Norway’s closing statement during the 7th Trade Policy Review of Norway in the WTO

Harald Neple på talerstolen
Photo: Norway in Geneva / Hou

Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) are an exercise, mandated in the WTO agreements, in which members' trade and related policies are examined and evaluated at regular intervals. The second session of the 7th TPR of Norway took place on 20 June 2018. The closing statement, delivered by Ambassador Harald Neple, summarises Norway’s responses to members’ comments and questions.

Ambassador Harald Neple, permanent representative of Norway to the WTO, delivered the following statement on 20 June 2018:

Thank you for your interest, comments, questions and nice words.

Special thanks to the Discussant, Alvaro Cedeño Molinari, and the Chair for their valuable contributions.

Chair,

Norway received 227 written questions before the meeting. They have all been answered, and distributed to the members before Day 1 of the TPR. After the meeting, we received additional questions from Malaysia and China, and by the US today, which will be answered as soon as possible.

With reference to Monday’s meeting, let me comment on some issues raised by various members:

Norway's domestic energy market is characterized by a high share of renewable energy delivered to power-intensive industries, households, and other users in the form of hydro based electricity. “Thinking greener” leads us towards low-emissions solutions such as promoting the use of electric motor vehicles and pilot projects focused on the use of electricity in public transport, as well as in coastal traffic. A ban on the use of mineral oils in the heating of buildings, including residential homes, will come into effect on 1 January 2020.

In a “green context”, we appreciate the positive comments from members on our engagement to promote Fossil Fuel Subsidies Reform.

To ensure sustainable use of the oceans is a crucial part of restructuring the economy. We are going both green and blue! Indeed, there are many opportunities for growth, employment and value creation in existing as well as emerging and new ocean industries. Through sustainable management and regulation of the ocean economy we can improve the health and productivity of ocean ecosystems. Better governance and blue economy strategies will ensure financial sustainability, ecosystem integrity and promote long-term value creation and employment in ocean industries. Our aim is clear: we want sustainable use of the oceans. Indeed, we are inspired by the interest in our oceans strategy!

In this regard, we appreciate the positive comments from members on our engagement in fishery subsidies reform. This is an issue which is very important to us.

Chair,

Gender equality is an economic sound policy to ensure equal opportunities for all. For a more comprehensive description of Norwegian policy to ensure women’s participation in the labor market, please have a look at the written answers to questions from Iceland.

Chair

The Norwegian state is a large direct owner of companies in Norway. This was commented on by many of you. The ownership is conducted within a framework that has broad political support in Norway. I would like to elaborate briefly on this.

The Norwegian State keeps its role as an owner separate from its other roles as policymaker, regulator and supervisor. The policy is very clear: The ownership is market-based and exercised professionally within the constraints of Norwegian corporate law, other legislation and generally accepted principles of corporate governance. The Norwegian government is in no way involved in the day-to-day operations of the companies.

These policies apply to all enterprises in which the state has a holding, whether wholly or jointly owned by the state. In other words, enterprises in which the state has a holding shall not receive any benefits or privileges from the state or other enterprises owned by the state, neither in access to capital nor otherwise.

The government publishes an annual report on its exercise of the State's ownership and presents a white paper to the Parliament every four years to ensure transparency.

Chair,

Several members commented on the fact that Norway does not apply trade remedies. The Norwegian market is an open competitive market, we have well-developed competition policy and instruments that ensure that companies do not misuse their strengths and market powers, be they domestic or foreign.  Competition is a force that, over time, motivates the transition from less to more productive activities.

I know palm oil is of particular interest to some members. Let me clarify: the Norwegian Parliament has requested a ban on palm oil-based biofuel in public procurement. The government is currently assessing and clarifying the available legal scope of action as well as possible alternatives to the ban requested by Parliament. This assessment will of course take into account all our international commitments including those on trade and climate.

