The following opening statement was held by the head of the Norwegian delegation, State Secretary Marianne Hagen on 18 June 2018:
Thank you for your introductory remarks
Let me start by commending the Secretariat for the comprehensive report it has prepared for the seventh Trade Policy Review of Norway. I know both the Secretariat and our own administration have devoted a lot of time and effort in preparing for this review.
I would also like to thank our dear friend the Ambassador of Costa Rica, Alvaro Cedeño Molinari, who is the discussant for our TPR. I look forward to hearing his comments.
Let me also thank the 23 Members who have presented written questions and comments.
Transparency is one of the fundamental tenants of the multilateral trading system. Norway finds the TPR to be an extremely valuable exercise. Its importance tends to be underestimated.
We have received 230 written questions and I want to thank the Members for their interest and for giving us the opportunity to explain our policies - in sometimes excruciating detail. We have done our best to answer the questions in full, and we are prepared to elaborate further if need be.
Although a multitude of issues have been raised, we see a special interest related to the agricultural sector. Allow me therefore to comment on this, before entering into more general aspects of Norwegian trade policy and also comment upon some global trends.
The Norwegian agricultural sector differs from other sectors, due to high tariffs and extensive subsidies. The policies are there in order to contribute to specific policy objectives in a country where a number of factors make agricultural production challenging. This is a political reality.
I would like to highlight three Norwegian WTO commitments on trade in agriculture: Firstly, a commitment to transparency. We work hard to consistently abide by our notification commitments, so that whether you agree or disagree with our policies, you are in a position to know them and assess them in relation to your own interests. Secondly, a commitment to minimise negative spillovers, especially for the most vulnerable. Through our GSP system, LDCs and other low income countries are offered duty- and quota free market access for all products, while the system also ensures preferences to a broader group of developing countries. We will, in line with WTO ministerial decisions from Bali and Nairobi, phase out all remaining export subsidies by the end of 2020. Thirdly, a commitment to negotiate. Norway remains committed to play a constructive role in global agricultural trade policy, acknowledging that all WTO members have agreed to continue the long-term reform process towards substantive progressive reductions in support and protection in accordance with Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture.
Norway is a trading nation. Support for, and dependence on, open international trade are key features of Norway’s international profile.
A strong, stable, rules-based trading environment is of fundamental importance to Norway’s national interests. Being a relatively small country with a medium-sized economy, Norway is dependent on a level playing field in international markets and a predictable trading environment. Trade policy is an integral part of the Government’s policy to promote sustainable growth, domestically and globally. The WTO agreements, the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) free trade agreements are the cornerstones of Norwegian trade policy.
Some members had questions about the EEA Agreement, which is the mainstay of Norway’s European policy. For more than 20 years, it has broadened and deepened the cooperation between the EU and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The EEA Agreement ensures that Norway takes part in the EU single market with access to the benefits of the free movements of persons, goods, services and capital. It guarantees non-discrimination and equal rules and competition throughout the area. It gives Norwegian businesses access to Norway’s largest export market – the EU single market. The agreement has provided a stable and predictable framework for Norway’s economic relations with EU member states and has made an important contribution to Norway’s economy and development.
At present, over two thirds of Norwegian export revenues come from coastal and ocean-based activities. Norway is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, one of the world’s largest and most advanced maritime nations and the world’s second largest exporter of fish and seafood. Furthermore, Norway has a world-class offshore supply industry. This provides great opportunities for the Norwegian ocean industries in the future.
The decreased activity in the offshore petroleum sector over the last few years has contributed to a restructuring of the Norwegian ocean industries – maritime, oil and gas, fisheries and aquaculture – the so-called blue economy. Businesses are increasingly applying industry expertise and technology across the traditional sectoral divides. This is particularly evident in the emerging offshore aquaculture, offshore wind and marine biotechnology segments.
The shift towards a more integrated blue economy is accompanied by a need to ensure sustainable use of the oceans. In 2017, the Government issued a coherent ocean strategy where sustainable development of the ocean is a key priority. The strategy highlights policies for how restructuring of the ocean industries can contribute to economic growth in new areas and at the same time contribute to Norway's international commitments on environment and combatting climate change.
Norway’s long-term interests and fundamental commitment to an open, predictable, well-functioning and rules-based trade regime have not changed. Our policies and approaches must however be adapted to changes that are taking place. Norwegian trade policy reflects changes in the Norwegian economy, with an added emphasis on investments and trade in services.
The Government’s trade and economic policy is designed to promote sustainable development in economic, social and environmental terms. While openness to trade is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for inclusive growth, job creation, and overall prosperity. Trade policy and other elements of economic, social and structural policies are all integral to the Norwegian government’s policies that not only stimulate growth and secures jobs, but also ensure decent working conditions and an equitable distribution of the benefits of trade and economic growth.
Gender equality is an economic sound policy to ensure equal opportunities for all. There is a perception that Norway is rich from natural resources, however I would contend that the participation of women in the labor market has been just as important in Norway’s move from poverty to prosperity. Getting women into paid work means using the entire talent pool of the workforce. We know that women’s participation drives economic growth and development. A modern, competitive economy needs the best heads and hands, regardless of gender. Affordable childcare and generous parental leave schemes have made it possible for both mothers and fathers to work. These welfare schemes are costly, but are investments that pay off.
Trade and environment must be integral parts of a global agenda focused on inclusive and sustainable growth. Norway has always been an active supporter of cooperation between trade and environmental policymakers. The 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement represent important frameworks for the global challenges. Trade represents a positive element in solving environmental challenges, for example by reducing trade barriers for environmental goods and services, fishery subsidies reform, fossil fuel subsidies reform etc.
And this brings me to fisheries subsidies. Up until the 1990s a comprehensive support scheme towards the fisheries sector was in place in Norway. However, profitability in the sector was poor, and the industry lacked incentives to change. The authorities then removed virtually all subsidies. During the last 25 or so years, the industry has had to adjust accordingly.
Better regulation and the use of structural quotas, have strongly increased the profitability of the fisheries sector, and reduced overcapacity. Support is reduced to a minimum. Coupled with strong fisheries management policies this has helped maintaining sustainable fish stocks and improved the economy within the fisheries sector.
Our experience underlines that maintaining subsidies does not improve the economy of the fisheries sector – rather to the contrary. Subsidies "shield" the industry from undertaking necessary adjustments to the fleet and other modifications. More importantly, maintaining fisheries subsidies increases pressure to engage in fishing, thereby undermining fish stocks.
Norway looks forward to continued hard work in the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies in order to implement SDG 14.6 within the agreed timeframe. We all need to re-engage and work closely together to advance these negotiations. It is crucial that all members are ready to make concessions, otherwise it will be impossible to conclude. Norway is ready to do so.
Globalisation is under pressure. In many countries, we see protectionist tendencies. However, openness to trade is of key importance for sustainable social and economic development at the global level. Norway attaches great importance to inclusion and integration of all countries into the world economy and the multilateral trading system.
Norway strongly believes that binding, enforceable multilateral rules and open markets continues to be the right approach to economic growth, peaceful cooperation, job creation and development, including as a contribution to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.
Multilateral agreements will always be first best.
At the same time, Norway sees promise in pursuing its interests through joint initiatives with those who want to take part, such as the initiative on electronic commerce from the ministerial conference in Buenos Aires. Such initiatives should be open to all, and as far as possible kept under the WTO umbrella. It is important that they are pursued as building blocks - not as stumbling blocks - towards further multilateral agreements,
Norway strongly supports the integration of developing economies into the global trading system. How trade can work for development in the 21st century is a conversation that WTO members need to have, in order to build trust and secure the future of the multilateral trading system. Special and differential treatment should not primarily mean that developing members remain outside the framework, but that emphasis is placed on identifying what needs to be done in order for them to be included.
The 2030 Agenda is a strategic priority for Norway. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make it clear that all countries, rich and poor, have work to do at the national level. Norway has the means and the political will to be a contributor in the implementation of the SDGs, both through national efforts and internationally.
The Norwegian Government views trade as an instrument of development policy. Trade is a necessary, if insufficient, instrument for achieving development, employment and growth. The Norwegian Aid for Trade approach aims at ensuring that developing countries, and especially the LDCs, achieve sustainable economic growth, higher employment, poverty reduction and an improved quality of life for the entire population. The Enhanced Integrated Framework is our most important cooperation partner within Aid for Trade.
Norway is deeply concerned about the state of play in the WTO and worried by:
- the apparent willingness to risk ruining the system that has served us all so well for more than 70 years,
- the idea that “might makes right” and the use of unilateral tools outside the WTO to attack global issues,
- the risk of the Dispute Settlement Pillar grinding to a halt unless we quickly fill empty seats in the Appellate Body,
- the apparent unwillingness by emerging economies to accept their part in the fine balance of rights and obligations,
Norway is fully aware that there are some underlying concerns that need to be addressed. However, protectionism is not the answer. These are not bilateral issues, nor single WTO member issues. They are multilateral issues.
The entire WTO Membership needs to reflect on the deeper root causes of the current tensions in the trading system. How each of us respond impacts on our multilateral common good.
We should without prejudice commit to work together to safeguard the multilateral trading system while at the same time being open to discuss its imperfections and seek improvements. I hope the exchange of information and views with other members on issues related to Norway’s trade policy over the next couple of days, will serve that end.
Thank you for your attention!
For more information, see the dedicated page for the TPR of Norway on the WTO’s website: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp473_e.htm
A press release (available in Norwegian only) can be found the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/info_wto2/id2604774/