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Norway country brief

Norway country brief


A rugged country of mountains, fjords and glaciers, Norway covers an area of approximately 324,000 square kilometres in the western and northern portions of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Norway also includes the integral areas of Svalbard and Jan Mayen islands in the Arctic, and the dependencies of Queen Maud Land, Peter I Island and Bouvet Island in the Antarctic and Subantarctic. Svalbard is subject to the provisions of the multilateral Svalbard Treaty. Norway has land borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia, and it shares maritime borders with Denmark, the United Kingdom and Iceland.

Norway has a population of 5.2 million (2016), with 670,000 people living in its capital Oslo. Norway celebrates its national day on 17 May.

Political overview

Norway is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with legislative powers vested in a unicameral parliament (the Storting). The Head of State is His Majesty King Harald V, who acceded to the throne in 1991. The Storting is made up of 169 members directly elected for four-year terms through a proportional representation voting system. Parliamentary elections are mandatory every four years.

A parliamentary election was held in Norway on 11 September 2017. Prime Minister Erna Solberg's centre-right coalition was returned to government with a reduced number of seats. Solberg will continue to lead a minority government formed by the Conservative Party and the Progress Party, supported by the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party to form a majority in the Storting. This arrangement will provide Solberg with support from 88 seats compared to the centre-left opposition's 81 seats.

Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU), having voted twice (1972 and 1994) against joining. It is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, Norway, the EU and the other EFTA countries form the European single market. Norway participates in regular consultations with the EU on a range of political, trade and security related issues.

Norway is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and a member of numerous other international organisations including the United Nations (UN), the Arctic Council, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Norway has made significant military contributions to the NATO-led military intervention in Libya, Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea, the NATO-led ISAF and Resolute Support Missions in Afghanistan, and the Global Coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Economic overview

Norway's emergence as a major oil and gas producer in the mid-1970s transformed its economy. Norway's per capita income is one of the highest in the world due to the large influx of capital investment into its North Sea oil and gas fields and its substantial resource revenues. The oil and gas sector contributes just under half of Norway's total export revenue. All production activities take place offshore in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. In 2015 Norway was the third largest natural gas exporter in the world, supplying about 20 per cent of total European gas consumption.

To insure against the eventual depletion of its oil and gas resources, in 1996 the Norwegian Government created the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), a sovereign wealth fund to manage and invest tax, royalty and dividend payments received from the exploitation of Norway's oil and gas reserves. The market value of the GPFG rose to US$1 trillion (approximately A$1.25 trillion) in 2017making it the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. It holds 1.4 per cent of global equities, around 2.4 of those listed in Europe, and 0.8 per cent of global bonds.

Norway's real GDP growth was 1 per cent in 2016 and is forecast to rise to 1.2 per cent in 2017.

Bilateral relationship

Australia and Norway share the same values and are like-minded on many of the key challenges facing our globe. We are strong advocates for the rules-based international order. Australia and Norway cooperate closely in the United Nations and World Trade Organisation, and work together to advance international peace and security, including through our military contributions to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the Global Coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Norway is an important interlocutor for Australia on Antarctic issues. The only significant area of disagreement between Australia and Norway is whaling.

According to the 2016 census, over 26,000 Australians claim Norwegian ancestry. A bilateral Working Holiday Maker arrangement came into effect in August 2001, and is a popular means for young Australians and Norwegians to experience each other's country. A reciprocal health agreement came into effect in 2003. A bilateral Social Security Agreement came into effect in January 2007. A revised bilateral Double Taxation agreement entered into force in September 2007 (further information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website).

Australia's Ambassador in Copenhagen is accredited to Norway. Norway maintains an Embassy in Canberra and honorary consulates in all States and the Northern Territory.

High Level Visits

In October 2016, Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo, visited Oslo for a WTO Ministerial. In May 2011 the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, visited Norway. The then Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Martin Ferguson, visited Norway in May 2009, and the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, visited in December 2008.

In February-March 2017, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tone Skogen, visited Australia. In November 2016, Norwegian Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde led a business delegation to Australia. The Deputy Minister for Local Government and Modernisation, Anne Karin Olli, visited Australia in February 2016 to share experiences on policy making for Indigenous peoples. Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway visited Australia from 22 to 27 February 2015 on a State Visit visiting Canberra, Sydney and Perth. They were accompanied by a high-level delegation of senior government and business leaders including Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, and Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Tord Lien. The former Norwegian Prime Minister (and current Secretary General of NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, visited Australia in December 2011 with a Norwegian business delegation focused on oil, gas and shipping.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

In 2016 total two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Norway was worth $387 million. Australian exports to Norway were valued at $68 million, predominantly specialised machinery and parts, and alcoholic beverages. Merchandise imports from Norway were valued at $319 million, consisting mainly of fish and fish products, specialised machinery and parts, and measuring and analysing instruments. In 2016, Australia exported $243 million in services to Norway, predominantly transport and education-related travel. In 2016, Australia imported $476 million in services from Norway, predominantly transport and professional services.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2016, Australia's investment in Norway amounted to $7.37 billion, while Norway's investment in Australia amounted to $15.8 billion. However, according to GPFG, in 2016 its investments in Australia alone amounted to $23.75 billion, comprising $14.65 billion in equities and $9.1 billion in bonds.

For advice on doing business in Norway, see Austrade's website.

Last updated: October 2017

Last Updated: 18 April 2016
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