Statement delivered on 17 December 2018 by Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA:
Thank you Chair,
Let me join others in welcoming the US delegation, thanking them and the secretariat for all their hard work, and thanking the discussant for her comments.
Norway and the United States enjoy a strong trade relationship that benefits both countries. Bilateral trade amounted to 20 billion USD in 2017, with a US trade surplus of more than 1 billion USD. US exports to Norway and Norwegian investments in the United States support more than 500 000 jobs.
Throughout the years, Norway and the United States have been able to solve many trade issues. The TPR reviews have been helpful, and so has bilateral dialogue.
Norway appreciates the annual Informal Commercial Exchange - the so-called ICE-talks - between the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and the US Department of Commerce. The meetings on trade issues that takes place between the EFTA states and the USTR, and the dialogue on fisheries issues between the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are of great value. Norway and the US also have several common interests in the International Working Group on Export Credits.
The importance of the rules-based multilateral trading system cannot be overestimated, as it is fundamental to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. Norway strongly believes that it is in the long-term interest of all members to protect and safeguard this system. We hope to see a constructive leadership of the United States, in co-operation with all other Members, to ensure a dynamic, modernized and well-functioning WTO.
We appreciate the engagement of the United States on important issues such as disciplines for fisheries subsidies, follow-up of the Trade Facilitiation Agreement, and follow-up of the joint initiative on e-commerce.
Unfortunately, the crisis in the multilateral trading system is no longer a threat of the future. As WTO members we have collectively failed to negotiate updates to the rulebook, with a few notable and positive exceptions.
By December next year, the Appellate Body will not have enough members to review cases, unless we find a way out of the current crisis. Norway, along with other Members, have made proposals that should be part of the solutions to the current crisis within the framework of the multilateral trading system. We urge the United States to engage constructively on these and other proposals.
It is, however, with regret that I note that our concerns today are stronger and more fundamental, than they were at the last TPR of the United States. Norway agrees that there are global issues of concern that needs addressing, and we agree that the rulebook needs updating. The most immediate threat to the rules-based trading system is, however, the lack of respect for the rules.
We are deeply concerned about the damaging effects of increased protectionism, unilateral measures and escalating trade tensions. We urge the United States to refrain from measures that contribute to this development. Such measures threaten to undermine the rules-based trading system anchored in the WTO, and most importantly threaten to undermine global economic growth and economic stability. Norway is harmed by measures taken by the United States that are directed at other members’ trade practices.
We note and appreciate that reforming the Multilateral Trading System is on the list of US trade priorities. Norway shares this ambition. Let me, however, point out that the US argument for reform of the rulebook would carry a lot more weight if the US demonstrated leadership by adhering more closely to the spirit of the rules.
Furthermore, while discussions are currently taking place in various formats and fora, much needed improvements to the multilateral trading system can only be achieved by involving the broader membership. We urge the United States to work constructively together with other members to safeguard and strengthen the WTO.
We thank the US for providing replies to our questions, which we will study carefully, and we wish the US a successful and inspirational Trade Policy Review.
For more information, see the dedicated page for the TPR of the United States on WTO’s website: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp482_e.htm