SL looks to Norwegian expertise in offshore drilling
SL and Norway to pursue sustainability
Norway tells SL to invest in education and infrastructure to boost competitiveness
Norwegian business delegation to come to SL in the near future
By Madushka Balasuriya
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion with Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende on Thursday, and despite the promised interactive session with media and civil society representatives failing to materialise, all those in attendance were left in no doubt as to the improved nature of bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Norway.
Ties between the countries had soured since a peace deal brokered by the Nordic nation during Sri Lanka’s civil war collapsed. They reached breaking point after the Rajapaksa regime had accused Norway of supporting the LTTE. Relations, in fact, grew so tenuous, that Brende’s visit is the first by a cabinet minister from Norway since 2005.
However in signs that those days are a thing of the past, the Norwegian Foreign Minister keenly expressed his enthusiasm at the prospective renewal of bilateral trade between the two nations.
“There is a huge scope for increased cooperation between our two countries. The future of your country lies in the modernisation of your economic sector and opening up for foreign investment. Norway would really like to be a partner in this endeavour, and I’m convinced that enhanced commercial cooperation between in our two countries is in our mutual interests,” said Brende.
Three key areas of interest were identified by which the nations could enhance bilateral ties. Sri Lanka is looking to tap into Norway’s expertise in offshore drilling and the fisheries sector, while offering in return the opportunity to take advantage of Sri Lanka’s potential as a regional hub in the South Asian region. The two countries are also to focus on sustainable development goals.
Referring to Sri Lanka as the “Silk Road of the South” due to its strategic location between the East and the West, Brende added: “The opportunities in the maritime and marine sector in Sri Lanka will surely be of interest to Norway; offshore fish farming is a growing sector in Norway and has become our second most exported article after gas and oil.”
Brende also drew a clear path for the Sri Lankan economy to follow in its bid to increase competitiveness, citing Norway’s heavy investment made in sectors such as education and infrastructure.
“In the 21st century if you’re going to succeed you have to be competitive, that is a lesson we have learnt in Europe in the last five years. If you’re not competitive, you also see increased unemployment and less investment.”
On the topic of investment in Sri Lanka, Brende said Norwegian firms would be interested in entering the solar energy sector in Sri Lanka in addition to the investments already being made in the ICT sector. He also promised to bring a business delegation to the island on his next visit.