‘Indo-Norway trade potential huge’
Nils Ragnar Kamsvåg is the ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to India and Bhutan. An MA in History from the University of Oslo, Mr. Kamsvag joined the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1981. He served as Second Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, First Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Rome and as Senior Executive Officer, in the Political Department at MFA before a three-year position as Director of Public Affairs at Norsk Hydro. Kamsvåg. He returned to the Foreign Service in 1993 where he was Head of the Information Division in Oslo. Mr. Kamsvåg served as Counsellor for the Norwegian Delegation to the EU in Brussels from 1994-1996 and Minister Counsellor at the Norwegian Embassy in Beijing from 1997-2001.
From 2001-2003 he was the Norwegian Ambassador for Middle East and North African Affairs. Kamsvåg was also the Norwegian Representative to Palestinian Authority, Al Ram from 2003-2005. From 2010-2015 he served as Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in Belgrade.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with our Editor A.K. Sabharwal:
Welcome to Vizag, Your Excellency.
Thanks Mr Sabharwal , Vizag is a beautiful city and I am happy to be here.
What is the strong area of business in Norway ?
We are strong in Maritime sector, be it Ports, Coastal Shipping or ship building, oil & gas,LNG also we are large exporters of Marine products and build world class cold storages etc etc.
India and Norway have made significant progress in expanding cooperation in recent years. How do you plan to build on this in the coming years?
India’s increasing global role is bound to continue. It is a priority of the Norwegian Government to work to expand co-operation in multiple fields. I can highlight the four main objectives of Norway’s strategy towards India:
· Strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation on international political issues of major importance to Norway;
· Strengthen cooperation on climate, environmental and energy issues, including the dialogue on climate policy issues and the development of a clean energy partnership;
· Further develop our cooperation on economic issues, promote Norwegian business interests, foster closer economic ties and encourage greater investment in India; and
· Further develop our cooperation on societal issues. Cooperation on research and higher education is to be strengthened and, together with cultural cooperation, support efforts within the other priority areas in the strategy.
Could you tell us what kind of growth bi-lateral trade between the two countries has seen in the last few years?
According to Norwegian estimates, trade in goods between Norway and India amounted to 5,6 billion NOK (USD 700 mill) in 2016, while Indian statistics for FY 2016 shows a trade of USD 1,1 billion. In addition, trade in services saw an increase in 2016, with a total worth of 4, 6 billion NOK (USD 550 million) according to our data. As for potential: compared to the size of the Indian economy and its projected growth in comparison with other major Asian economies, there should be ample room for substantial increase in trade both ways.
What are the issues you think have to be addressed for bi-lateral trade to grow further?
India has so far not tapped into two of the key Norwegian exports – fish and oil/gas. For fish, and especially salmon, this is due to tariff regimes that reduce the competitiveness of fish as a food product. However, the growth of the Indian middle class should at least lead to increased demand. When it comes to oil and gas, India is a net energy importer that will also see a huge increase in demand. With the development of infrastructure, for instance LNG ports and ships, we expect this to change. Other than that, the Indian service sector is a major player in IT and engineering in India, and Indians are the largest source of skilled workers coming from outside of the Schengen area.
India’s imports from Norway far exceeded its exports to the Scandinavian nation. How do you think this balance can be brought about?
According to Indian statistics there was rough balance in Indian trade with Norway, while, according to Norwegian statistics India exported for about 60 % more to Norway than it imported from Norway.
What has been the progress on the Dialogue on Trade and Investment (DTI).
The framework and content of the dialogue forum is established. The only thing that remains is the official signing which is expected to be done during an appropriate occasion shortly.
What are the areas in which Indo-Norwegian companies can further collaborate and exchange expertise?
Collaboration could be strengthened in areas such as the maritime sector, fisheries and aquaculture, oil and gas exploration, renewable energy, smart grids, water treatment, waste management and ICT to just mention a few.
Could you throw some light on Norway’s portfolio of investments in India? How do you see this grow in the coming years?
We see a strong and continuing growth in the number of Norwegian companies establishing themselves here. One such recent example is the major international fertilizer producer Yara, which recently entered into an agreement to purchase a Urea-plant in Uttar Pradesh for USD 400 million. Other smaller companies also add to the total private investments mainly in the maritime and offshore sector. Total investments by Norwegian companies in India are getting close to 5 billion USD.
FDI inflows from Norway were estimated to be $ 182 million during 2000-2015, representing 0.07 per cent of the cumulative equity inflows received by India. How do you think this can be increased to achieve the true potential?
This is a solid underestimation, due to the fact that most Norwegian investments are coming through third countries such as Singapore. As an example, a Norwegian mobile phone company has invested more than USD 3 billion alone. Our estimate is that the Norwegian companies have invested USD 4-5 billion in India so far.
What is the Norwegian corporate presence in India at present? How many other Norwegian companies are currently pursuing business opportunities in India? And what are the focus sectors of these companies?
At present, over 100 Norwegian companies are established in India. In 2010 the number was 60. Also, more Norwegian companies are involved in manufacturing and production in India. 16 companies operate their own factories throughout the country and several more outsource their production here. Main sectors for Norwegian businesses in India include maritime, energy and environment, ICT and oil and gas. We also see a rise in less exploited co-operation between Norway and India such as seafood and agricultural technology.
What is the progress in regard to negotiations for the Trade and Investment Agreement between India and European Free Trade Association (EFTA)?
Negotiations started again last year after a hiatus, and we are hopeful for continued progress. However, so far progress has been slow. The agreement could provide a significant boost to trade.
What is the current direct investment in India by NBIM, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund? Does NBIM have concrete plans to increase its investments in the Indian market?
At the end of 2016 the Norwegian Government Fund Global had invested around 9.2 billion USD in India. The Fund, which presently has assets of around USD 900 billion, expects that India’s share of the Fund’s investment will increase in the future. At the end of 2016, the Fund had shareholdings in 256 Indian companies in addition to investments in Indian bonds.
What measures are being taken to make it easier and more attractive for Indian companies to do business in Norway?
Norway is an open and easy country when it comes to foreign investments, constantly ranked among top 10 regarding Ease of Doing business. Large Indian IT companies, as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro and Infosys have established offices in the Nordic countries and are winning contracts from Norwegian companies.
Norway has facilitated India’s polar research program on climate change and microbiology. What measures are being taken to further expand research and knowledge sharing in this area?
Polar and Arctic research is a field where Norway and India works closely together. Last year 5 new joint Indo-Norwegian research projects were chosen to receive funding, reflecting a strong and growing cooperation in research in this field between our two countries. India has an active research station on the Norwegian island Svalbard and our research stations are nearly neighbours in Antarctica. A growing realisation of the impact on i.e. the climatic conditions in the Himalayas from climatic changes on the Poles, will make this cooperation even more important in the years to come.
Norway is a leading exporter of oil and gas and India is a major importer of these commodities but only from Gulf countries, any comments ?
We are happy to export more oil and gas to India, and see a particular potential in LNG. Given Norwegian companies strong competence both on oil and gas exploration and on subsea technology, there should be a great scope for more extensive cooperation.
Norway is no longer a traditional aid donor to India. Are there any plans to reverse this trend?
Norway has not operated any official state-to-state aid-co-operation with India since 2004, when India decided to limit bilateral cooperation programmes with India. However, our co-operation continues through other channels. In 2015 the total Norwegian development cooperation to India amounted to roughly 138 million NOK (USD 18 million). These funds are mainly targeting health, research, environment and climate change, equality, women’s rights and culture. A major part of our projects in India is research-based and channelled through the Research Council of Norway and based on a mutual interest, expertise and funding from both countries.