Giske backs Hong Kong consulate
June 30, 2010
Business and Trade Minister Trond Giske says he understands ongoing complaints over Norway’s decision to close its general consulate in Hong Kong back in 2003. He says he’s following through on efforts to re-open it.
Giske was in Hong Kong in May, and as newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported at the time, he was given a “clear message” from Norwegian businesspeople in Hong Kong that closing the consulate was a big mistake that must be corrected.
The consulate was closed in a cost-cutting move initiated by former Foreign Minister Jan Pedersen of the Conservative Party, when he was part of the center-right coalition government led by Kjell Magne Bondevik at the time. Neither the Bondevik government nor the successor left-center coalition now in power has responded to the consulate complaints so far.
But Giske, who assumed his post last fall, seems to be listening.
“I have talked to (Foreign Minister) Jonas (Gahr Støre) about it,” Giske told members of the Foreign Press Association in Oslo on Wednesday. “He’s aware of the importance of Hong Kong.”
Giske has noted that the consulate closure resulted from beliefs at the time that Hong Kong’s role as a business hub would decline as China took control following the handover in 1997. Instead, Hong Kong has emerged as “possibly even more important than before,” Giske told DN, as “an important gateway to the economic growth in China.”
Giske said “nothing has been decided yet,” but “when we re-evaluate (business development agency) Innovation Norway, we’ll likely boost our Asian presence.” Re-establishment of a general consulate in Hong Kong could result from that, he said.
(For more on Giske’s meeting with the Foreign Press Association in Oslo, click here.)