“Already, more than 120 Norwegian companies are active in India. The value of our bilateral trade has doubled over the last two years. We have a strong foundation for future cooperation, but there are ample opportunities to do more”, Foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in her remarks.
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I can think of no better place to have this conversation.
Norway and India share close ties. And the historic ties between Arendal and India are particularly close.
As you all know, this city’s golden age was during the sailing ships era of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Back then, to the businessmen of Arendal, India was “Mecca”. The promised land, with endless opportunities.
Many tried their luck.
Like Johan Christian Soetman from Arendal, who set sail for India in 1767. After more than a decade without any news, his parents assumed their only son was dead.
Until one day, a letter found its way to their home – right here in Tyholmen. The letter was written in 1783, in Bengal, one of the world’s most important trade and industrial centers at the time. Soetman was very much alive. The letter, in which he details his many adventures – and manymisadventures – is one of the treasures on display in the Kuben museum.
At the beginning of the 18th century, shortly before Soetman left his parents and headed East, India represented almost a quarter of world GDP – higher than all of Europe combined.
Let us fast forward to today.
Asia comprises 45 % of the global GDP.
India has the world’s largest population, and recently became the fifth largest economy of the world.
And in the next 25 years, India might well become the world’s third largest economy – ahead of Germany and Japan – and the world’s largest consumer market.
In short, Asia is rising, and within Asia, India is rising - very, very fast. I am certain that Raja Mohan will tell us more about this in a few minutes.
When the historians of the future look back on our time – I am convinced that one development will stand out: the shift of economic and geopolitical influence from the West (and back) to the East.
It goes without saying:
Asian markets are increasingly important for Norwegian export and sectors that underpin Norway’s economy: shipping, oil and gas, seafood industries, renewables, and advanced technology. And in other areas as well.
Some voices argue that Asia’s rapid advancement and development poses a competition. A risk to European businesses.
I beg to differ. I believe that the rise of Asia is an opportunity. For Norway, and for Europe. We need more free trade, more cooperation, more dialogue. Not less.
Isolation and protectionism are not in anyone’s interest.
Climate shocks have dominated news headlines this summer. We need international cooperation to solve the climate crisis – and we need it now. India is – and has to be – a key player if we are to counter this existential threat.
For all these reasons, one of my core tasks as Foreign Minister, is to:
- and Strengthen Norway’s cooperation with Asia in
And with India in particular!
My message to Norwegian businesses, academics and students is to do what Soetman did in the 18th century: look East! Travel to India!
And fortunately, in our time, mothers like me can watch our children’s every move on Snapmap – also if they travel to India. In some ways, being a parent is easier today than it was in Soetman’s time.
When I traveled to India last year, I was accompanied by a large Norwegian business delegation. Norwegian energy companies, and companies operating with circular economy.
We experienced firsthand the endless opportunities in an India on the rise – and India’s interest for the solutions that Norway can offer.
Already, more than 120 Norwegian companies are active in India. The value of our bilateral trade has doubled over the last two years.
We have a strong foundation for future cooperation, but there are ample opportunities to do more.
And how we can build on those opportunities is precisely what an excellent panel will be discussing now.
I very much look forward to hearing your views, insights and ideas – and believe me: I will be taking notes!