September 2019. If you choose to use anything, please attribute to CNBC and Silvia Amaro.

Silvia Amaro (SA): Thank you Prime Minister for joining CNBC. I would like to start looking at Brexit. It's nearly the end of the second Brexit extension. How do you see the impasse being solved?

Antti Rinne (AR): I would say that the Brexit discussion has harmed all Europe and also the British economy. I think also this climate inside Europe and between European countries. I hope that we can solve this question so that it makes no more harm to European people. I would say that my dream is that there is no Brexit but that seems unrealistic to dream so, I hope we can reach a deal, we have reached a deal, we can follow with this deal with Brexit and I hope that in October and this is clear for all that this is the way we deal, how the Brexit is coming.

SA: Since you've been appointed the UK has also nominated a new PM, Boris Johnson. Since his appointment has he been in contact with you about Brexit, has he told you what he wants from the EU?

AR: I got from him a phone call some weeks ago and we discussed about the situation. I explained him what is the EU27 approach to this question and I made very clear to him there is no possibility to get a new deal. The old negotiated deal is the way out. We in the EU27 want to solve this situation and make a deal together that we need in some way but this hasn't happened.

SA: If we don't have any sort of breakthrough by the next summit on 17th October and Boris Johnson meets with you and other European counterparts and says I need more time, give me another extension. Would you say yes to that request?

AR: Inside this EU27 we're discussing this quite clear and if there is no possibility to see a new solution to this situation it seems there is no interest to get more extension to this situation. I hope if he's going to ask for more time it means that he has something to say. How we can solve the situation after this time – that's a big question for us all in the EU27.

SA: In your view, how much probability would you assign to a no-deal Brexit?

AR: I will say that now it seems that it's going to happen and we need to accept that it's going to happen. But I hope that we can reach a situation where we can together, with British and EU27 to create a better world, when I think about climate issues, when I think about recognized work and that kind of things. I hope that we have a good company together after this situation, where Britain is going away.

SA: One final question on this subject. Do you think the European citizens, think about the Finnish citizens living in the UK. Do you think they're ready, mentally prepared for a no-deal Brexit?

AR: I think this time period where we have discussed this subject has been awakened discussion to all European people. I think many young people are confused about the situation. They have lived all their life in Europe with possibility to go without borders to country to another country and possibility to study and work in other countries in EU. I think that is the confusing situation, that's a big question for young people especially. European people have been awakened about this situation but most of them are very confused about the situation.

SA: How can the EU prevent another Brexit?

AR: The big question in the developed Western countries is that globalisation making harm to some people, people in heavy industry and they have lost their jobs and their future is not clear. I think we politicians inside European Union member countries need to create a better path to work for those people. The climate change issue is coming to improve this situation more than we can now understand and there is a possibility to create a new situation to scare about what is happening in my future. That's why we need to discuss about climate issues for example so people understand there is coming changes but those changes can also be good for you. I think we can avoid new Brexits together common policy, which is best for people, to make better life for people.

SA: The Finnish economy is expected to slowdown in the second half of this year like any other Eurozone country at this stage. One of the reasons behind that is global trade uncertainty. How do you see the US-China trade war unfolding?

AR: It is erratic the international economy. By thinking about this whole regular-based world trade, it is threatening now between China and US, but it is also between China and the European Union. I hope we can together solve this kind of situation in the international multilateral institution, I mean the WTO and that kind of organization. It is better for each European Union member countries and also the USA and China that we together solve problems so that there is no risk via trade war to harm people's and economies. That is the main way to solve this kind of situation. I will say that Brexit, this trade war, trade wars and uncertainty when it comes to global trends it is going to also impacting our economy. We are a small economy, which is very keen on what is happening on world trade, we are a big export economy and it means this kind of things it could be that it harms our economy in the coming years. At the same time we are evaluating situation like this. We are going to invest in roads, infrastructure, to make houses and so because we can help our economy with these kind of investments. These are necessary in the future to solve our problems in society.

SA: On the fiscal developments you were just mentioning, are you and your government pursuing a more investment-friendly agenda on the back of the ECB announcement yesterday and Draghi's call for fiscal policy to take action?

