Norwegian trade officials think there is a bigger market for their fresh fish, forest products and high-tech applications on the West Coast--a region that sits near the world’s biggest fisheries, has an abundance of forested mountains and is the home of the computer-rich Silicon Valley.
“We recognized the market and see the possibilities for Norwegian industry, for Norwegian products of different kinds,” said Asabjorn Haugstvedt, minister of trade and shipping.
“I think we can compete in the best markets, and I think it’s the quality that counts,” he said.
Asabjorn and Arne Langeland, president of the Export Council of Norway, headed a delegation that visited Los Angeles and Seattle in April before stopping in San Francisco to set up their country’s fourth trade office in the United States. Other offices are located in New York, Washington and Houston, plus 32 other countries.
“The recent development in Norwegian exports to the West Coast has been favorable,” Haugstvedt said in a recent speech to the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce.
According to the minister, Norwegian exports to San Francisco alone increased to nearly $48 million in 1984 from $23.5 million in 1982. Langeland said total exports of goods to the United States came to $1.7 billion last year.
Salmon make up a good part of those export totals, which do not include Norwegian services such as shipping.
“Exports of fresh salmon to the West Coast sound like exporting ice to Greenland,” Haugstvedt said. “However, the Norwegian salmon is so tasty and the quality so consistent that it has found a ready market.”
It doesn’t hurt that Norway can keep the salmon harvest going all year long, thanks to advances in the nation’s fish-farming industry and overnight delivery via jumbo cargo jets.
Norway’s age-old link with the sea has also produced one of the world’s greatest shipping industries.
Norwegian ships sail daily into West Coast ports, either picking up pulp, paper and general cargo bound for the Far East or delivering oil and fertilizer supplies to the San Francisco Bay area.
“The most prestigious ones are the Norwegian cruise liners,” the trade minister said. “Royal Viking Line--as you all know--has its headquarters here in San Francisco. In fact, Norway has the largest fleet of cruise liners in the world.”
Norway is also developing its energy resources, both hydroelectric power and offshore oil fields, as an exportable commodity in itself.
Major U.S. oil companies have been big contributors to energy operations in the North Sea.
Interested in Outpost
“We probably could not have developed offshore technology without the assistance of the U.S. companies,” said Langeland. “In the domestic oil industry, the U.S. companies do possess the highest percentage of (oil) stocks held by foreigners.”
Norwegian trade officials are also interested in establishing a West Coast outpost to stay abreast of developments in computer technology.
“This is the area of the world where innovations are made. This is an open society where you can buy the new technology as soon as it is made,” Langeland said. “We have to be here in order to follow development, in order to buy the latest technology. We do not have the resources to have that kind of research and development product.
“What we are doing in the niches where we operate is to apply the new technology. It is called administrative data treatment,” he said. “Then, we export the applied technology back to the United States.”
In simple terms, Haugstvedt said the picture Norway is trying to convey is that it can be an equal partner in an international economic relationship.
“The main factor for a small country like Norway is to become competitive in international circles,” he said.
“We had to go to the main centers of the world, find our partners and show them what we are trying to establish would be profitable to both parties.”