Regarding notifications: On Monday some members referred to outstanding notifications and asked for updates. As far as we can see, there are no outstanding notifications from Norway concerning rules of origin. With regard to quantitative restrictions and customs valuation, these notifications were sent to the secretariat in advance of the TPR and are in the process of being finalised.

Turning to some of the remarks we heard on Monday from the discussant and members concerning agriculture.

Taking into account the rapid growth in productivity in the agricultural sector in Norway, the discussant asked whether there was still the same need for protection given these technological changes.

Technological changes take place in agriculture in Norway as well as in other countries. However, numerous disadvantages of Norwegian agriculture will continue to exist in spite of technological changes. I can mention climate and weather conditions, steep fields, still small farms and high production costs as examples.

The question from members concerning possible reduced border protection and reduced trade distorting agricultural support also deserves a comment. In this regard, we would like to give some nuances to the report from the secretariat: The Norwegian bound tariff schedule has mixed duties for 51 % of agricultural tariff lines. This means either specific duty or ad valorem duty.

However, in practice we use the bound specific duties as applied duties. The applied specific duties have been the same since year 2000. The value of the specific duties decreases year by year, due to the inflation over the last eighteen years.

This means that the border protection for most tariff lines is clearly weaker today than it was in year 2000 at the end of the implementation of the Uruguay Round commitments. For most tariff lines, the specific duty gives less protection than the alternative ad valorem duty.

It is important to underline that for the tariff lines with mixed duties, we use the bound specific duty for nearly all tariff lines. The notable exception is that we apply ad valorem duties for 10 sensitive tariff lines in the dairy sector and the meat sector.

Chair

Agricultural support is a very sensitive political issue in Norway. The government must respect the opinion of the majority in Parliament. The annual negotiations with the two farmers' organizations take place in accordance with the objectives of the Norwegian agricultural policies as set forth by the Parliament.

This year, the government and the farmers’ organizations concluded successful negotiations, which the Parliament endorsed.

We are aware that we are close to the upper commitment for trade distorting support. However, the government ensures that Norway stays within the bound entitlements for trade distorting agricultural support.

As to the question from Canada concerning pork, the government proposed in 2016 to repeal the target price system for pork, but this was not accepted by Parliament.

Chair

Several members have shown interest in Norway's application of EU's SPS and TBT legislation. We have provided written responses to these questions, but I will try to give some more detail.

As an EEA partner, Norway is committed to the rules of the internal market in Europe, which secures the free movement of goods, persons, capital and services. To maintain the integrity of the internal market it vital that all countries play by the same rules. This includes the necessity to apply harmonized rules with regard to imports from countries outside the EEA.

The EEA agreement gives us the right to participate in the risk assessment procedures and drafting of new regulations. Regulations are notified to the WTO by the EU. It would not be practicable, nor helpful, for third countries if Norway made an identical and parallel notification of the same regulations.

After adoption of the new legislation in the EU, the EEA/EFTA side does the relevant assessments before the EEA Joint Committee formally makes the regulation part of the EEA agreement. In general, Norway aligns itself with the EU level of protection for human, animal and plant health. It is only on very rare occasions that Norway deviates from the assessment done by the EU.

In the cases where Norway adopts national regulations these are notified to the WTO.

Chair,

In response to comments concerning trade facilitation and the single window - Norway is working on a new digitalization strategy for the interaction between border agencies and traders, importers and exporters.

Chair,

The TPR is an extremely valuable exercise. Thank you again for your comments and interest, and for challenging us on our trade policies. TPR is valuable not only to enhance transparency within the multilateral trading system, but also to build trust between the Members.

We look forward to continue working with other members to promote an open, predictable, well-functioning and rules-based trade regime fit for the 21st century and for the multilateral common good.

Thank you!

 

The opening statement held by State Secretary Marianne Hagen on 18 June 2018 can be found here:
https://www.norway.no/en/missions/wto-un/norway-/latest-news/norge-tpr-2018/

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