Tale/innlegg | Dato: 04.12.2013
Check against delivery.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting me to your traditional Christmas event.
I am pleased to be given this opportunity to meet you today.
Since I started my job as Minister of Trade and Industry, I have heard great things about the Norwegian Russian Chamber of Commerce.
In October 2003, twenty Norwegian and Russian companies met to establish a forum for business cooperation.
Today, ten years later, you have 130 companies on the members list!
More and more Russian companies are also joining in.
Both Lukoil and the Russian Direct Investment Fund have taken rightful places on the board.
I welcome these very positive developments.
And I congratulate you on your 10th anniversary.
Personally, I have been the head of the city council in Bergen for the last ten years.
I am sure you are all familiar with Bergen; the most beautiful – and rainiest city in Norway!
In my new job as Minister, I bring with me my experiences as a local politician.
Naturally, national and local policies differ in many ways.
But in some ways it is much the same.
Small or large, we are dependent on solid relationships with our closest neighbours and most important partners.
As head of the city council in Bergen, I have aimed at taking good care of relationships with neighbouring municipalities – and with our partners in Stavanger, Trondheim, Tromsø and Oslo.
This continues to be my approach as Minister of Trade and Industry.
Happily, when I see all of you here today, I become convinced that our Norwegian-Russian relationship already has a solid foundation.
Our partnership is already broadly based.
There is close contact on parliamentary, ministerial, and regional levels.
Approximately 100 Norwegian companies are established in Russia.
Russia and Norway trade and cooperate in seafood, minerals, oil and gas and maritime equipment.
Trade has now kept stable over the last years.
But the numbers so far in 2013 indicate that we can expect a small reduction this year.
We must work to reverse this trend.
And we should work harder to diversify our trade, as we mainly trade in raw materials today.
I see a large, yet untapped, potential for more economic cooperation.
The Russian market, with 140 million potential consumers, speaks for itself.
Therefore, our goal should be to create better conditions for business and investments across our borders.
To reach this goal, Norway gives high priority to the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EFTA states and the Customs Union countries – Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Trade has been – and still is – crucial to Norway´s welfare.
It is one of the strongest engines of economic growth.
Therefore the Norwegian Government seeks to promote free trade and pursue active trade policies.
Russia’s WTO-membership is important.
But I believe we must continue to keep moving towards even better market access and predictability for Norwegian companies in Russia.
We hope to conclude the free trade negotiations before summer next year.
Our wish is to land an ambitious and forward oriented free trade agreement with Russia.
Our most important arena today for creating good political relations and good conditions for our companies – is the Norwegian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation.
Over many years, there has been established a trust-based and constructive dialogue in the Commission.
I now look forward to going to Moscow for the next meeting in 2014 – as the new Norwegian co-chair.
I am also certain that events like Crown Prince Haakon’s planned visit to St Petersburg in February, and the 4th Norwegian-Russian Business Forum in April, will further highlight Norway in Russia.
A special area of common interest for Russian and Norwegian companies is the Arctic. This issue will also be addressed later this evening.
The Arctic is home to resources such as energy, minerals and food.
And the potential for shorter trading routes in Arctic waters is now being explored.
But we face a paradox here:
The melting ice cap opens up new commercial opportunities.
But global warming is alarming – and bad news to all of us.
With major opportunities come major responsibilities.
Together we need to make sure that the development of these areas is both safe and environmental friendly.
The Norwegian government wishes to work closely on these issues with all other states with stakes in the Arctic.
And the biggest Arctic state by any measure – with 50 per cent of the Arctic coastline and at least 50 per cent of its resources – is Russia.
The new Norwegian government is also eager to develop our cross border cooperation in the North.
I am very glad that my deputy minister, Mr. Eirik Lae Solberg, is ready to put new energy into the work of the Commission’s working group on regional and cross border cooperation.
We wish to encourage people-to-people contact and cross-border cooperation in the north.
Obstacles to this should be reduced as much as possible.
Mr. Solberg is now looking forward to exchange constructive ideas with his Russian colleague, First Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Svetlana Ivanova.
This includes discussing the possibility of increasing capacity at the Storskog and Boris Gleb border stations.
Our government intends to base our policies for a competitive Norwegian business life on innovation, knowledge and competence.
From the first of January, we will establish a new large Ministry for Industry and Fisheries.
There will be two Ministers:
Elisabeth Aspaker, in charge of fisheries, and me, in charge of industrial policy and trade.
Our ambition is that by reorganizing and by placing competition policy, trade policy and fisheries policy under the same roof, we will strengthen all of our areas of expertise.
We believe that together, we will be stronger and more effective than alone – in both our work with trade agreements and in our bilateral relationships.
But needless to say, after only seven weeks in position, as Minister of Trade and Industry, I still have much to learn.
This week I have had my first introduction to Norwegian-Russian bilateral relations.
Two days ago I had a good meeting with ambassador Pavlovskiy.
And today I am here to meet you for the first time.
I am glad that we already enjoy a good and broad Russian-Norwegian relationship.
And I know that the last decade, the Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce has done an important job in promoting our good relations.
Therefore, if everyone has gløgg in their cups, I want to propose a toast:
To at least ten more years of constructive good work by all of you here – in the Norwegian Russian Chamber of Commerce.