PHOTO: Norwegian Trade Minister signs free trade agreement with the United Kingdom

Ranil Jayawardena - Iselin NybøPhoto: Det britiske departementet for internasjonal handel / NTB

The free trade agreement with the United Kingdom has finally been signed. It enters into force as soon as the British parliament has done its part.

The very comprehensive agreement with the British is crucial for large parts of Norwegian business after Brexit – but is also important for most people, Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø (V) believes. 

On Thursday, she was in London to sign the historic free trade agreement with the United Kingdom on behalf of Norway – barely a year after negotiations with the British began.

“The United Kingdom is our most important trading partner after the EU. It ensures Norwegian companies equal or better conditions of competition when they compete against companies from the EU in the British market,” Nybø told NTB.

The ceremony took place in the Old Admiralty Building in Whitehall, together with the EFTA / EEA countries Iceland and Liechtenstein. Vice Minister for International Business Ranil Jayawardena represented the United Kingdom, while Foreign Ministers Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson and Dominique Hasler signed for Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Trade for 240 billion

Without the agreement, tariffs on British imports from Norway and Iceland would have increased by an estimated GBP 65 million – almost NOK 800 million at today’s exchange rate – according to Jayawardena. He estimates that the agreement secures duty-free trade for more than NOK 240 billion, via a press release in connection with the signing.

“I look forward to concluding a comprehensive trade agreement for goods and services with our long-term partners Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, which can enter into force during 2021,” he said.

Photo: Det britiske departementet for internasjonal handel / NTB

The United Kingdom is the country in the world to which Norway exports the most. Last year, Norwegian companies exported goods worth almost NOK 135 billion to the United Kingdom. That corresponds to 22% of all Norwegian exports. In addition, Norway sells services to the British annually for almost NOK 40 billion.  

Oil and gas, metals, and seafood make up the largest share of Norwegian exports to the United Kingdom.

According to the latest available figures, from 2018, Norway imported goods and services for NOK 85 billion. Industrial machinery, cars, and medicines make up a significant proportion of imports.

EEA agreement better  

The agreement, which was signed on Thursday, is the most comprehensive free trade agreement Norway has ever entered into under the EEA agreement. According to Nybø, it ensures Norwegian companies equal or better terms than its competitors from the EU.

“At the same time, it is important to emphasize that the agreement does not fully replace the connection we had with the United Kingdom through the EEA agreement. We are losing the dynamic development of common regulations that characterize the EEA agreement. When new trade barriers arise in the future, we must resolve them in ongoing dialogue with the UK,” Nybø said.

The Norwegian parliament managed to push it through before the summer holidays. Once the UK has completed its process, the agreement can enter into force. This is not likely to happen until after the summer.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayFinance

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