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Address at the Norwegian Shipowners' Association's annual conference

The Minister of Foreign Affairs took part at the conference - Think Ocean - with the following address.

Check aganst delivery

Your Majesty,
CEO Harald Solberg,
President Lindal,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

When preparing for this speech two things struck me:

First, the heading, "Norway, geopolitics and oceans", could keep me talking for an hour or two...

Second, that the heading might not give the oceans the credit they deserve.

The oceans are not an add-on to geopolitics.

They are, and have always been, one of Norway's most important strategic interests.

We are a maritime nation. This is true in security policy - in many ways Norway is Nato in the North Atlantic.

And, whether you talk about the North Atlantic, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean: The maritime domain is once again increasingly at the forefront, both military strategically and economically. This is the reason for our initiative and engagement in Nato the past four years to revitalize the alliance's maritime posture and strategies, and to renew the command structure.

But it is also true in all other aspects: When I show my colleagues the map of Norway, I usually turn it upside down.

When you look from north to south, it is easier to grasp the fact that Norway command ocean areas that are about seven times larger than our land territories.

When you look from north to south, it is easier for me to explain that our northern areas is far more than polar bears, untouched nature and icy landscapes.

The north is home to 10% of our population. This is where people live and love. This is where people grow up and grow old. This is where people start businesses and do research.

We depend on respect for international law and the Law of the Sea to keep our surroundings stable and peaceful – and to keep Norway prosperous.

For us, the oceans are both a way of life and a way of making a living.

Our future prosperity and stability depend on our ability to manage the oceans in a sustainable way.

Many of you, as representatives of the Norwegian maritime cluster, are an important part of our international footprint.

By promoting increased connectivity, you are helping to make the big world smaller.

The development of sustainable and environmentally friendly maritime technology is vital for combating climate change and developing the blue economy.

The value you create is today, and in the future, helping secure the welfare of coming generations. I will come back to that towards the end.


Let us for a moment look at the bigger picture.

In our lifetime, extreme poverty has been halved.

Child survival rates have increased massively.

More children, not least more girls, are getting a better education.

Technology has developed further than we ever dared to dream.

These are all huge achievements. Achievements made possible by strong global teamwork.

However, these days, speeches about the state of international cooperation are bleaker than they would have been twenty, ten – or even five - years ago.

This development is part of the new normal, where we see less cooperation in a time when the world needs more cooperation.

The last few years have clearly shown that there is no such thing as a rule that things will only get better. As the saying goes, it is tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

However, some things we know: Politics still matter. Choices will have impact.

Let me highlight two developments where politics matter and choices have impact.

First, respect for international law

In this room, we are all aware that the importance of respecting international maritime laws and regulations cannot be underestimated.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the international framework for all activities at sea.

Clear rules and stable framework conditions are necessary for peaceful cooperation between countries, blue growth, and sound management.

Globally, we need to fully implement the Convention and other decisions and commitments that the international community has agreed to.

Second, international trade

Implementing and adhering to international conventions ensures a level playing field, with as few unpleasant surprises as possible.

As a relatively small global player, Norway's first line of defence is, and will always be, respect for international law, conventions and the multilateral system.

Recent developments in international trade illustrates the need to protect the multilateral system. To stand up for the ideas behind it.

The WTO represents more than 70 years of progress, compromise and cooperation that has given us a common set of rules for international trade.

It is the anchor for Norway's trade with the world.

Our main guarantee for peaceful handling of the global rebalancing of economic power.

The WTO is far from perfect, but it is an irreplaceable cornerstone of the rules-based global architecture.

Due to protectionist pressures and threats of unilateral actions, the WTO is in dire straits.

Using the WTO's national security exception to justify trade restrictions is damaging to the multilateral trading system and to Norwegian trade policy interests.

The unilateral measures announced by both the US and China are worrying.

In the beginning of 2018, for the first time since 2008, we were seeing indicators of healthy growth across all major economies.

The setbacks that unilateral measures represent are threatening a trend that has allowed millions of people to work themselves out of poverty over recent decades.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of respecting our common WTO rights and obligations.

No one benefits from uncertainty in the global financial markets. When stock exchanges drop sharply, when the chain effect of protectionism one place is protective measures in other markets, when we doubt if the playing field is level – that's when the gains from 70 years of strong global teamwork risk being lost, and the negative effects will hit us all.


By 2050, estimates show that there will be close to 10 billion people on the planet. 10 billion people will need more food, more energy and more modes of transport.

To meet people's basic needs in the future, sustainable ocean management today becomes even more important. Norway has everything to gain from keeping the oceans productive and healthy.

In order to find sustainable solutions we need strong partnerships. We must all join forces – private sector, public sector and multilateral organisations.

We Norwegians know that there isn't necessarily a conflict between growth and sustainable development. It isn't impossible to strike a balance between production and protection. We have for decades – not to say centuries – made a living from managing our natural resources in a sustainable way. Internationally, Norway is a clear voice for responsible use of the oceans' resources. Today, the oceans – fisheries, aquaculture, shipping and energy production – are the backbone of our economy. More than two thirds of our export revenues come from coastal and ocean based activities.

This is why Prime Minister Solberg has taken the initiative to establish the international High-level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy.

She's leading the panel herself, and has reached out to Heads of Governments from several coastal states across the world,and they have joined in.

The overall objective is to increase global awareness of how responsible ocean management can help us to implement the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The panel's final report will be presented in 2020.

Developing the policies needed to ensure a sustainable ocean economy is an important part of the work.

A milestone will be the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo in October next year.

We appreciate the active role Norwegian Shipowners' Association is taking.

As key stakeholders in the UN Global Compact Action Platform on Sustainable Ocean Business, you are doing vital work to advance the international agenda.

In two weeks Norway, Germany and the Philippines will organise a conference on green shipping in Singapore. The Norwegian Shipowners' Association has been a key partner in the preparations of the conference. We see this as an important arena to present innovative and green Norwegian solutions.

We look forward to continuing our close partnership.


I started my speech today by putting the oceans right where they belong, at the core of Norway's strategic interests – both historically, today and for the future.

From the Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission (Nortraship) during the Second World War, to finding oil and gas and developing the Norwegian continental shelf, to managing our large fish stocks: The maritime cluster has always played a key role in ensuring Norway's security and prosperity.

Your contributions will be no less important in the future.

Thank you.