The Singapore-Norway Chamber of Commerce has made many achievements in the first nine months since its inception.
Ithas been a little less than a year since the launch of the SingaporeNorway Chamber of Commerce (SNCC) and the chamber is slowly but surely getting its footing. Following the initial signing of an MOU with Singapore’s Business Federation, the city-state’s main business chamber, which represents more than 22,000 companies and local and foreign business chambers, the SNCC has since forged strong relationships with Singapore’s premier business and investment bodies, including the Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) with whom the chamber has organised various events.
“We have reached around 50 members and we are in dialogue with various institutions in Singapore including the EDB, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, IE Singapore and others,” says Erik Borgen, President of SNCC and former head of financial services group DNB’s Asia office in Singapore. “We have held a number of board events and also assisted business delegations from Singapore to Norway.”
Launched in relation with the state visit of Singapore’s President H.E. Dr Tony Kam Yeng and his wife Mrs Mary Tan to Norway in October last year, the SNCC was created with the aim of promoting Norway to Singaporean companies. With more than 250 Norwegian companies in Singapore, the city-state is one of the premier investment destinations for Norway with bilateral trade reaching SGD 23 billion in 2014. In addition, Norway is Singapore’s eight largest trading partner from Europe and its fourth largest investor from Europe, and co-operation is particularly strong in areas such as maritime and offshore sectors as well as education and research and development.
However, despite the amount of trade and investment between the two countries, little exist in the way of support networks for companies looking east to west. “The idea is to create a forum here in Norway to promote the development of business relations between Singapore and Norway,” said Erik Borgen at the launch of the SNCC last year. “We would also very much like to attract more Singaporean businesses to Norway so it is not as loop-sided as it is today.”
The SNCC operates on a small membership fee and the Chamber plans to organise events that are of interest to its members. According to Mr Borgen, the chamber is primarily a networking organisation whose aim it is to promote the development of business relations between Singapore and Norway by organising events where members gather to discuss topics that are of interest to them.
One of the SNCC’s most recent events was a breakfast seminar coorganised with the EDB, titled “Singapore – The Launchpad for Doing Business in Asia”. At the event, the EDB gave a presentation on Singapore’s unique position as a gateway to Asia and
the opportunities present in ASEAN. The presentation highlighted the region’s potential as a growing consumer market worth more than USD 1.2 trillion, as well as its rich human and natural resources and growing pool of global companies. Mr Borgen stresses that the SNCC is not a forum on how to do business in Singapore but rather about building mutually beneficial relationships.
“The EDB is probably the largest and most influential business and investment related body in Singapore and it has been very influential in promoting Singapore as an investment destination for decades now,” explains Mr Borgen. “The idea of the event was to inform people about the co-operation possibilities with the EDB and we also had DNV GL present their experiences working with the EDB in Singapore. It is difficult to make generalisations about what the EDB can provide because they negotiate their involvement from case to case. It could be everything from facilitating opportunities for companies to set up shop in Singapore to actually joining in in some of these ventures whereby they actually take part both in terms of equity and also supporting through grants and other soft measures. So a case study gave the audience an idea of what is possible.”
The SNCC also recently assisted an IE Singapore delegation of companies from the oil and gas industry to Norway. “It is well known that the oil and gas industry is very advanced in Norway and we have good technology. In general terms, the industry is experiencing some challenges in the form of price pressures and the whole world is talking about alternative energy. But the industry is adjusting to lower prices and I think it is clear that oil and gas will continue to be produced for decades to come. With our advanced technology and knowhow in Norway we can continue to be part of that.”
According to Mr Borgen, Singapore is keen to attract more technology driven industries as a result of the downturn in the oil and gas industries. At the same time, changes in the global economy are forcing Norway and indeed the rest of the world to push innovations and look for new ways to develop and renew key industries. “It is clear that bodies like the EDB is keen to move the city into a more technology driven economy as traditional oil and gas and related industries are experiencing a downturn,” he says. “Norway is a strong player in the alternative energy sector so there are plenty of opportunities for co-operation.”
Another event that has taken up a lot of Mr Borgen’s time lately is NorShipping, one of the world’s leading maritime events, attracting maritime industry players from all over the world to Oslo every other year. The event builds on Norway’s long history in the maritime industry and provides a platform for the industry at large to discuss trends and new business opportunities. In addition to an exhibition, which will showcase 22,500 square meters of the newest in maritime technology, services and solutions, arranged into national pavilions, the event will also feature various roundtable discussions, debates, conferences and business briefings as well as a packed social calendar with ample networking opportunities. This year’s event will feature the so-called “Asian Belt Podium & Roundtable Meeting”, organised to shine the spotlight on business opportunities in ASEAN and India and discussing topics such as leveraging technology and smart solutions, trends specific to the shipping industry in Asia, and issues surrounding ship recycling.
“We are arranging speakers at the event and will be present in the Singapore stand,” says Mr Borgen. “This is open to our members who can attend and learn more about how Asian actors can address some of the challenges that face the shipping industry today, particularly in Asia. The themes will be around changing market conditions, the need for increasing efficiency in tough market conditions, the leveraging of new technology and smart solutions and obviously digitalisation.”
Nor-Shipping will be the last major event for SNCC this side of summer but Mr Borgen promises a packed program for autumn. “We’re still in the early days and things don’t just happen overnight,” he says. “But it is important to create awareness and work together with the relevant bodies in Singapore as they usually know what the local companies are seeking in terms of investments overseas.”
Above Left: Andreas Sohmen Pao, Chairman BW Group addressing SNCC’s Asian Belt@Nor-Shipping event. Above: Edmund Mok, Regional Director for the Nordics, EDB addressing the SNCC event on Business out of Singapore in April 2017.