Minister Aspaker’s Address at the American Chamber of Commerce

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Minister Aspaker’s Address at the American Chamber of Commerce


Category: Trade

Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Elisabeth Aspaker’s address at the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) .

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for inviting me. It is a pleasure to address the American Chamber of Commerce.

So, Jason [Mr. Turflinger] I want to start off by expressing my appreciation for the great work you – and all of AmCham – are doing to promote trade and commerce between the United States and Norway. This Annual meeting is an excellent example.

Much has happened since Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland visited AmCham last year.

On the policy side, the US is preparing for the presidential election, Europe is facing significant migration challenges, and the date has been set for the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU. Developments in the European neighbourhood have made our situation less stable than before.

The transatlantic partnership extends back to the post-World War II era, when many of our key institutions were established. In today’s multipolar world, a successful Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would strengthen ties between Europe and America. One aspect of the negotiations that so far has been low on the radar screen is the issue of security.

Europe and North America represent 35 % of the world economy, producing 50 % of world GDP, and are responsible for 30 % of all trade in goods.

TTIP is unique in its size and scope, and represents a completely new platform for cooperation.

As you know, agreement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) between 12 Asia-Pacific countries, representing some 40 % of world trade, was concluded in 2015. The TPP will not only have a positive impact on the economies of the participating countries, but will also promote a modern, rules-based, open trading system in the whole region.

And it is in this perspective that we should see TTIP.

As an outward-looking, export-oriented economy – half of our GDP comes from exports – Norway is very exposed to international trends and developments.

This means that it is important for us to safeguard the multilateral trading system and the WTO.

We have noted with interest that the US intends to use some of the new disciplines that were negotiated in the TPP as a basis for multilateral or plurilateral trade negotiations. We would very much like to learn more about your thinking in this respect.

Important plurilateral negotiations are currently underway, and I would particularly like to highlight the Tisa process, where some 50 countries, including Norway, are negotiating an agreement on trade in services.

I should also mention the negotiations on an Environmental Goods Agreement and the further development of the Information Technology Agreement in the WTO, which aim at removing barriers to trade in important areas.

Turning to Europe, the Commission presented its ‘Trade for all’ strategy in October 2015. The strategy is a direct response to the intense debate on trade in the EU, including on the TTIP. It is most timely. More than 30 million jobs in Europe already depend on exports to countries outside the EU, and we expect 90 % of future global growth to take place outside Europe.

I would now like to make some comments on Norway’s European Policy.

European cooperation is more important than ever. It is crucial that European governments work closely together to meet common challenges, such as climate change, migration, unemployment, violent extremism, and instability in Europe’s neighbourhood.

In 2014, we adopted a four-year strategy for Norway’s cooperation with the EU. The strategy is followed up through annual work programmes. One key element is to engage in the European debate as early as possible whenever new policies and rules of importance to us are being developed.

The European single market is at the heart of our cooperation with the EU. The Norwegian Government will communicate Norway’s views on the EU’s Single Market Strategy at an early stage.

As Norway’s Minister for Nordic Cooperation, I also attach great importance to strengthening Nordic cooperation in the field of European policymaking and in EU matters.

I believe the Nordic countries could have a stronger voice in the EU on issues of mutual interest, and that this could also benefit the continent as a whole.


Turning to TTIP, I would like to make an initial reflection.

TTIP is not so much about reduced duties; the main gains are expected from the alignment of legislation. TTIP goes beyond the commitments in other trade arrangements and will open up new forms of cooperation.

Over time, it will intensify regulatory cooperation between the EU and the US. Moreover, most of the sectors under discussion are core areas in the EEA Agreement, and thus highly relevant for Norway.

Indeed, 70 % of Norwegian imports of goods are from the EU and the US, and 86 % of our exports of goods go to these same two markets.

In 2011, American companies provided more than 40 000 jobsin Norway, with revenues of about NOK 290 billion. Today there are approximately 300 Norwegian-controlled companies in the US, which provide more than 30 000 jobs throughout the US. In addition, exports of goods and services from the US to Norway support another 50 000 jobs.

And last but not least, Norway’s Government Pension Fund has invested heavily in the US, and supports roughly 390 000 jobs in this country.

All this explains why a free trade agreement between the EU and the US will have important implications for Norway even though we are not part of the negotiations.

We have greatly appreciated the constructive dialogue with the US Trade Representative on TTIP issues, both bilaterally and in the context of Efta. In Brussels, we have close contact with the Commission through the EEA Agreement. We also found the initiative taken by the EU mission to Norway (and Iceland) on a common TTIP session with the US and EU missions last year very useful.

So what are Norway’s positions?

We see some opportunities:

  • Increased economic growth and spending power in the EU and US will also benefit the Norwegian economy.
  • Increased trade between the EU and the US will have a positive effect on the Norwegian shipping industry – due to increased traffic across the Atlantic.

But, at the same time, we see some challenges especially for our exports of seafood.

If tariff barriers are dismantled between the EU and the US, our seafood exports will be particularly affected, as Norwegian seafood exporters do not enjoy free market access to these markets. It is therefore in our interest to secure equal conditions of competition in the EU and US.

Some of the concerns raised include:

  • The need for the EU and US to keep the door open for third countries to link up to the agreement. However, we have not yet taken a stand on how to use such a possibility.
  • As expressed by Commissioner Malmström in the Commissions ‘Trade for all’ strategy for the EU: No trade agreement will ever give lower levels of regulatory protection; any change to levels of protection can only be upward; and the right to regulate will always be protected.’

These are views we fully share. We have also welcomed that the Commission has provided more extensive information about the negotiations.

What will we do now?

We will continue to follow the negotiations closely, both in Brussels and in Washington.

We are very pleased that the US Trade Representative has agreed to meet with Efta at expert level to discuss regulatory issues, services and investments, rules of origin and trade facilitation. This dialogue will help us in identifying the impact of the agreement and how we should relate to it. We see this as an indication that the TTIP partners are taking special consideration of the needs and concerns of the Efta states.

But we still need more information in order to identify the possible consequences of the agreement.

The Norwegian Government has requested an external report on the consequences of TTIP for Norway and the consequences of different policy options for Norway such as some form of association with TTIP or a free trade agreement with the US.

We have also requested an assessment of the impact on our regulatory cooperation under the EEA Agreement and on specific sectors such as seafood and agriculture.

The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) will conduct the study, and will cooperate closely with several other research groups. The report will be ready in the autumn.

With regard to our trade policy:

WTO remains a priority for Norway. Following the successful Nairobi ministerial, we now have to demonstrate the credibility of the WTO and deliver on the outcomes from Nairobi.

Through Efta (the European Free Trade Association) we have focused on bilateral agreements with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The Efta-countries are conducting negotiations with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. In the future, we hope to enter into negotiations with Asean.

So let me sum up

Yes, free access to international markets is essential to the Norwegian economy.

Yes, keep the door open for third countries to join.

No, we have not taken a stand on what to do. We need to assess the options carefully.

Finally, I would like to underline that the dialogue we have had with the US authorities has been helpful. I hope very much that our friendship and economic cooperation will further increase and will meet as few barriers as possible.

Thank you for your attention.

Source: Ministry of EEA and EU Affairs

Published: June 4, 2016