Norway’s Minister of Fisheries, H.E. Mr Per Sandberg talked on Fish, Free Trade and Business Potential.
Norwegian seafood exports hit record highs both in value and volume last year. This is expected to grow even further in 2018, but there is more to the industry than the final product.
Norwegian seafood remains in demand from global consumers with the country exporting 2.6 million tonnes, worth a total of NOK 94.5 billion, in 2017.
H.E. Mr Per Sandberg, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries, predicts that fishing exports will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
“This year we will hopefully see an export value of NOK 100 billion when it comes to seafood,” Mr Sandberg explains. “In 2050, it will be NOK 500-600 billion higher than the oil and gas sector. This growth is good, but it presents challenges too. We must get more value out of each fish and extract more value out from the resources.”
And while seafood remains a vital cog for Norway’s economy, there is more to it than simply the fish as an end product. Throughout this year’s Norway-Asia Business Summit, the role of digitalisation in all industries was mentioned. Fishing and aquaculture are not immune from its influence. In fact, it is an area where the country can use its knowledge to establish itself as a global leader.
“Seafood is important. It will always be important for the economy and exports of Norway, but it is not the only thing. The value of knowledge, management and research, in both fishing and aquaculture, is important,” Mr Sandberg reports. “But the value of this is zero if you don’t share it. For some countries, these three things from Norway are more important than the actual fish.”
Norway exported 539,000 tonnes of seafood to Asia in 2017. The total value of the exports was worth NOK 18.7 billion, an increase of eight percent from 2016. Demand for fishing exports from Asia will remain steady, but there is potential beyond this for the industry.
“When it comes to Asia, there is still big potential for exporting seafood. It is not just trout and salmon, but all species,” Mr Sandberg says. “There is also a lot of potential to export fishing technology and fishing management knowledge to Asia. It is more than seafood. The end product is very important to the region, but it is not everything. In some other markets, it is only about technology and knowledge. In regards to Asia, Norway can export fish, technology and knowledge.”
The Minister believes the partnership between Asia and Norway is very important when it comes to developing new technology and innovation. This is for both the seafood industry as well as other sectors.
“I can see so much potential in so many areas. Seafood goes first, but then everything else can follow this,” Mr Sandberg notes. “The technology. The knowledge. All of this will help the partnership between Norway and Asia grow.”
The ocean continues to play a big role in Norway’s economy. According to Mr Sandberg, ocean industries account
for more than 70 percent of the country’s export earnings, but it is also under pressure. The Ocean Economy in 2030, a report from the OECD, noted that the ocean economy has room to grow, but how this happens will be important.
“Future growth depends on our ability to make and take from the ocean. We believe in blue growth the green way. It must be done in a sustainable and responsible way,” Mr Sandberg says. “The best way to protect the ocean is through responsible use. We share this view with our friends in Asia.”
Big potential for the small
firms One of the key takeaways from this year’s Summit was the fact that expanding into Asia was no longer limited to Norway’s large corporations. Thanks to digitalisation, smaller Norwegian firms are now able to find opportunities in Asia and elsewhere in the world.
These opportunities aren’t limited to the fishing or shipping industries. The path, which has been travelled by large companies, is now accessible to everyone.
“Our big companies, such as Statoil and Telenor, have become global leaders and their expertise has opened new markets to Norwegian small and midsized businesses,” Mr Sandberg states. “With big Norwegian companies already operating in Southeast Asia, it makes it easier for others to come in.”
The spirit of cooperation between both big companies and smaller ones in Norway is another important part of the proccess. Small and mid-sized companies can look to Innovation Norway, the local embassies and businesses already based in Asia for support.
“There are no closed doors. Research, government and business, we all work together. This makes us unique and helps small and mid-sized companies go abroad,” Mr Sandberg explains. “The potential is huge from small and middlesized companies. The opportunity is now there for them to take advantage of.”
Additionally, GIEK and Export Credit Norway are helping establish more Norwegian companies abroad. Mr Sandberg points out that GIEK, the Norwegian export credit guarantee agency, can not only guarantee financing for the exporting of technology or products, but services as well. This is something the Minister hopes more businesses utilise in the future.
Trade looms Trade loomed large at the NorwayAsia Business Summit. Both Norway and host country Singapore are strong proponents of free trade. However, the continuing sabre rattling over trade between the US and China has pushed the issue to the forefront.
“Today, the shadow of protectionism is looming over world trade. It can lead to a negative spiral with trade barriers being put up from several countries. Protectionism comes at a very high cost,” Mr Sandberg details. “Norway has a strong commitment to free global trade as well as international cooperation and peace.”
At home, Norway is looking for ways to improve market access with its biggest trading partner, the European Union.
“We don’t even have free trade with the EU and they are our biggest trading partner,” Mr Sandberg notes. “There are still some challenges and we are working on them to remove these trade barriers. At the moment the EU can export anything to Norway for free when it comes to fish and seafood. When we export these products to Europe, we have to pay taxes.”
In Asia, Norway continues to work on creating free trade agreements via the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Agreements are already in place with Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines. The EFTA is currently conducting negotiations with Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam to set up agreements. Norway is in bilateral negotiations on a free trade agreement with China
“It takes a lot of time to reach a trade agreement and talks are progressing with Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. We’ve been working on these for years and it is a lot of work before reaching an agreement,” Mr Sandberg points out. “I hope with the ASEAN, Singapore can be a partner for us in the region. It will make things smoother and more effective. We believe our agreement with them is beneficial for both of us.”
Ultimately, Norway remains committed to free trade even in light of global events. This is a stance Singapore also holds and the pair is hopeful other countries don’t sacrifice long-term prosperity for the short-term benefits protectionism can bring.
“All countries should work on free trade. Free trade is important for us and for the world,” Mr Sandberg.
Above left: Norway’s Minister of Fisheries, H.E. Mr Per Sandberg delivering his opening remarks. Above: Aquaculture is on of Norway’s success stories enabling the country to become the world’s second largest seafood exporter.