*from the left: Iselin Nybø (Minister of Trade and Industry), Alex Grant (Equinor Country Manager), Wegger Chr. Strømmen (Ambassador), Kyrre Haugen (NBCC General Manager)
The Free Trade Agreement between the UK and Norway was signed by Iselin Nybø, Minister of Trade and Industry, on the 8th of July. On this occasion, the NBCC was invited alongside DNV, DNB, Equinor, Statkraft, Wikborg Rein and Aker Horizon for a working dinner and roundtable discussion on trade issues between Britain and Norway. Iselin Nybø kindly wrote the article below especially for the NBCC members and our network.
A free trade agreement with opportunities for people and companies
By: Iselin Nybø, Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry
Norway’s free trade agreement with the United Kingdom was negotiated in record time. Our goal was to get at least as good an agreement as the one the UK had concluded with the EU. We achieved that – and in fact a little more. This means that we can maintain and increase our market share in the largest single destination of Norwegian exports, amounting to NOK 135 billion (£11 billion) in 2020 and NOK 200 billion (£16 billion) in 2019. This is made possible due to the solid foundations of the relationship between Norway and the UK, of which the Norwegian British Chamber of Commerce is a prime example.
Seafood is one of the areas where our agreement gives us better market access compared to before Brexit. The United Kingdom is one of the largest export markets for Norwegian seafood. Another important point is the role of Norwegian industry towards the green shift. The UK is a large and growing market for offshore wind, and offers enormous opportunities for Norwegian technology, services and goods. The agreement ensures that Norwegian business and industry will have the same conditions of competition on the British market as their competitors from the EU.
We have for the first time ever included a separate chapter in the agreement for small and medium-sized companies (SME). The aim is to make the agreement accessible to SMEs so they can reap its benefits. To this end, we will publish tailor made information about the agreement for SMEs, all in one place. We will also set up SME contact points to ensure that the interests of SMEs are considered when the agreement is made operational. Innovation Norway will act as contact point in Norway.
By and large, the agreement with the UK means that we can sell, buy, and invest in the same way as before. The agreement provides long-needed predictability for our business community, for employees working in the UK, and for Norwegian students. The UK is one of the largest markets for Norwegian direct investments. Trade, investments and the close business cooperation between Norway and British industry will contribute to jobs and innovation in both countries.
However, the agreement is not nearly as good as the EEA agreement which ensures continuous, joint development of new rules and regulations with the EU. The EEA is in fact more than a free trade agreement: it is a tool for integration, for cooperation to find solutions to our common challenges. No free trade agreement will provide the same access to the UK market as we had before.
For a small country like Norway, with an open, export-oriented economy, free trade agreements are very important. Around 300,000 jobs, not least in rural areas, would be at risk without our close ties to Europe. Therefore, it was crucial to establish a good free trade agreement with the UK. It is also of critical importance to safeguard the continued smooth functioning of the EEA agreement. Without it, Norwegian business, and in particular small and medium-sized companies, would face a highly uncertain future.
I wish you all the best of luck with your future business endeavours in Norway and the United Kingdom – and hope that you will make good use of our new free trade agreement