Innlegg på North Atlantic Seafood Forum

Bergen, 4. mars 2015

- It is a privilege to open the 10th anniversary of the North Atlantic Seafood Forum. 600 participants from 35 different countries makes this an important and lively meeting place, sa statssekretær Ingvil Næss Stub da hun innledet under North Atlantic Seafood Forum i Bergen.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • It is a privilege to open the 10th anniversary of the North Atlantic Seafood Forum. 600 participants from 35 different countries makes this an important and lively meeting place. 
  • It is also a pleasure to be here in Bergen – a city that has played, and indeed still plays, a vital role for the Norwegian seafood sector.
  • And when I say that, I am not only thinking of the Fish Market, but also – of course – of the city’s historical role in the seafood trade between Norway and the European continent.
  • The Norwegian seafood trade is shaped by our history, our geography, and our rich fishery resources, and it is no less important today than it was several centuries ago.
  • While Norway today is a major oil and gas producer, let us not forget that we are a major seafood nation as well. And let us not forget that this industry is based on the sustainable management and use of these renewable resources.
  • In a world where the population is growing rapidly, and where food production – currently mainly from agriculture – must increase, marine resources will become increasingly important for food security all over the world. 
  • Although the perspective will differ according to whether you are a small-scale fisherman in the waters off West Africa or in the Indian Ocean or a major exporter from the EU or Norway, the growth potential in the seafood sector gives cause for optimism.
  • This is the Government’s outlook too, and we intend to provide a good framework for the industry as it prepares for the future. At the same time, we must ensure that that increased growth in production and trade is sustainable and fair.
  • As this conference is a living proof of - this is a truly globalised sector. The capture of wild fish and fish-farming can take place in a single country. But fish may also be caught or farmed in one country (e.g. Norway) and processed on the other side of the world (e.g. China) – and the final product may then be sold and consumed anywhere in the world.
  • This also means that the sector is easily affected by geopolitics, something that was highlighted by the Russian food import ban that was introduced last August in connection with the crisis in Ukraine.

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  • The Russian import ban meant that exports to one of our most important markets virtually disappeared overnight.
  • However, the ability of our industry to adapt has been impressive, and the result was yet another record year for Norwegian seafood – with exports totalling nearly NOK 69 billion.
  • The main driver behind this growth has been high salmon prices, helped by good export figures for both cod and mackerel.
  • But in the shadow of the Russian import ban, we have fortunately seen  higher exports to the EU market. Let me give you some examples:
  • Last year exports to Poland increased by 12 %, making this our most important market. Poland has developed into an important consumer market, but most of the seafood it imports from Norway is further processed and resold, both within the EU itself, and to markets outside the EU.
  • France remained the second largest market for Norwegian seafood in 2014, with exports amounting to NOK 5.7 billion.
  • The UK was our biggest growth market in 2014 with an increase of NOK 1.2 billion or 42 % compared with the year before. Norway exported seafood worth NOK 4 billion to the UK in 2014.
  • All in all, 12 out of 28 EU member states can be regarded as ‘billion kroner’ markets for Norwegian seafood.

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  • As you can imagine: Maintaining stability and developing trade relations with the EU is an essential part of this Government’s European policy.
  • And let me emphasize: Norway may not be part of the EU, but we are very much part of Europe and an important partner in European cooperation. Let me give you some examples:
  • Norway’s trade with EU countries accounts for a greater share of our foreign trade than is the case for many EU members. Among EU member states, only Luxembourg has a higher proportion of EU labour immigrants (many of these people in the sea food industry). We implement more than three quarters of EU legislation through the EEA Agreement. We regularly align ourselves with EU positions on foreign and security policy. And our financial contributions are on a par with comparable EU member states. Essentially, we are the most integrated outsider in Europe – both politically and economically. 
  • However, when it comes to the EU seafood market, I believe that many seem to regard bilateral trade from a ‘zero-sum’ perspective, where imports are considered to represent a threat to domestic production. 
  • This means that improved market access to the EU is considered to be solely to the advantage of Norwegian exporters (and to the disadvantage of EU operators), but I believe that we should rather be discussing interdependency, partnership and ways to further promote seafood trade and expand the market.
  • There are signs that EU imports are again increasing after the economic crisis, and it seems that the industry considers this to be generally positive for the EU seafood market. Positive trends can also be seen in several member states with higher sales prices and more favourable market conditions, both for sales within the EU and for export out of the EU.
  • This demonstrates that there are mutual benefits to be gained from increased trade volumes and expanding seafood markets.
  • I am therefore pleased that the EU has undertaken a substantial reform of its Common Fisheries Policy, including the introduction of a discard ban policy. This is a great step forward. In the process, Norwegian experiences and input were influential. This government aims to provide relevant and early input also in other EU processes of central importance for Norway.
  • More fish on the market is not necessarily negative either as this could expand the seafood markets in Europe through greater choice for consumers. This may also make it possible to increase seafood consumption overall – which would be good for public health. 

