Hanse Business næringslivsseminar

Opening speech

Your Excellencies Madam Ambassador Helen Campell, and Madam Ambassador Bea ten Tusscher.

Ladies and gentlemen!

On behalf of the Norwegian government, a warm welcome to Bergen and the Hanseatic Days 2016.

It has been 20 years since Bergen last hosted this event.

In many respects the city has changed a lot during these years – as has the rest of the world.

The current situation in the Norwegian economy has been an eye-opener – planning for the near future is a challenge.

Who could have predicted that the oil price would be less than half of what it was two years ago, with the serious consequences this has had on our offshore-related industry and employment along the coast?

But, some do try such forecasts: Just recently CNN predicted Bergen to be one of the richest cities in the world in ten years.

Bergen is an important hub for the Norwegian energy industry, shipping, and marine research.

It is more than a compliment to this city, it is also an obligation to us, especially us politicians: How can we lay the foundations for such a future?

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Though the oil and gas sector will continue to play an important role for decades to come, it will not necessarily be the main engine in the Norwegian economy, as it has been.

We must diversify our economy and broaden it's foundation.

Our most important task is to provide good an competitive conditions for our businesses and industries – and to make them more robust facing changes and challenges ahead.

To accomplish this:

  • we need tax policies, that encourage companies to invest in than own businesses.
  • we have to make it easier to start and run businesses in Norway,
  • we have to improve our infrastructure, so that goods and people, can be transported safer and more quickly.

We have a saying in our ministry: "No one is such a rush as a dead salmon".

  • and finally, we are granting a historically high amount of our GDP to research. This is the main key to accomplish the restructuring of our economy.

Or as Prime Minister Erna Solberg puts it: "Knowledge is the new oil".

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But it is not only the Norwegian economy that faces changes.

The whole industrial world is changing.

We see increased automatization and digitalization of the industries.

We see more advanced, more efficient and more accurate production methods developing.

The development of new technology opens up for new products, new value chains, new business models and more sustainable ways of production.

Some call this a new wave of re-industrialization. Others, a fourth industrial revolution.

Whatever we choose to call it- we will witness great changes in the years ahead for a profitable industrial production in Norway.

My Government is now writing a White Paper on Industry where we both want to address these changes, and at the same time discuss how well Norway is prepared to handle them.

In broadening the foundation of the economy, we also focus on other areas.

Being here, in the beautiful city of Bergen, I hardly have to convince you that Norway has great potential in the tourism. With the low exchange rate of our currency, this sector is facing profitable times.

The Government is also working on a White paper on tourism, which we will present later this year. It is 15 years since the last white paper was presented, since then, the technological development has revolutionized the sector as a whole.

Another sector profiting from the low exchange rate of our currency is the Norwegian seafood sector.

During Hanseatic times, Norwegian Stock fish was the most important commodity. And the export of seafood still is an important part of our international trade today with increasing export numbers. In 2015, we exported seafood worth of 8,3 billion Euros, to 143 different countries.

I know it is difficult to grasp such a number. So let me put it like this: Over 36 million people around the world – almost seven times more than the population of Norway – eat Norwegian fish for dinner every day!

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Just like the Hanseatic League depended on the ocean to maintain their economic power, the ocean space is one of Norway's strategically most important industry areas.

Norway has access to six times more sea than land, and this gives us endless possibilities. 

That is precisely why we designated sea to one of six priority areas of the Government's long-term plan for research.

To follow up, the Government is preparing an ocean strategy. The objective is to mark out the course for blue growth and new jobs.

Another world leading industry connected to the ocean, is our strong maritime industry. Last year my government presented a maritime strategy to ensure that this sector stays competitive, also in the future.

We are already seeing results, more and more Norwegian ships are sailing under the Norwegian flag.

The ocean industries have long traditions for developing highly advanced technology. As we now need to restructure our economy, we have to find new ways of using this technology.

A great example is Salmar, applying technology from the offshore sector to aquaculture.

Transferring our knowledge and competitive advantages to other sectors such as this, is something we want to see more of in the years ahead.

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Looking to the past as the future, the Hanseatic League built its wealth on trade.  There is no doubt that trade and internationalization are equally important for the Norwegian industry and economy. 

And this time it goes far beyond exporting stock fish. Our export make up almost 40 percent of our GDP. This is an important part of our value creation. 

Long before there was anything like modern
trade institutions, or even nation states – we had the Hanseatic League. 

Since then trade has been the backbone of both peace and prosperity. 

That is why we must look to our past in an ever-changing world.

We must do our best to tackle the challenges ahead of us. At the same time, we must embrace the opportunities that the changes offer for Norway and Hordaland. 

Our important Hanseatic legacy can offer many possibilities in the future. We will do our outmost to ensure that Europe will enjoy our resources from the sea and for us to take part in the markets across the sea. 

Let the Hanseatic spirit of cooperation inspire you to see new opportunities at this seminar.

I wish you the best of luck!

Thank you for your attention!