Børge Brende, Foreign Minister of Norway. (Source: norwegianafrican.no)

 

Hanoi (VNA) – Norway, as a member of the European Free Trade Association, has given priority to negotiating free trade agreements with a number of Asian countries, including Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam, said Børge Brende, Foreign Minister of Norway.

Vietnam graduated from being one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle income country in 2010, he said, adding that trade between Norway and Vietnam has increased by more than 30 percent over the past year.

Norway is also supporting Vietnam’s efforts to transform its forest sector and collaborate with neighbouring countries in the Mekong region to reduce deforestation, he revealed.

According to the FM, Norway supports the move towards closer regional cooperation in Asia. Over the past few years, it has have actively sought to strengthen relations with the continent.

In 2012, Norway was accepted as a member of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the principal meeting place for political dialogue between Asia and Europe. Then in 2015, the country gained sectoral dialogue partner status with ASEAN, the first medium sized economy outside the region to do so.

Moreover, at a time when free trade is under pressure, many countries in Asia are taking laudable steps towards removing trade barriers between them. Norway is a strong supporter of free trade, and we recently gathered over 20 countries in Oslo to move the free trade agenda of the WTO forward, in preparation of the WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in 2017.

“Norway’s trade with Asia is both deepening and widening. ASEAN is today our fourth largest trading partner. With Vietnam alone, our trade has increased by more than 30 % this past year. And we want to increase our trade with Asia even further,” he said.  

Norwegian companies in the maritime sector continue to play a vital role in many Asian countries. At the same time, there are also important investments in fisheries, hydropower, and oil and gas.

In total, around 500 Norwegian companies have been established in Asia, increasing foreign direct investment in the region, he added.

Børge Brende said another key area in Norway’s cooperation with Asia is the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Norway is engaged in extensive cooperation with Indonesia on reducing deforestation through REDD , and has pledged 1 billion USD for these efforts.

“We therefore stand ready to work with Asian nations both directly and through regional arenas for cooperation to seek sustainable solutions and stable development in Asia,” he concluded.-VNA