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  • We can also expect more competition in the global seafood market, as economies and the middle class continue to grow in countries throughout Asia. So the EU will have to ask itself where it wants to source its seafood in the future.
  • Which suppliers are the most reliable? Which suppliers can give the best guarantee that their products come from sustainably managed fisheries?
  • Today, the EU imports almost 9 million tonnes of seafood – and Norway is the main supplier, providing around 20% in terms of value. 23 million seafood meals finds its way from Norway to dinner plates in Europe every day.
  • To quote the 2014 report of the EU Fish Processors and Traders Association which is chaired by todays chair, Mr Guus Pastoor: “…the need for imported material is fundamental to industry and the consumer in the EU”. Thus, even in a scenario with increased self-sufficiency, imports will continue to be fundamental for Europe.
  • Importantly, the seafood supplied from Norway forms the basis for further processing in the EU, and is thus a major source of employment and activity in several of the EU member states.
  • Raw material supplies from Norway are estimated to provide 12.000 jobs in the EU processing industry, more than in the processing sector here in Norway (around 10 000 jobs).
  • These figures alone indicate that it is in the EU’s interests to further develop its seafood trade with Norway, not least in the light of the challenging times the EU is facing – both economically and politically.
  • Our current trade regime is in many ways a relic of the past, reflecting our relations with the EU at the time the EEA Agreement was negotiated in the early 1990s, rather than the current demand for seafood or present day trade patterns.
  • Is it, for example, reasonable that our seafood exporters to have to deal with some 50 bilateral tariff free quotas in the EU market today – some of which are for 130 tonnes, some for 67 000 tonnes, some time-limited, others not?
  • Is it expedient to maintain a trade regime, with its various transactions costs, that at times has a negative effect on production and trade?
  • We hear the call from the Norwegian industry to improve the trading conditions with the EU. At the same time we see that Canada will gain free trade for seafood through its free trade agreement with the EU, and we fear further challenges for our competitiveness in the EU market if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), becomes a reality.
  • These agreements will add to the complexity of the current EU–Norway market access negotiations. In particular, I find it interesting that the EU seems to have no problem liberalising seafood trade with other third countries, while Norway is its main supplier and one of the its most important trading partners in general.
  • I’ll leave that observation for you to reflect on, but it is important for us to safeguard and improve access to our most important markets. 
  • We are currently negotiating the funding for the next EEA and Norway Grants period alongside our negotiations on market access for fish in the EU. Since April last year, several of our bilateral trade quotas have been suspended. This has meant that some of our herring producers, for instance, now face a 20 % duty on exports to the EU.
  • I am convinced that we – and here I also mean the EU – should use the current negotiations to address the structural shortcomings in our fisheries trade agreements. We should simplify the regime and ensure predictability for our industries.
  • For instance, I do not believe that it is in our common interest to see important tariff quotas cut-off every fifth year – which complicates production.
  • Market access for fish is a top priority for this Government – that should be clear – and we believe that a substantial improvement in market access for our seafood would be to the benefit of both Norway and the EU.
  • At the same time, of course, other markets are also becoming important for us.
  • We are making a considerable effort to complete free trade negotiations with various new and interesting markets – especially in Asia. For example, we are currently negotiating with Malaysia and Vietnam, and will soon be doing so with the Philippines.
  • We also hope to conclude a free trade agreement with India, another interesting seafood market. Again, geopolitics plays into these processes. We are, for example, currently at a standstill in our free trade negotiations with Russia.

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  • A 2012 report on the prospects for growth based on marine production estimates that we can increase value creation in the marine sector six-fold by 2050. 
  • This is a promising outlook, and this Government intends to help realise the growth potential of a sector that not only has a wealth of long-standing traditions – as we can see living proof of here in Bergen – but is also a cornerstone for our future. 
  • I am sure you will have lively debates on many of these challenges, and I am certain that the outcome of this conference will be an important contribution to the dialogue on how we best can move forward.

Thank you.