Opening speech at a Norwegian Korean Business Seminar

Oslo 24 August 2015

State Secretary Morten Høglund's opening speech at a Norwegian Korean Business Seminar in Oslo on 24 August 2015.

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to this seminar, and I am happy to see so many attending. Let me also express my gratitude to NHO, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, for hosting this seminar.

We are fortunate to have His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of South Korea to Norway, to speak to us today, as well as representatives from Norwegian companies with experience from their activities in South Korea.

First of all, I would like to say that we are concerned about the current security situation on the Korean peninsula. We welcome the high-level meeting between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which was held this weekend. We will continue to follow the situation closely, and encourage the parties to continue the dialogue to find a peaceful solution.

It is a privilege for me to address you on a topic that is one of the top priorities for my Government, namely Norwegian economic diplomacy. Economic diplomacy encompasses every effort related to Norway's economic interests. Our business promotion activities abroad are coordinated by "the local Team Norway", an informal network of all relevant actors represented in the host country that is led by the Norwegian ambassador.

My Government places high priority on research, innovation and education in order to meet today´s intensified global competition. We also give high priority to international cooperation in these areas. In particular, we wish to strengthen investment in industry-oriented research and innovation. This, we believe, will contribute to overall economic growth.

South Korea has experienced an impressive political and economic development. Today, South Korea is one of the most democratic and stable countries in Asia. Moreover, South Korea was the first Asian country to show signs of recovery after the global financial crisis.

I am impressed with the progress South Korea has made and its contributions internationally and I look forward to visiting South Korea and get the first hand experience on 27 and 28 October.

Norway appreciates the excellent ties between our two countries. Co-operation between our two countries covers a wide range of areas, including trade, maritime affairs, climate and energy, Arctic affairs and global issues.

South Korea offers many opportunities for the Norwegian business sector. More than 40 Norwegian companies operate in South Korea today, and I believe there is room for many more.

Norway is pleased with the substantial increase in trade between our two countries following the entry into force (in 2006) of the EFTA – South Korea free trade agreement (FTA). South Korea is Norway's seventh most important trade partner, and second most important in Asia. Exports from South Korea to Norway have almost tripled since 2005. The success of the free trade agreement between EFTA and South Korea shows that we are complementary partners. I hope that we will continue to create even further momentum together.

Norway and South Korea are both working for the adoption of TiSA, the Trade in Services Agreement, which would liberalise and further enhance opportunities for trade in this area.

Maritime transport is of greatest importance to Norway in TiSA, which is why we have proposed a maritime annex. We appreciate our cooperation with South Korea on maritime matters in the TiSA negotiations, based on our common interests in this sector.

Like South Korea, Norway has a comprehensive maritime industry cluster. This is the second most important economic sector in Norway, after oil and gas. Maritime activities account for about 6 % of our GDP.

Many leading Norwegian maritime companies are already active in South Korea. We look forward to further strengthening the bilateral relationship between Korea and Norway related to our Memorandum of Understanding on shipbuilding and the development of green ships and our MOU on maritime transport.

Next, I´d like turn to the marine sector. South Korea is an increasingly important market for the Norwegian seafood industry. So far this year, seafood exports from Norway to South Korea have increased by 40 % compared to 2014.

Aqua farming may well become the next major industry for cooperation between Norway and South Korea. The whole value chain of fisheries and aqua farming presents opportunities to put Norwegian expertise to good use.

As we have seen, Norway and South Korea have close ties in the fields of shipping and shipbuilding. With the development of the Arctic as a transport route and energy source, increased cooperation between our countries in the Arctic is welcome. We appreciate South Korea´s engagement and role as an active observer to the Arctic Council and your contributions to Arctic research.

Let me continue by commenting on business opportunities that emerge as a result of policy challenges related to climate change, the environment and energy. If we are to meet our climate goals, transport emissions must be reduced. Alternative fuels play an important role in creating climate-efficient modes of transport.

Norwegian companies are working together with Hyundai on developing the necessary infrastructure for hydrogen-fuelled cars. This is a good example of the type of technological cooperation that is needed to address the challenges we are facing. I believe there is considerable potential for more cooperation in this field.

The Barents Sea in Norway's High North has vast and mostly unexploited natural gas reserves. I see new opportunities for trade and cooperation with South Korea on LNG, in light of the significant potential of the Northern Sea Route.

DANA, a South Korean oil company, is currently operating on the Norwegian continental shelf. I hope their example can be an inspiration for other South Korean companies to engage in the Norwegian oil and gas sector, as well as in other sectors. Indeed, we welcome Korean investments.

To sum up, South Korea is a key market for Norway, and will undoubtedly become even more important in the future.

Speaking on behalf of all the co-organisers of today´s seminar, we are ready to assist Norwegian companies in broadening their knowledge about South Korea and in taking the advantage of the opportunities that exist.

I wish you a successful seminar.

Thank you.