AR: If I think of our economy and export the big question is how we can transport and export our goods from mills to harbours abroad and that is a question which we need to handle so that we help companies to have better connections abroad and that's why I said that this infrastructure, trains and railways and that kind of issues is very important for our industry. We are going a little bit of slowdown in our economy now. It is time for public sector to give input to this situation, that we can give growth, sustainable growth in coming years while the International growth is slowing down.

SA: Let's go back to the trade matters. One of the upcoming challenges for the European Commission and for the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU is car tariffs. The US has to decide if they are to impose car tariffs on Europe, the deadline is mid-November. What is your message to President Trump as those car tariffs are approaching?

AR: As President of European Union for half-year, I would say to Mr Trump that it is very important for EU people and USA people that we can together solve these big questions to solve big questions making harm to ordinary people in the future. If we want to have sustainable growth, on both continents, we need together make that kind of regulation which we can both follow and I think that for Mr Trump, it is very important also that we can together make this and it is certain that is important for European peoples. We are partners, we are friends.

SA: President Trump doesn't really seem to be worried about the economic impact of the trade war. You see that in the relationship with China, there's ongoing tariffs on Chinese products and vice versa. How can you convince Mr Trump that that's not the best approach, according to your view?

AR: I think Mr Trump and his comrades know that this is not the best way to handle international relations but at the same time I think that Chinese leaders know also that this kind of trade war, this kind of situation is not good for Chinese people and this is not the best way for China to handle these situations. I hope China, USA, and European Union together can solve this kind of situations together with multilateral organisations as WTO, as I said.

SA: Let's look at another trade question, the MERCOSUR trade deal. Ireland has said it's not willing to approve the final deal given what's happening in Brazil. Is Finland ready to take the same approach?

AR: First of all I'm here to say here in Finland we are very glad that we can make these kind of deals between continents and countries and European Union and other parts of the world. That's the main goal for us that we can create regular-based work with multilateral agreements and multilateral institutions. That's why I think it's a very good thing that we've reached agreement with Mercosur. But at the same time, here in Finland we have discussed maybe when we made this agreement to leave it means that we need to strengthen environmental articles and climate issues so that we need and they need to take care also these kind of issues when we are talking about trade relations. I think that rather saying 'No' to Mercosur is to take up question how we can help from the European Union side, Brazil with their situation their burning forests and I have suggested that it could be helpful for all of us all over the world that we have satellite control to these kind of situations it can alarm if a risk is coming these kind of fires. It could also create troops in each continent which can handle this kind of situation. I think if for example we've discussed in European Union among member states shall we send fire equipment to help Brazil and slow down these fires. But it takes two weeks for Europe to send them to Brazil. That's why I think it's better to create in each continent to help them because in future, because of the climate and global warming it's happening much more these kind of fires.

SA: Let's look at other priorities of the Finnish Presidency. One of your Ministers is really keen on having the next European budget linked to the rule of law. How do you intend to convince countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania to sign up to this?

AR: The situation behind this discussion is that the whole European Union is based to reach peace, development, stability. If we want to understand this in the future we need to have common values inside the European Union. The rule of law is a big part of this kind of values and the Commission has suggested earlier we need to discuss together with all European Union member states about this rule of law what this means for economy also. While we are now chairing this European Union, we need to take this question up and we have discussed with all of European Union members states about MFF (multiannual financial framework) and inside that discussion we have discussed about how to link rule of law with budget. Conditionality is very important for us and the Commission and a huge majority of European member countries. Surprise, surprise I heard today from my European minister that it is possible to reach a situation where this rule of law conditionality is linked to the MFF. It seems possible that we can reach a situation where it is so, and I hope that we can reach that situation. So there is also one big question is climate policy and target to get European Union 2050 carbon neutral and I think there is also possibility for common understanding about this question. The other big question is immigration. I think that there is not easy to find common understanding on how we solve this situation and discussion about conditionality linked to the MFF on this question is not easy.

SA: What's the biggest challenge for the Finnish European Presidency working with new European Commission until the end of the year?

AR: I hope the biggest questions are coming to be climate issues, migration—

SA: Are you afraid those will be put on the side and Brexit is going to take—

AR: Brexit is coming a big question in October in our European Council. I think Brexit is going to be the biggest question on this Presidency, which we have.


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