Official visit to Korea: Opening av seminars in Busan
ladies and gentlemen,
Since the EFTA-Korea trade agreement entered into force last year, trade between our two countries has developed strongly, and the Republic of Korea is today Norway’s sixth most important trading partner outside the EU and North America. It is too early to estimate exactly how much of the increase in trade can be explained by the agreement. However, bilateral trade was an impressive 56 per cent higher in the period from January to March this year than in the same period in 2006. We can expect this positive trend to continue.
I could mention many examples of our cooperation.
One recent example is that the world’ largest car carriers will be built at Hyundai Heavy Industries. The order for four vessels comes from the partly Norwegian owned EUKOR Car Carriers. These four vessels are the last of a series of 12 contracts with HHI at a total cost of 800 million dollars.
Against this backdrop, the importance of today’s seminar speaks for itself.
Trade between our two countries has been growing steadily since 2001. As Korean built cars and ships are increasingly seen on Norwegian roads and in Norwegian waters, – seafood, oil and machinery from Norway can be found in Korean households and businesses. The exports to Korea of salmon alone increased by more than 40 percent from September to December 2006 compared to the same period in 2005.
Today’s seminars will focus particularly on the potential for increased bilateral trade in the maritime, offshore and marine sectors. Two of these sectors are constantly faced with environmental challenges, namely shipping and offshore. I was happy to note the engagement for environmental issues during the business session on renewable energy in Seoul. I know the topic will be touched in the discussions here today as well. Environmental issues must be integrated and addressed in all discussions on how to meet the world’s energy demand in the years to come.
Korea is a central player in an economically important region, being one of the most prosperous and technologically advanced countries in Asia. The country faced it’s challenges in an impressive way during the Asian financial crisis ten years ago. Today Korea has developed to become the 11th largest economic power in the world. Around 50 Norwegian businesses already have a presence in Korea, and the number is expected to grow. The large high-level business delegation following from Norway on this trip proves how attractive the Korean market is to a variety of Norwegian sectors.
In addition to trade, political dialogue between our nations has also developed strongly. The dialogue on global issues will continue, not least through the United Nations. We welcome the election of your former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, as Secretary General of the UN.
I hope today’s seminar will serve as a forum for constructive dialogue that extends and deepens relations between our two countries in both the short- and long-term perspective.