Innlegg på årsmøtet til Norsk-indisk handelskammer

Oslo, 26. august 2015

Statssekretær Morten Høglund holdt dette innlegget på Norsk-indisk handelskammers årsmøte 26. august.

Dear members of Norway India Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It gives me great pleasure to address you all here at your Annual General Meeting. I am very happy to be accompanied by Norway's new ambassador to India, Mr Nils Ragnar Kamsvåg. Ambassador Kamsvåg will be at the center of developments for all aspects of future Indo-Norwegian cooperation in the coming years.

I had the opportunity to witness the enthusiasm of the Norwegian business community towards Asia, and India in particular, during this year's Norway Asia Business Summit in India. 185 representatives from the Norwegian business community and government gathered there to discuss economic megatrends, Asia's complex political economy and huge significance for Norway in the face of lower oil prices. I was intrigued to hear that India's growth this year will surpass China's and that India in the coming years will have the world's fastest growing major economy.

Norway and India enjoy excellent bilateral relations, as shown clearly at the very succesful first Indian state visit to Norway by President Pranab Mukherjee last October. Historically, Norway was among the very first countries to recognize India's independence, actually on Independence Day itself in 1947. Our diplomatic relations date back to 1952 and Norway's very first international development cooperation was within fisheries in Kerala in the 1950's.

Since 2003 our relations have changed nature and are now based on political dialogue, trade and business cooperation, investment, research and higher education, culture and environment, among other themes. The cooperation is lad by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs and is institutionalised in a Joint Commission for political dialogue. The next meeting of the commission is planned for November, in conjunction with the re-opening of our Consulate General in Mumbai.

India - a central actor

"Asia is rising". A large part of the growth in the global economy in the next decades will happen in Asia and to a large extent in India, making India a central actor on the world stage, politically and economically. The Norwegian business community also see this clearly, and the growth in business cooperation between our two countries is the justification for re-opening the Consulate General in Mumbai.

Norway's economic diplomacy encompasses every effort related to our economic interests, from taking part in the development of global trade policy to promoting the Norwegian business sector abroad and attracting investments, researchers, students, and highly skilled professionals to Norway. Economic diplomacy is a top priority for the Norwegian Government.

In order to meet today´s intensified global competition we must place high priority on research, innovation and education. The Government give high priority to international cooperation in these areas. In particular, we wish to strengthen investment in industry-oriented research and innovation.

Our business promotion activities abroad are coordinated by "the local Team Norway". Under the leadership of the Norwegian ambassador, this is an informal network of all relevant Norwegian actors represented in the host country.

The Norwegian embassies and consulates are tasked to intensify their focus on assisting Norwegian companies abroad and to contribute with, and share, their local, in- depth knowledge on market conditions, rules and regulations, business culture and of course political issues.

Our embassies will advise Norwegian companies on local challenges in regard to Corporate Social Responsibility. I take this opportunity to draw your attention to the national Action Plan for Business and Human Rights, which will be finalised later this fall. High ethical business-standards are important to my Government and also an important criterion for any corporation that wants to achieve sustainable global success.

It is our goal to be a Foreign Service that works alongside with the business community, and to provide professional, targeted, high quality services to corporate Norway and their business partners.

New Consulate General in November

Norway had a career Consulate General in then Bombay until 1973. I am very pleased to announce that we are now back again, formally re-opening a new Consulate General in November!

Since 1973, we have had an Honorary Consulate General headed by Mr George Mathew. Mr Mathew has done a terrific job representing Norway and Norwegian interests and we have much to be grateful to him for. He will continue to be a most valuable partner for Norway in the future.

I shall not speculate in why Norway closed its Consulate General in Bombay in 1973, but at that time the potential for Indian economic growth and development were not seen as overly bright. That has changed dramatically over the last two decades. India is now the most dynamic developing country with her pro business agenda.

The Consulate General will cover the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa, an area with a population of 170 million people and the industrial and financial centre of India.

Re-opening the Norwegian Consulate General is a logical step as more Norwegian businesses show great interest in establishing a presence in Mumbai. Both official India and the private sector are looking for Norwegian expertise in areas where we are global leaders and can contribute to economic development of the Indian society.

Re-opening the career Consulate General offers new opportunities for assistance to Norwegian businesses in the western Indian region, creating a meeting place for Norwegian and Indian business people. The Consulate General's main task is to serve Norwegian interests and especially the business community. You should therefore know that the threshold for contacting our staff and diplomats should be low.

We are dispatching very experienced and competent diplomats to Mumbai, colleagues that for years have worked closely with businesses and commercial affairs both in the Ministry and at several foreign missions abroad. To create a success-story in Mumbai together, we need a close working relationship between Norwegian businesses and the Consulate General.

Foreign Minister Brende will officially open the Norwegian Consulate General on third November. Norway Week, including a Norwegian Seafood Dinner, seminars on The Blue Economy, the marine sector and cultural events will be held simultaneously during the Foreign Minister's visit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope I have managed to convey the great expectations my government have towards future business cooperation between Norway and India. I hope that the steps we are taking to facilitate this cooperation will produce great results.

Thank you for your attention