Norway's free trade agreements

Norway negotiates free trade agreements with other countries through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The trade agreements secure Norwegian business' access to international markets and facilitate trade with partner countries. In this page you will find information about EFTA and on the free trade agreements Norway/EFTA has with third party countries.

About EFTA
EFTA is an inter-governmental organisation established in 1960. Since then, the European Union (EU) has absorbed six of ten EFTA members. Today, EFTA consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. All except Switzerland are members of the European Economic Agreement (EEA). Click here to read more about the EEA and the Norwegian relationship with the EU.

EFTA was founded on the premise of free trade as a means of achieving growth and prosperity amongst its Member States as well as promoting closer economic co-operation between the Western European countries. Furthermore, EFTA was created to be an alternative to the EC's (EU) ambitions on economic integration. Click here to read a bulletin with more information about EFTA.

EFTA's free trade agreements
One of EFTA's main goals has been to contribute to the expansion of trade in the world at large. Since the beginning of the 1990s, EFTA has actively pursued trade relations with third countries in and beyond Europe. A guiding principle for EFTA’s negotiations with third party countries has been to secure that EFTA businesses enjoy the same rights and privileges as businesses from the EU in third country markets. In recent, the EFTA states have prioritised negotiations based on economic considerations, regardless of the EU's trade relations with the third party country in question.

The EFTA countries negotiate their free trade agreements in common, speaking with one voice at the negotiating table. However, EFTA does not have a common trade policy – all member states have to agree on the negotiation parameters prior to each round of negotiations. Thus, each member country maintains full sovereignty in the process.

The free trade agreements secure Norwegian access to international markets and facilitate trade with partner countries, and are therefore an important part of the Norwegian trade policy.

EFTA free trade agreements are supplementary to Norway’s commitments in the WTO – the  multilateral trading system is Norway's main priority. Click here to read a brochure with more information about EFTAs free trade relations.

Norwegian export and trade
With a population of 4.5 million inhabitants, Norway is dependent on trade to maintain a high standard of living for its citizens. As a small country, free trade is crucial for the Norwegian economy. One of the main priorities of Norwegian trade policy is to increase market access for manufactured goods, fish, and services.

Norwegian exports:

- Norway exports about 40 per cent of its goods and services. The main export products are oil, gas, minerals and seafood.

- Norway is the world’s third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

- Norway’s fisheries industry is among the biggest in Europe. The industry has in recent years experienced a rapid expansion of the fish-farming business.

- Norway has a proud tradition as a seafaring nation, and after the establishment of the Norwegian International Ship Register in 1987, the Norwegian merchant fleet has become the world’s fourth biggest.

- Norway is among the world leaders in a wide range of industries such as energy, environment technology, aquaculture, maritime industries, hydropower, technology and telecommunications.

- The Norwegian government's long-term focus on R&D has enhanced the development of new areas of expertise (e.g. biotechnology, environment technology, software and communications technology, engineering and oil related services). Norway’s highly educated population and the development of pools of expertise make the export of services increasingly important for the Norwegian economy.

- Tourism has emerged as one of Norway’s fastest-growing industries.

Partner countries
Norway currently has free trade agreements with the following countries. If you click on the country you will go to EFTAs webpage with more information about the agreement in question.

Chile Korea The Palestinian territory
Croatia Lebanon Singapore
Egypt Macedonia Southern African Customs Union (SACU)
Israel Mexico Tunisia
Jordan Morocco Turkey

Norway is currently in negotiations with the following countries:

Algeria The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
Colombia Thailand

Norway has signed declarations on cooperation with the following countries:

Albania Serbia

Investment agreements
The main reason for concluding investment agreements is to protect Norwegian investments abroad, particularly in countries where the political and economic situation is unstable, and to ensure that Norwegian enterprises are able to compete on an equal footing with enterprises from other countries. It is also an important consideration that the agreements are meant to promote investments in developing countries, thereby contributing to economic development in these countries.

As of February 2008, Norway is party to 14 bilateral investment treaties (Chile, China, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Madagascar, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka). Furthermore, the EFTA-Singapore free trade agreement includes some provisions on investment protection.

Norway has not concluded this kind of agreement since the middle of the 1990s, because such agreements also provide protection to foreign investments in Norway, and there has been uncertainty concerning the potential effects in Norway of concluding new such agreements.

The Government has appointed a Committee of State Secretaries in order to clarify the freedom of action for the conclusion of investment agreements. The committee has assessed advantages and disadvantages of investment protection agreements. The committee has prepared a draft model agreement for future investment agreements. The draft model agreement is now subject to public review. Hereby follows the draft model agreement and the covering letter to the public review:

Public Review - Covering Letter (English translation)- Where this translation differs in meaning from the original Norwegian text, the original Norwegian text prevails. 

Comments on the Model for Future Investment Agreements (English translation)- Where this translation differs in meaning from the original Norwegian text, the original Norwegian text prevails.