The normalisation of relations between our countries is a great opportunity to make our strong ties even stronger.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
What a great pleasure it is to be here in Bejing once again! I have really been looking forward to this visit!
I want to thank the Chinese Government and the Chinese people for making me, and the rest of my delegation from Norway, feel very welcome here in your country.
And I want to thank all of you for choosing to spend some of your time here today.
First, let me say that I am very pleased that relations between Norway and China are formally normalised. I believe there is a great potential for increased trade and cooperation between our two countries, not least – and perhaps especially – in the seafood area!
There is a strong basis for our relationship. This is because we think alike. Both Norway and China take a long-term approach to how we manage our resources to the benefit of our country and our people!
I can assure you that there is tremendous interest from the Norwegian side for closer relations with China. And I am happy to see that there is also a strong interest from the Chinese side.
Travelling with me to China is a large delegation of Norwegian seafood and technology companies. In fact, I believe this must be the largest seafood delegation ever from Norway, with around 125 different companies representing the full scale of the Norwegian seafood sector: exporters, service providers, technology suppliers and more!
I hope that this seminar proves to be a fruitful arena for building new partnerships between Norwegian and Chinese seafood businesses.
As for me, I intend to make the most of this visit in terms of developing partnerships at the governmental level, where I have already had productive meetings with Chinese colleagues.
Yesterday I met with the Chinese Vice Minister for Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss how we can work together to develop the fisheries and aquaculture sector in our two countries. It is clear that we have many shared interests with great opportunities to work closely together, which we are already doing in several areas.
Earlier today I also met with the Minister of AQSIQ, Mr. Zhi Shuping, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting on his recent visit to Norway. For some weeks now there have been discussions between the Food Safety authorities in China and Norway on how we can ensure predictability for salmon exports from Norway to China. I am pleased to announce that we today have signed a formal agreement, which outlines the framework for salmon exports from Norway to China. We also discussed other areas in which we can work together to lay the foundations for trade and cooperation.
I also want to remind you that the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, made a very successful official visit to Beijing and Shanghai only a few weeks ago!
During this visit, Norway and China agreed to resume the negotiations of a free trade agreement.
A free trade agreement would be an important step towards realising the full trade potential between our countries: it will provide companies on both sides with a good and predictable framework for doing business.
As Norwegian seafood is important for many Chinese importers, a free-trade agreement will also be to the benefit of the seafood industry here in China as well as for Chinese consumers.
So allow me to say a few words on Norwegian seafood and our seafood industry.
We have a very proud history of harvesting from the sea in Norway. Fisheries have been a backbone of our economy for hundreds of years.
Our major stocks are in very good condition, as result of both Mother Nature and good, long-term fisheries management. Our fisheries management is mostly in cooperation with other countries.
The most important wild species are cod, mackerel and herring.
We also have excellent conditions for sea-based aquaculture, with sheltered fjords and cold, clean waters. Over the last few decades, Norway has also grown to become the largest producer of farmed salmon in the world. In fact, some say that the salmon is now the most famous Norwegian abroad!
And along with the growth in the seafood sector, there has also been an impressive growth of world-leading equipment and services companies in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Many of these companies are here in Beijing with me! We see great potential for increased trade and exports in this area as well, to meet the worldwide trend of growing demand for aquaculture technology.
Today, Norway is the second largest seafood exporter in the world, only second to China. Our production in Norway is much smaller than yours in China! But then again we are only just above 5 million people living in Norway!
So we cannot ourselves simply eat all the seafood we produce!
Our seafood is exported to about 140 countries worldwide. Every single day, the whole year around, Norway exports 34 million meals.
And we do not intend to stop there. We have high hopes for the seafood sector, and we intend to produce even more seafood going forward.
As importers of Norwegian seafood you can be assured that it is harvested and produced sustainably. Norwegian seafood is healthy for you and safe to eat. And not least – it tastes good!
My view is that, in general, the timing is good for seafood in the global markets.
The world needs more food in the years to come. According to the UN, we need to increase food production in the world by 40 percent by 2050 to feed the growing world population. Today, only a small percentage of our food production comes from the sea.
But in the future, seafood must play a much bigger role in food security. And China and Norway have a responsibility as leading seafood nations to take the lead in putting more seafood on the menu worldwide!
Of course, seafood is also more than fish. The potential in non-fish marine foods is enormous, and the demand on the global market is increasing. China and Norway have the opportunity to supply this demand!
I am impressed by how far you have come in China when it comes to harvesting from the lower levels of the seafood chain, and harvesting and production of seaweeds.
In Norway, we have a lot to learn from China's experiences and knowledge on the biology of seaweeds. And I am sure we can bring technological and industrial knowledge that would be useful to the development of the Chinese industry.
This can be a win-win for Norway and China in the future!
As leading seafood nations, China and Norway have many shared interests and areas where we can work together!
One such area is research. I am happy to say that Norway and China has a close marine research relationship dating back to the early 1980s.
Several Norwegian research institutes are involved in cooperation with Chinese colleagues, developing and sharing knowledge, to the benefit of both countries. In particular, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research has a close collaboration with China's Academy of Fisheries Science.
We are committed to continuing and developing this relationship.
Norway is not interested in a one-sided increase of seafood exports from Norway to China. We recognize that Norway and China as seafood nations have to work closely together also in other areas such as research, exchanging experiences and sharing knowledge in the mutual interest of both our countries.
Talking about the bond between our two great countries, I come with a message from my wife:
My wife Line Miriam and I live on Senja, Norway's second largest island. Line Miriam is head of Tourism for Visit Senja and they are about to establish a friendship cooperation with Sanya Travel Association here in China. Sanya is of course China's second largest Island! My wife really looks forward to working further on this "twin region cooperation" and a possible slogan might be:
"Sanya and Senja – the best from the Tropics and the Arctic!"
Norway and China have strong ties.
And the normalisation of relations between our countries is a great opportunity to make our strong ties even stronger.
I wish you the best of luck with today's seminar, and I hope that you take the opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships, as well as establishing new ones.
Also, I hope to see as many of you as possible at the seafood dinner later tonight, where you will get to experience first-hand the very best of what Norwegian seafood has to offer!
As the Chinese saying goes: "to have friends coming in from a far – how delightful!"
As your friends from a far, we want to live up to your expectations!
Thank you for your attention and good luck!