The man in charge of Norway’s trade policies is sanguine about the prospects of the country’s largest export destination potentially leaving the European Union without a deal.
Torbjorn Roe Isaksen, Norway’s Trade and Industry Minister, is this week meeting with colleagues in London to discuss trade in the run-up to Brexit and sketch the framework for a permanent agreement in the event of a no-deal.
Equipped with massive gas exports and the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the minister is confident that Norway’s long standing relationship with the United Kingdom will stand the test.
“The UK is a very important trading partner to Norway, but Norway is also very important to the British,” Roe Isaksen said in a telephone interview from London. Norway, which is the largest supplier of natural gas to the UK, shares deep interests in keeping gas flowing unencumbered even if the UK should leave the bloc without a deal. The UK is Norway’s biggest export destination, with exports worth about $24 billion last year, mostly oil and gas.
“We have no reason to believe that there will be complications related to the supply of Norwegian gas,” Roe Isaksen said.
Instead, the minister sees some practical issues should there be a no-deal, such as bottlenecks at border controls. “Norwegian seafood can’t stand idle on the border between France and the UK for too long,” he said. Norway exported seafood to the British markets last year valued at about $700 million, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council.
Not only is Norway important the UK because of massive gas exports, but also as a major foreign investor, according to the minister. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, valued at more than $1 trillion, had invested about $74 billion in stocks and bonds in the UK by the end of second quarter this year. The wealth fund has also bought large swathes of real estate in the British capital, or about $6 billion, including properties in Oxford Street and Regent Street.
“We contribute to a lot of economic activity there,” Roe Isaksen said.
Norway is a member of the European Economic Area and trades almost freely with the rest of the European Union.