Bangkok luncheon with the Norwegian Minister of Trade – Stay open, stay competitive

On Monday, the Norwegian Minister of Trade, Trond Giske, ended a week long Asia offensive designed to strengthen bilateral relations.

As a part of this venture, the Minister spoke at a luncheon hosted by The Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce and the European ASEAN Business Centre (EABC). The topic of the luncheon was “Better or cheaper: what’s the right way forward?”

“Norwegian companies have all the requirements to surf the Asia-wave and the economic growth in the region. We should be humble in this venture, but also work hard to improve the framework conditions for Norwegian companies abroad,” the Minister said before the trip to Asia.

In a few years the ASEAN Economic Community will be implemented, leaving Thailand to deal with a transition similar to what Norway experienced when dealing with the EU through the EEA. Drawing parallels between the two situations, the Minister talked to the participants about how Norway prepared for the more open market and how to build competitiveness in a global market place.

The event was held at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok on the 25th floor.

Trond Giske had arranged meetings in the hours before the luncheon and in a mix of a hectic schedule and heavy Bangkok traffic, the guest of honor was a  half hour late. However, food was on the table, glasses were full and nobody seemed to mind a long lunch break.

When the Minister of Trade arrived and took the floor, he started with a small anecdote about the long history between Thailand and Norway. In fact Thailand was one of the first countries to recognize Norway as an independent country following the separation from Sweden in 1905. King Rama V’s visit to Norway has been vividly described in Klai Baan (Far from Home) where His Majesty describes Norway through letters to his one of his daughters, Princess Nibha Nobhadol. The portion of Klai Baan featuring Norway has been translated to Norwegian and published in Norway.

The message from Giske was that openness equals competitiveness. He encouraged Thailand to stay open and inviting, stating that this has been the key to Norway’s success. He drew parallels from Norway to Thailand, saying:

“The EU has experienced a lack of growth in recent years and the union is currently experiencing 12 percent unemployment and some 26 million people are without a job. In Norway, growth is 3-2.5 percent and there is a shortage of labor. In this way Norway is more like Thailand,” he said.

Giske also contributed in large the success of Norway to the country’s social welfare and flexicurity system.

“In Norway, we have high welfare and free school systems. This means that talent and qualifications lead you forward and not your means and economy. Safe people are braver, pursue ideas and create innovation.”

He backed this model by referring to The Economist that recently published an article going worldwide; stating that being born in Scandinavia would give you the best opportunities.

Lastly, the Norwegian Minister of Trade once again emphasized the importance of staying open.

“By inviting foreign business it is a win-win situation. Countries can develop competitiveness and investors will see a profit,” he said.

The Norwegian Minister of Trade, Trond Giske, started his tour of Asia on Sunday March 21. Giske visited Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, India, and Thailand and had political discussions and met representatives of Norwegian companies that have established themselves in Asia.


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