Below is the statement as delivered on 4 October by Ambassador Harald Neple, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA.
As others, Norway would like to welcome our friends from Iceland to this fifth review of Iceland’s trade policy, and commend the Secretariat and Iceland for their reports, which form the basis for the review.
Iceland has experienced a remarkable turnaround since the 2008 crisis. Iceland is now developing its welfare state further. There are new opportunities for the citizens and a belief in a prosperous future for the whole nation. Recently adjusted figures show that Iceland had an economic growth rate of 7.4 % in 2016. The strong growth is mainly due to three features: exports, private consumption and investment. However, the strong growth also puts Iceland in a position of potentially overheating the economy.
Norway cooperate closely with Iceland in a number of trade-related areas. We share a strong commitment to the rules based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core. We work closely together in the negotiations and regular activities of the WTO, in the negotiations of free trade agreements in the framework of EFTA, and through the EEA Agreement.
Trade between our two countries is substantial. In terms of merchandise goods, in 2016 Norway accounted for 4.3 % of Iceland’s exports and 9.0 % of Iceland’s imports. During the same year, the EU’s corresponding shares were 73.2 % of Island’s exports and 52.5 % of imports. It is well understood, that the EU and the EEA are crucial to Iceland.
We note that tourism is now Island’s largest export sector in terms of earnings, larger than the fishing industry and aluminium industry combined. The strong growth in tourism has had a considerable positive influence on the Icelandic economy in recent years, but also brought challenges due to its impact on the environment, the housing market, the labour market and most infrastructures.
Norway and Iceland have many shared positions in terms of trade policy, including in relation to agriculture. We cooperate closely within the G-10 because both of our countries believe it is important to maintain a viable agricultural sector, also in high cost countries and countries far to the North with harsh and challenging climatic conditions.
Iceland naturally brings to any table its great expertise in fisheries. Iceland has done so again in co-sponsoring with New Zealand and Pakistan an important proposal in the fisheries subsidies negotiations to implement SDG 14.6 in the WTO. When Iceland voices its opinions and shares its experiences in fisheries matters, others listen. We expect Iceland to continue to support actively the fisheries subsidies negotiations in the lead-up to MC11.
We commend Iceland for its leadership role as a gender champion. Like Iceland, Norway works to advance gender equality and women's empowerment horizontally in all areas of foreign and domestic policy, including trade policy. Both Norway and Iceland have experienced the economic benefits that increased gender equality brings. We look forward to further strengthening our work in this area with Iceland.
Iceland is an active player on the multilateral stage, and an important trading partner for Norway. We look forward to continued close cooperation with Iceland, and trust that this trade policy review will be useful, both for the Iceland and for its trading partners.
For more information, see the dedicated page for the TPR of Iceland on the WTO's website: