Interview with Ambassador Harald Neple

Harald Neple
Photo: Norway in Geneva

Ambassador Harald Neple, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA, will be leaving Geneva and retiring after 41 years of service in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We asked him three quick questions about his time with the Ministry.

What have been your greatest experiences during your time with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

That is a near impossible question to answer after 40 years at the Ministry. There are so many different types of jobs, making them hard to compare.

If I have to highlight something, I can mention that chairing the General Council of the WTO and the Executive Committee of the OECD were highly valuable experiences. It is always rewarding to hold these types of positions, which naturally give you both influence and inside information. I also gained a lot of valuable experience and knowledge from my time as an agricultural negotiator in the WTO, which I have drawn on i.a. during my period here in Geneva.

I also particularly enjoyed the role as the Chief Negotiator for Norway in the final negotiations of Rio +20 (the UN Conference on Sustainable Development), which was an interesting challenge. Although I have held several positions relating to multilateral negotiations, this was my only experience working with the UN.

I should also highlight my position as Director General in charge of i.a. trade policy, also acting as Senior Official to the WTO, in Oslo, which I found both challenging and interesting, not least due to the close collaboration with the political level in the Ministry.

Which post did you find the most challenging?

In one way, the first post (which in my case was in Bangkok) is always the hardest. You have to adapt to a completely new way of life.

Changing back and forth between working in Oslo and on foreign posts can also be challenging. However, I think this is an enriching experience, as you gain different perspectives on the subject matters that you are working on.

What will you miss the most, and what will you miss  the least, about being Ambassador to the WTO and EFTA?

I will miss the collegiality the most. I will also miss engaging in my field of expertise, and the opportunity to exert influence over something that really matters to the world.

I will not miss the constant stream of e-mails. Perhaps I will also appreciate not having to sit through any more lengthy meetings, of which I certainly have seen my fair share.