Statement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Busan roundtable discussion in South Korea, 16 April 2016.
First of all, allow me to thank you all for coming to this roundtable discussion between Norwegian businesses in South Korea.
South Korea is a very important partner for Norway, and in fact our 4th largest trading partner, after only the EU, the United States and China.
Last year, trade in goods were 40 billion Norwegian kroner. In addition to this comes substantial trade in services, around 9 billion Norwegian kroner in 2014.
The economic relationship has grown immensely the last 10 years, and we hope it will continue to grow.
The maritime sector and the oil and gas industry are very important in the bilateral relationship. South Korea is the largest international market for the Norway's oil and gas service and supply industry.
The Korean ship-building industry is among the largest suppliers of ships and rigs to Norwegian companies. As one of the world's leading ship builders, South Korea is in turn among the most important markets for the Norwegian equipment suppliers.
In a pressed market, Norwegian orders from Korean ship yards are important for improving market access for Norwegian equipment suppliers. This displays the importance of maintaining a strong presence of the Norwegian maritime cluster in South Korea.
We also see a growing export of seafood from Norway to South Korea, and potential within design, and I'm therefore pleased to see representatives from these sectors present.
I have called this meeting to get a chance to meet representatives from Norwegian companies in South Korea.
It is important for me to hear directly from you how it is to operate in this market, what you regard as the most interesting opportunities, what particular challenges you are facing, and not least, how my government can assist you.
I would also like to use this opportunity to answer questions you may have regarding my government's policies.
I am aware of the challenging market situation some of you are facing.
In particular, the current economic downturn has affected the oil and gas industry and related sectors, such as the maritime.
How this has affected you and your operations, and how you are adapting, would be interesting to hear more about.
The Norwegian government is currently working on a White Paper on industry. The White Paper will focus on major trends and developments that affect our manufacturing industry. Most of these developments and trends influence industry in all our countries.
Automation and digitisation have become increasingly important to industrial manufacturing. Norway is no exception.
What has often been called the fourth industrial revolution affect all industrial sectors, both industries based on natural resources and other industries.
Furthermore, the role of industry in achieving a low-emission society will be an important theme in the White Paper. We have industries in Norway that are in the forefront of innovative environmental technology. With an ambitious climate and environmental policy for the future, the role of our green industry and green technology will continue to grow.
Declining demand from the oil industry will provide a test for our country, with a large oil industry, of the ability to readjust the economy. The oil industry will still be important for Norway in the years to come, but there is a need for new, profitable jobs in other industries.
We have good examples of how knowhow and technology from the oil industry is transferred to other industries, such as renewables and fish farming. This interchange of knowledge and technology between sectors will be of further importance in the years to come.
The Norwegian economy is at a turning point. For a long time, the oil and gas industry has stimulated growth in the economy. The demand from the petroleum sector has, however, started to decline. Lower oil price has reinforced the development.
Norway will still benefit from a significant oil and gas industry in years to come. But the industry will not give the same stimulus to the rest of the economy as before.
This is not the first time the petroleum sector has adapted due to oil price fluctuations. The need to adapt and innovate is the normal situation for businesses in all sectors.
High energy prices have given the petroleum sector high profitability, and hence the ability to attract resources from other sectors. Potential downsizing of the petroleum sector may release resources that may be put to use in other sectors. Norwegian enterprises will get easier access to highly qualified labour.
The Norwegian krone exchange rate has depreciated in line with lower oil prices. This large and swift adjustment in the competitiveness is key to stabilising the economy and to support the transition of labour to other competitive sectors
The government's goal is to stimulate the readjustment process and promote competitiveness. We therefore prioritize education, industrial R&D, tax reductions and infrastructure projects.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are also important priorities. Our ambition for Norway is to be among the most innovative countries in Europe.
With that short introduction, I would like to start our discussion. I ask you to briefly state your name and who you represent before you begin your presentations.