11 and 13 October 2004

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: A very open trade regime for industrial goods but mostly protected for agriculture

We have conducted this fourth Trade Policy Review of Norway in a friendly and well-informed manner, and our dialogue has been very constructive. We have greatly benefited from the valuable contribution of the Norwegian delegation, led by Mr. Harald Neple, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the very insightful comments by our discussant, Mr. Alexander Gross, and the active involvement of a large number of Members.

At the outset, allow me to highlight the considerable support of Members for Norway's solid macroeconomic performance since its last Review in 2000, with low inflation and unemployment rates, generally open investment regime, and growth well above other industrialized countries. Members also recognized that oil and gas made a considerable contribution to Norway's prosperity. Members welcomed Norway's firm commitment to and active participation in the multilateral trading system, including the Doha Development Agenda. Members noted that Norway is also active in the regional and bilateral fora. They expressed appreciation for its substantial direct aid to developing countries and to WTO technical assistance in particular, and for its far-reaching GSP scheme for least-developed countries.

Members commended Norway on its very liberal trade regime for non-agricultural products, and on its full implementation of the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing well in advance of the timeline agreed. However, divergent views were expressed on its agricultural policy. Indeed, some Members shared a common position on the concept of non-trade concerns which was at the heart of the justification for Norway's agricultural policy. By contrast, others expressed concerns on this issue and about Norway's high level of protection of agricultural products by means of a complex taxation system and large support, and urged Norway to reform its policy. They commented that such protection undermined economic efficiency and penalized both Norwegian tax payers and consumers.

Some Members shared Norway's concern on the widespread tendency to resort to trade remedy actions, commending Norway on the renunciation of any such measure over the past years. Questions were posed on public enterprises, with some Members urging Norway to further reduce the degree of public ownership in its economy. Members expressed concerns and requested information on administration of tariff quotas, SPS measures, and technical regulations. They also sought further clarification on the foreign investment regime; incentive schemes; competition legislation; government procurement; protection of intellectual property rights; and on specific activities, such as fisheries, maritime transport and financial services.

Members appreciated the responses provided by the Norwegian delegation, and looked forward to further written replies.

In conclusion, it is my feeling that the wide interest shown by Members, with many advance written questions, interventions and high attendance, reflects the important role that Norway plays in the multilateral trading system. We now have a much better and updated understanding of its trade-related policies and practices, and appreciate the challenges it faces and its efforts to address them in a way that is consistent with the multilateral trading system. Further liberalization of Norway's agricultural sector would support its widely recognized actions in favour of developing countries, mainly those with a key interest in agriculture.