A recent Menon report shows that exports in 2020 laid the foundation for NOK 80 billion in Rogaland. NHO gives the credit for European exports to the EEA. Pollestad (Sp) believes the agreement weakens the room for maneuver.
- Jonas Vikingstad (Stavanger Aftenblad)
The Menon report shows that Rogaland is the country’s fourth largest export county. Measured by export per employee, the county is the country’s third largest. This is without the export of oil and gas. For Rogaland, the maritime and offshore industry accounts for the largest exports. They account for 36 percent.
One of the companies that has established itself in the European market in recent years is Nordic Unmanned. The drone company from Sandnes is led by founder Knut Roar Wiig. He has previously stated that 90 percent of their turnover comes from outside Norway.
– Without exports, I’m not sure if we would have managed to create the company at all. Export is about both what you export, but also about the market. You can have quite a large export without having a very large market share because the market is larger. We sell to Europe, which is a large market, but our market share is not huge. The Norwegian market had never been big enough for us, says Wiig.
– Depending on the EEA agreement
In the last month, the company has strengthened its presence on the continent. In July, it became clear that Nordic Unmanned had acquired the German drone company AirRobot. The Sandnes company then took over their thirty employees and tightened a grip on the German market.
– Having a local presence there is crucial for us. They are one of Europe’s oldest drone companies. They have developed their own drones and know the market well. They have the German army as their main customer today. This gives us access to both the development and production side of the German market, says the entrepreneur.
Nordic Unmanned is therefore among the companies that have contributed millions of exports to the county. It is the EEA agreement that enables much of the exports that come from the country.
– We see here how dependent people and municipalities in Rogaland are on the EEA agreement. It helps to create jobs. Many in Rogaland have the EU and Europe as their largest market. People are also positive about the agreement, says regional director Tone Grindland in NHO Rogaland.
The population survey from NHO shows that people are positive about the EEA agreement. 60 per cent of the respondents either fully or partially agree that Norway should participate in the co-operation.
– I think this is because people enjoy a good trade relationship with Europe. The companies also know that they will lose if they do not have equal conditions of competition with European players, she says.
– There are very many companies that have a high degree of export, including Nordic Unmanned. When you have ninety percent, you do not have much left in Norway. I am proud that companies from Rogaland have such a large presence in Europe. This means that they win competitions and are very good, Grindland continues
– Provides predictability
Precisely for this reason, the agreement must not be jeopardized as several suggest, she claims. She points to the UK as an example of how it can go if you do this.
– In the UK after Brexit, many of their benefits have been lost. When you have such a good and advanced trade agreement as the EEA agreement, you start at zero if you are to renegotiate. Then you have to negotiate about every inch. The result is never as good, Grindland remarks.
– You would have shot yourself in the leg if you withdrew from such a good and advantageous agreement, she concludes.
Wiig in Nordic Unmanned says he does not think much about trade agreements, but states that streamlined regulations in the EU are beneficial to them.
– Then I think especially of the procurement regulations. This works very well for us. It is governed by the EU and regulates legislation in Norway and other European countries. This gives us a better understanding and the opportunity to orientate ourselves in the market. It gives us predictability, he states.
He is initially critical of trade disruptions that could disrupt the schemes that underlie them today.
– Purely hypothetical, if it had been the case that Norway had to establish bilateral trade relations with all individual countries in Europe, we would have lost much of the streamlined form we have today. Of course, we hope we let it go, which I think we do. But then we had to look at whether Norway was the right country to have its head office in, Wiig concludes.
– Appeared as kittens
The EEA agreement is not the Center Party’s pet. This is also pointed out by Storting politician Geir Pollestad to Aftenbladet / E24. His party is among those who want to renegotiate the agreement that was adopted in Norway in 1992.
– We are absolutely positive about free trade. What I refuse to accept is that we should not be able to discuss the agreement. This agreement was entered into at the time so that it would last for two years before joining the EU in 1994. Of course, it should be possible to change it, says Pollestad.
He puts forward two alternative solutions to what is the basis today. One is to renegotiate the agreement by making it less politically binding. The second option is to negotiate bilateral agreements with individual countries.
– The most important thing is that we get free trade agreements with global rules of the game with large countries in and outside Europe, says the Storting politician.
He does not believe Brexit is an appropriate comparison to Norway’s situation. Although he claims that they have learned from the British’s rather confusing EU exit.
– Brexit was a completely different story than what we want. We do not just want to leave the EEA agreement without an alternative. The EEA agreement should be a red carpet into the EU for Norway, but Norway will not join the EU. Therefore, we must be able to look at the agreement, he claims.
He has little left for how Norway behaves in the EU. He wants a much tougher tone from those who are to protect Norwegian companies in Brussels.
– In recent years, Norway has acted like kittens in Brussels. They have too little safeguarded Norwegian interests in important matters. Our goal is to make it easier for Norwegian companies to export their goods to both the EU and outside the EU. We will not harm export companies, they are the ones we want to protect, the Center Party politician concludes.