I would like to warmly welcome colleagues from the EC delegation to this ninth review of their trade policy. Let me also thank Deputy Director General Balás for his introductory statement.
I would like to express our appreciation to the European Communities and the WTO Secretariat for the comprehensive reports that form the basis for this review. Furthermore, I would like to thank Ambassador Grey (Australia) for sharing his insights as our discussant today.
We find ourselves in the midst of a financial and economic crisis. This crisis has hit Europe’s economies with different intensity. We are confident that the EC economies are sufficiently strong to weather the storm. We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the European Commission and key EU Member States in the international effort to bring the world economy back on the road to recovery. In this regard, we share the EC’s concerns regarding protectionism.
Both the EC’s report and the Secretariat report confirm the EC’s deep commitment to a strong multilateral trading system. Norway recognizes and appreciates the active participation of the EC in the WTO. We share this commitment and we are convinced that concluding the Doha Round would trigger economic growth and mitigate the impact of the crisis. We also value highly the EC’s essential contribution to Aid for Trade.
Norway has submitted a number of written questions regarding the trade policies of the EC in this review. I see that a very thick compilation of replies is now being circulated. I thank the EC for the replies which we will study with keen interest.
The Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) effectively integrates Norway into the EC Internal Market and is the basis for close cooperation on a wide range of policy areas. Norwegian and EC companies, workers, consumers and students are benefiting from the agreement every day.
The EC is Norway’s largest trading partner. Norway is the EC’s sixth largest trading partner. Let me illustrate this with a few numbers:
Norway is the second largest exporter of natural gas to the EC.
Norway is the largest single exporter of seafood to the EC. In 2007 some 59% of Norway’s total exports of seafood were exported to the EC. Thousands of workers in the processing industry in the EC rely on a steady supply of Norwegian fish as an indispensable input. Despite this, our exports of seafood have experienced some frictions over the years. Some of the challenges have been related to the complex quota system for seafood. Today, some 50 different seafood quotas are based on agreements between Norway and the EC. At the same time, exporters and importers have to relate to GATT quotas and autonomous EC quotas. We are convinced that a simplification of the quota systems would facilitate trade and be of mutual benefit.
Another area of concern as regards seafood has been the application of trade remedy measures, not least anti-dumping duties. The latest such measures were terminated in 2008. No measures are applied today, and we trust that this situation will prevail.
On a more general level, Norway would welcome increased transparency in the EC’s application of trade defence instruments. We have therefore followed with great interest the EC’s work on the Green Paper on “Europe’s Trade Defence Instruments in a Changing Global Economy”, and will continue to do so.
In the field of agriculture Norway and the EC share many of the same concerns and objectives related to rural development. We note with interest in the Secretariat’s report that these concerns are being addressed in a constructive manner in the reform of the EC’s agricultural policy.
The Secretariat’s report notes that the EC remains the world’s largest trader in services. During the previous trade policy review of the EC in 2007, Mr Balás stated that once the Services Directive is incorporated into the national legislation of its Member States and implemented, it will create great opportunities and thus benefit the EC's partners. We are pleased to note that the implementation of the directive will take place, as scheduled, later this year.
Allow me to raise an issue of concern. Norway has taken due note of the EC notification concerning trade in seal products, and we have raised our concerns in the TBT committee. We understand that neither the notified proposed regulation, nor the proposed regulation adopted by the Internal Market Committee of the European Parliament may be the final version. Both versions, however, pose challenges to Norway’s exports and raise doubts about the WTO consistency of such trade restrictions. Furthermore, it sets a dangerous precedent in the matter of sustainable harvesting of renewable resources. While hoping that this issue could be solved through dialogue between close partners, the Norwegian government has decided to initiate consultations under the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding should the EC take a decision along the lines that now seem to be developing.
The EC is an important and active player on the multilateral stage, an economic engine in the world, and hence, an important trading partner for most other Members. This review will therefore no doubt be interesting and useful not only for the EC, but also for all other participants.
I wish the EC a successful Trade Policy Review.