Official visit to Korea: Speech at business luncheon in Seoul
Ministers, Your Excellencies
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank our generous hosts for the invitation to this lunch. The Crown Princess and I enjoy having the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Korean-Norwegian business community. It was very interesting attending the plenary session this morning, and we look forward to learning more about your experiences, and about your aspirations for future relations between our two countries.
Bilateral relations between the Republic of Korea and the Kingdom of Norway have been growing closer ever since diplomatic ties between our nations were established in 1959. Today, these relations encompass a large number of areas, including trade, investment, research, cultural exchange and tourism. Todays seminars focus particularly on trade and tourism.
I am impressed by your countrys rapid economic growth over the last four decades. Today, Korea is our 3rd largest export market in Asia and our 6th largest trading partner outside the EU and North America. A range of Korean goods have reached the Norwegian market. The most visible examples to the average Norwegian are Korean high-tech products as well as Koreans cars. These cars are well represented on Norwegian roads, impressive with their high quality and elegant design.
The maritime industry has traditionally been the most important pillar in our economic relationship. But I am happy to learn that there is also a great potential for increased trade in areas like energy, especially renewable energy. One of todays seminars will focus particularly on this topic, where Norway has a lot to offer.
The EFTA-Korea free trade agreement that entered into force in September last year will be an important cornerstone in our efforts to strengthen our countries trade relations. This agreement facilitates trade between our two countries, and provides Korean and Norwegian businesses with more stability to invest and plan ahead.
Although economic and trade issues have traditionally been at the centre of our relations, political dialogue too has developed strongly. We welcome the election of your former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, as Secretary-General of the United Nations. And as you know more than 50 years ago, the Norwegian Mr. Trygve Lie served as the UNs first Secretary-General.
I am happy to note that during the last years there has been a rapidly increasing interest in Corporate Social Responsibility, both with regard to its application and with regard to its implications for business activity worldwide. Achieving sustainable development is not only the responsibility and task of governments. To reach the international goals set by the UN millennium declaration, partnership between governments, civil society and the private sector is absolutely necessary. I understand that you had an interesting exchange of views on these important topics this morning.
I would like to invite you to join me in a toast to the bilateral relations between our two countries.