Ladies and gentlemen,
In geographical distance, Japan and Norway are far apart. But we have close cooperation in a large number of areas.
We share common values and are both strong defenders of democracy and human rights.
We work closely together on many important international issues – maternal and child health and UN reform, to mention a few.
And we are working together to adress today’s greatest challenge, the threat of climate change.
Norway would like to expand the economic cooperation with Japan even further. That will benefit the business and research communities of our countries. But it will also benefit our overall relations. It will make our countries more interdependent and create new relations.
The five seminars today will explore new opportunities for further strengthening our bilateral relationship in five areas. I will make a few remarks on each of these areas.
1. Maritime and Offshore
The maritime sector has always been at the core of our cooperation.
But shipping and fisheries are not just central to our bilateral relationship. They are also sectors in which Norway and Japan are world leaders.
The first Norwegian ship to call at a Japanese port was the Minerva, which called at Yokohama in 1865, just 11 years after the Meiji Restoration opened Japanese ports to foreign ships. Many Norwegian ships followed.
In 1948 Norwegian shipowners placed their first shipbuilding orders in Japan. Today, Norwegian high-tech ships transport Japanese high-quality cars to export markets all over the world.
Japan has been a key partner for Norway both in maritime transport and shipbuilding.
We also have strong relations in the offshore sector. Japanese companies have been present on the Norwegian Continental Shelf since the 1990s. Their technologies and expertise have been important for the successful development of the Norwegian oil and gas sector.
I welcome the recent approval of the Norwegian classification company, DNV to operate in Japan.
Japan and Norway are already seeing the dramatic effects of climate change. In the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard, the ice is melting more rapidly than anywhere else in the Arctic. And rapid changes are also taking place in Antarctica.
But these changes also represent opportunities. The Northern Sea Route between Japan and Europe is 40 % shorter than the traditional route through Suez.
We already work closely on polar issues. Japan opened a research station in Svalbard in Norway’s High North in 1990.
I welcome the signing of the agreement between our Polar research institutes later today on further expansion of cooperation.
Fish and seafood are important sources of food and income for both our countries.
The numbers speak for themselves. Japan is the number one importer and Norway the number two exporter of seafood in the world.
A quarter of a century ago, the first Norwegian salmon was used for sushi.
Thanks to the global appeal of sushi, Norwegian salmon has been introduced to markets around the world. And Norwegian fish farms have thrived. One might say sushi means jobs in Norwegian.
Today Norwegians embrace sushi like as though it was our own invention. You now find more sushi restaurants than hamburger restaurants in Oslo.
This is a good illustration of our mutually beneficial cooperation. We brought you the fish. And you created something of great value out of it.
3. Energy – we are facing a dilemma
The world needs more energy to alleviate poverty and create employment.
The dilemma is that we also need to reduce emissions. According to the UN Climate Panel, we need to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 50 % by 2050. At the same time the global population is expected to increase by 50 % – from 6 billion to 9 billion in 2050 – which means more demand for energy.
How do we meet this formidable challenge?
The short answer is: by a whole range of different measures.
By increasing energy efficiency,
by stopping deforestation,
by developing new technologies,
by making our economies more energy efficient,
and by investing in renewable energy and promoting natural gas as an alternative to far more polluting sources of energy.
The agreement that will be signed later today between Statoil and Hitachi on the use of Norwegian offshore technology for wind farms in Japan is another example of a mutually beneficial cooperation for both our countries and the climate.
Norwegians and Japanese share a love of nature, and a desire to live in harmony with the environment.
Maybe because our two countries have such an abundance of natural beauty.
Attracted by our fjords, the northern lights or aurora borealis and the midnight sun, close to one hundred thousand Japanese tourists visit Norway every year.
We are happy to host all of you. We want you to keep coming.
5. Women’s participation in the workforce
In more and more countries, labour force is ageing. A growing proportion of the population will depend on a shrinking labour force. This only increases the need to bring more women into the labour market.
Giving more women opportunities to complete their education and find a job helps them to realise their rights. But it is also smart economics.
In the 1970s Norway had one the lowest rates of female participation in the labour force among the industrial countries. Today we have one of the highest rates in the world.
Even for a resource-rich country like Norway, a high level of female participation is important for maintaining a high standard of living. The value the participation of women in the Norwegian workforce represents is higher than that of our oil and gas resources.
So even those who do not care about women’s rights, just about profit and economic prosperity, should be keen to get more women into the labour force.
Norwegian women not only work more than in the OECD as a whole, they also give birth to more children than in most developed countries.
This is the result of an active family policy. Such measures as day care centres for children and maternal leave give women more opportunities to combine children and a career.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to see representatives of so many Norwegian and Japanese companies here today. All of you have an instrumental role to play in ensuring successful Norwegian–Japanese partnerships.
Politicians create opportunities. But it is your joint efforts and commitment that produce results. And the prospects for expanding our cooperation are great.
I am confident that today’s seminars will provide inspiration and concrete results for the future.