Norway in Asia - what in it for us?

Gurgaon, India, 17. april 2015

Statsråd Vidar Helgesens avslutningsinnlegg på det norsk-asiatiske næringslivsmøtet i India 17. april 2015.

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Good afternoon everybody. I am delighted to see you all again and to round off these interesting days in Gurgaon.

Our host, the Norwegian Business Association in India, has put together a truly interesting programme touching on many aspects of doing business in India, and in Asia in general.

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On day two, we heard an interesting range of presentations on trends and challenges from a macroeconomic perspective.

It has been inspiring to hear the various points of view of leading Norwegian business representatives here in Asia, ambassadors from across the region, and academics from Norway. It seems clear that we all agree that the potential for Norwegian companies and know-how in the Asian market is far from exhausted.

I would also like to highlight the breakout sessions this morning on the main sectors for Norwegian companies in Asia – ICT, maritime, energy and innovation. Given Norway's expertise in these fields, it is clear that there are still opportunities for more cooperation in the region.

The new Indian Government intends to improve the business climate in the country. In this respect, Mr Kant's introduction to the priorities of the Indian Government, including the digitalisation of India, the 'Make in India' campaign, and the defence, healthcare, and energy sectors, indicated some of the future opportunities for Norwegian businesses in the country.

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Norway in India

We have learned a lot from the experiences gained from doing business in Asia. We have also learned that the Norwegian business community extends throughout Asia and is wide in its scope. From Japan and Korea in the north, to Indonesia and India in the south, we see an impressive Norwegian presence.

As you know, Asian countries are increasingly important to Norwegian companies.

  • Asia is – after Europe – the second most important destination for Norwegian exports.[1]
  • And, as I mentioned in my opening statement, there are around 500 Norwegian-controlled companies in Asia with a total revenue of NOK 135 billion and 48 000 employees.[2]

The important position that Asia holds for many Norwegian businesses will definitely not fade. While Europe remains our most important trading partner, the trends are clear: Asia is leading when it comes to growth.

The economy in the 21st century will be shaped by what happens here in Asia. And Norway and Norwegian businesses have a lot to gain from investing in Asia, now and in the future.

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India in Norway

When speaking about the future of Asia, it is impossible not to talk about India. India is a market with a huge potential for increased interaction:

  • It has a large population, expected to be the world's largest in 2025.
  • It has a skilled population, with around 700 000 engineers graduating every year.

And, just as large as the market and its potential are the expectations for the new India led by the Modi Government.

Narendra Modi launched the 'Make in India' campaign last year to make it easier to do business in India by reducing bureaucracy and corruption, and providing a more flexible tax regime. This is a highly welcome development, and we are confident that India will continue to push towards becoming a major manufacturing and investment hub.

India is also successful in Norway. Several Indian ICT companies have established operations in Norway over the last ten years. They are important service providers to large Norwegian corporations across a range of sectors, including Telenor, Statoil, DNB, SAS and Norway Post. I would particularly like to mention three companies that are all branches of huge Indian conglomerates:

  • HCL Technologies established an office in Oslo in 2010, where it is enjoying great success and employs 200 people.
  • Tata Consultancy Services is India's largest company of its kind and has been present in Oslo since 2006. Telenor and Norway Post are among its customers. The Tata conglomerate employs 500.000 people worldwide. I look forward to visiting TCS in Gurgaon on Monday.
  • Finally, let me mention Tech Mahindra's IT branch, which recently established a country manager for Norway.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, it was a great privilege to welcome President Pranab Mukherjee and his business delegation to Norway last year. This visit highlighted our close cooperation on business, research, technology and education.

This, ladies and gentlemen, shows that there is the momentum we need to further develop Indo–Norwegian relations. I therefore very much look forward to taking part in two Indo–Norwegian events this afternoon that have been organised by the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise and its Indian sister organisations FICCI and CII.

To repeat a point I made yesterday, I hope that we will soon conclude the free trade agreement negotiations between EFTA and India, to our mutual benefit.

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The benefit of from increased interaction and what the government does

Norway and India will both benefit from increased cooperation and interaction.

Norway, with its small, open economy, has for a long time been exposed to the currents of increased internationalisation. The Norwegian Government recognises that employment, production and welfare in Norway depend on the relationships we have with other countries, and that our welfare also depends on the success of Norwegian companies abroad.

Given the current developments in the Norwegian economy, this is more relevant than ever. The Government is doing everything it can to prepare for the future. And to ensure that the Norwegian business community can continue to take part in the ongoing growth in Asia.

Our broader political project is to strengthen the position of Norwegian companies in markets where we see significant growth. We are therefore working hard to create the best possible multilateral conditions for increased trade through the WTO, and to establish progressive trade agreements. We give priority to policy instruments that work well, like Giek, Export Credit Norway, Intsok, Intpow and Innovation Norway. Our embassies are also doing a tremendous job in promoting and assisting Norwegian companies.

In addition, we have chambers of commerce, which play an important role as keepers and distributors of valuable knowledge and experience.

Local knowledge and cultural understanding are essential when operating abroad. And I have greatly appreciated participating in this summit, where so many different chambers of commerce are represented. Thank you for the important job you do for Norwegian businesses in Asia.

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Before I conclude, let us ask ourselves what Norway could gain from investing in Asia.

I believe the main message from the presentations and discussions here in Gurgaon is that: Asia is, and will continue to be, an important and growing market, and thus a natural area of expansion for Norwegian companies looking for opportunities abroad.

We can offer the expertise and technology needed to continue to drive Asian growth. We see a huge potential for increased trade and investment, especially in the energy and environment, maritime, seafood, and telecommunications sectors.

For Norway it is also important to strengthen our competitiveness and to promote Norway as an attractive destination for investments, skills, knowledge and talent.

But this won't happen by itself. We must therefore continue to improve Norwegian–Asian relations and pay attention to the developments unfolding.

In the panel discussions that will follow shortly, we will explore further how we can benefit from new and existing opportunities in Asia.

Thank you so much for your attention, and I wish you every success in your future enterprises in Asia.

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[1] SSB 2002: 10,8% av total fastlandseksport til 16,2% i 2012 (fra 23 mrd til 58 mrd kroner)

[2] SSB, latest available statistics are for 2011.