Historical archive

Speech at Norway Industry Day

Historical archive

Published under: Regjeringen Bondevik II

Publisher Statsministerens kontor

Beijing, 21 January 2002

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik

Speech at Norway Industry Day

Beijing, 21 January 2002


Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

When I first came here 22 years ago, China had just started on her path towards modernisation and opening up.

When Prime Minister Brundtland was here six and a half years ago, China was consolidating her position as a future economic power.

When I now pay an official visit, China has joined the World Trade Organisation and has committed the most populous country in the world to our common playing field. The prospects are bright. China has demonstrated impressive economic growth.

I am honoured to open the Norway Industry Day in Beijing. We will explore new avenues of economic cooperation between Norway and China. This is one of the main objectives of my visit to the People's Republic.

Despite our differences we have developed close relations, ranging from global issues of security, poverty and the environment, to political dialogue, culture, research and business cooperation.

My country attaches importance to our bilateral relations. Our commercial cooperation forms a vital pillar.

Norway and China have longstanding and good relations. My visit to China reflects the importance of these relations. And it emphasises the mutual benefit we can derive from them.

Norwegians have been proud of their ability to navigate the seas – over 1000 years ago, during the Viking era, we saw the sea as a highway.

Yet, the Vikings did not seem to get as far as China. The first Norwegian sailors to call at Chinese ports came in the 16 th> and 17 th> centuries.

It may still have been the Viking spirit that moved a young Norwegian customs officer in Ningbo 110 years ago to row a sampan across the mine-infested Yangtze river. The young Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe had volunteered to warn a steamer from Shanghai about the mines.

He succeeded, his bravery made an impression, and Munthe later became a general under Yuan Shi-kai. He was eventually buried here in Beijing with full official honours.

Munthe was colourful. But so were many others.

During the time of the empire of the 19 th> century and the republic of the 20 th>, up the large rivers came Norwegian sailors, tradesmen and missionaries. A surprising number of my countrymen held leading positions in the civil service of that day.

Today, we carry forward our traditions. And I am proud to be here this morning, with you, to confirm our commitment.

On this visit I am accompanied by more than 100 prominent Norwegian businessmen and -women. My Minister of Industry and Trade has joined me. That emphasises the importance my Government attaches to Norwegian-Chinese commercial cooperation.

As a small nation with an open economy, Norway is committed to a strong global regime for trade and economic relations. The full integration of China into the multilateral trading system is crucial. China’s membership will benefit the global economy. WTO is closer to being a truly world trade organisation.

I am confident that WTO membership will bring benefits to China, a country that has already proven her competitiveness in the global marketplace. WTO membership will improve China’s access to foreign capital and technology and to foreign markets.

I am confident, too, that China’s membership of the WTO will pave the way for enriched bilateral economic relations between Norway and China.

Bilateral trade has increased by 150 per cent over the past six years. China has become Norway’s second largest trading partner in Asia. The number of investments by Norwegian companies in China is showing a steady increase. Chinese companies are showing a greater interest in business opportunities with their Norwegian counterparts.

This I welcome.

Norway is well known to China as a shipping nation.

Norwegian shipping interests at present control the third largest fleet in the world. Twenty-five new ships and oilrigs, to the tune of RMB 10 billion, are currently in production in China. When I go to Shanghai on Wednesday, I will also emphasise our maritime cooperation.

Information and communications technology is a defining feature of globalisation.

China is well on the way to becoming one of the largest and most demanding ICT arenas in the world. Norway has special technology and expertise to share. We hope to engage in further mutual undertakings with China.

With the valuable support of the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry, we look forward to presenting concrete plans for increased interaction in this high-technology field.

We have established a constructive dialogue. Our Joint Economic Committee is a useful tool for facilitating bilateral trade and investment.

We have every reason to be optimistic about the future.

The Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry and its sister organisations in China are pursuing their dialogue. It focuses on common challenges facing business leaders in the global economy. Today, it is taking the form of a roundtable conference with parallel technical workshops.

An increasing number of Norwegian companies are exploring business opportunities in China. This also covers investments and joint ventures.

China’s economy grows. And Norway is being increasingly affected by China’s development. Our aim is to expand our broad and active cooperation with China.

We propose more research and institutional cooperation, as well as efforts to increase both countries’ knowledge of the other’s language, culture and society. Human rights and environmental cooperation will continue to occupy a central place.

I trust you will agree that there is a wide scope for further contact and closer relations between Norway and China.

Our differences can indeed become our strengths as we share our experience and our expertise, as we widen our understanding of the world we live in. We are ready and we are willing to proceed along this path – in our bilateral relations and in our contribution towards peace, security and development in all parts of the world.

China is becoming an Olympic nation. My country has hosted the winter Olympics twice. We are in little doubt as to the magnitude of this undertaking. Yet, the Chinese Games can have a tremendous mobilising and motivating force.

Let us make the Olympic spirit of openness and friendly competition and cooperation our guiding light in our economic relations. I wish you every success.

Thank you for your attention.