Good afternoon, The Government has concluded negotiations on an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with the UK.
The agreement ensures that Norwegian export companies will continue to have access to Norway’s largest export market outside the EU, now that the EEA Agreement no longer applies to the UK.
The agreement will secure Norwegian jobs and promote value creation in Norway. These have been our aims in this process.
We export goods and services to the UK for roughly NOK 200 billion, and this agreement means a great deal for the job security of very many people.
This is the most comprehensive free trade agreement we have ever negotiated, although no free trade agreement will ever be as good as the EEA Agreement.
This agreement with the UK will facilitate continued growth in trade in goods and services between our two countries in the long term.
We also want UK companies to continue to invest in Norwegian enterprises.
At the same time, it has been important for the Government to finalise an agreement now. We are in an economic situation where it is critical to get more people working and to reduce unemployment. We must revitalise the Norwegian economy as we emerge from the pandemic. A secure framework for exports is crucial in this context.
In order to produce more and make working life more inclusive, we must remove the uncertainty that a temporary agreement entails.
The EU and the UK have already signed a free trade agreement.
Our agreement ensures equal, and in some areas better, terms for Norwegian businesses, compared with our EU competitors.
The agreement will have positive spin-off effects for the entire business sector, promote the creation of new jobs, and increase innovation.
The agreement is particularly important for the green transition.
The UK is the largest market for offshore wind in Europe.
This offers a wide range of opportunities for Norwegian companies.
The UK will continue to be an important partner for Norway in other green technology areas such as carbon capture and storage, batteries and hydrogen.
Any negotiation between two parties requires give and take, and both countries have had to take the priorities of the other side into account.
These negotiations have been tough and there have been many rounds.
But I think we have found good, well-balanced solutions.
Nevertheless, our free trade agreement with the UK does not compare with the EEA Agreement.
A free trade agreement means more red tape and increased costs both for companies and individuals, and is less dynamic than the arrangements we had under the EEA Agreement.
The agreement will not dismantle all trade barriers.
Some will remain.
We must therefore keep in mind that the agreement is the result of the UK’s decision to leave the internal market and the common rules that underpin it.
This should give cause for reflection to anyone who wants Norway to withdraw from the EEA Agreement, or who thinks the EU is not a good idea.
The business sector has made it clear that it expects an agreement to be in place before the summer.
That is what we are working towards, and I look forward to cooperating closely with the Storting to achieve it. We know that time is of the essence, but it was not possible to conclude the negotiations before we could see the contours of an agreement that both our countries could support.
Norway is seeking to promote free trade and reduce trade barriers at a time when many have been calling for the opposite.
Protectionist measures will only serve to reinforce the adverse economic impacts of the pandemic, both here in Norway and in other countries.
This agreement reaffirms the longstanding ties between our two nations – based on trade, culture, education and work. It is important to remember that we send much more than just goods to the UK. We send young people. We send services. We enjoy extensive and close cooperation with the UK in many areas.
Now we can look to the future.
And turn our attention to the many opportunities that our cooperation with the UK offers.
I’ll now give the floor to the Minister of Trade and Industry.