EU blasts Norway’s protectionism

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The EU Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a measure calling for the Norwegian government to cut its new, high import tariffs on cheese, meat and hortensia plants. EU parliamentarians, who are elected representatives from all countries in the European Union, claim Norway’s tariffs amount to pure protectionism, defy the spirit of free trade and are “not what the union expected from a friend and neighbour.”

Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU), but follows EU laws and regulations as part of its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). PHOTO: EU Commission

Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU), but follows EU laws and regulations as part of its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). Norway has now angered a vast majority of elected representatives from EU countries because of its efforts to protect Norwegian agriculture from European competition. PHOTO: EU Commission

The punitive tariffs were imposed at the insistence of the small Center Party, a member of Norway’s coalition government that was desperate last year to retain support from its farming consitutuency. Labour, which leads the government, went along with the move to protect Norwegian-produced “hard cheeses” like Jarlsberg and Norvegia from competition, despite strong protests and criticism from the EU. Now the EU is clearly fighting back.

Damaged trade and consumers
Cheese imports from the EU that were hit by the tariff, including Gouda and cheddar, became almost three times more expensive when the tariffs took effect January 1, driving many brands out of the Norwegian market. EU politicians claim the punitive tariffs have damaged trade and not least Norwegian consumers, and kept European cheeses out of the Norwegian market at a time when Europe needs all the trade it can get because of its economic crisis.

Norway, on the other hand, retains a strong economy, EU parliamentarians argued, should be able to tolerate competition and reopen its market to European meat, cheese and the hortensia plants that were hit with a 72 percent tariff that enraged Danish exporters.

The EU parliamentarians mounted an unusually strong and united front against Norway on Thursday, sending what’s being called “a strong political signal” not only to the Norwegian government but also to the EU Commission, which plays an important role in a variety of issues regulating Norway’s relations to the EU. If Norway fails to roll back its protectionist tariffs, “there will be consequences” for Norway in other areas, vow top EU leaders, noting that Norway needs to constantly negotiate with the EU on everything from economic issues to foreign policy, security and defense issues.

Complaints ignored
Agriculture Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, a farmer himself from the Center Party, was unrepentant. “Norwegian food and agriculture policies are fortunately not dictated from Brussels,” Vedum told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) right after the EU vote.

Vedum claims his government was within its rights to raise import tariffs, to further protect Norwegian agriculture, and he seemed unmoved by the massive criticism directed against both the Norwegian government and him personally. Vedum, who’s being called  “unbelievably arrogant” even by EU MPs from neighbouring Sweden and Denmark, maintained that Norway “has a good dialogue with the EU Commission, even though we have different views in some areas.”

If a new, non-socialist government is elected in September, it’s possible the tariffs will be rolled back. The Conservative Party already has stated that it agrees the higher tariffs are protectionist and limit Norwegian consumers’ choices, and that they defy Norway’s stated commitment to ease trade restrictions. Its potential government partners largely agree, but even free trade advocates within the Conservatives said it may be difficult to reverse the tariffs put in place by the current left-center government. They’ve already become part of the state’s agreement with Norwegian farmers and it may be “complicated” to change that.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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  • Robert Cumming

    Go the EU, I used to buy a mature Engliosh cheddar cheese, now it’s no longer on sale, Norway doesn’t make a decent cheese let alone a decent cheddar, or any cheddar that I can find. Stupid AP bending over and taking it up the rear from those clowns in the Centre Party.

    • Robert Neve

      The EU said they’d do something but I was expecting a little more after such time. Norway isn’t only to care till some teeth start coming

    • inquisitorX

      None of the Norwegian cheddar or Gouda tastes good.

      I can presently buy Cathedral City cheddar cheese made in Great Britain in a red package at a couple local stores including Kiwi. It costs, but I desire good cheese that is aged. They used to sell one in a black package by the same company that was aged even more, but have not seen that one for sale lately.

      I notice the large Coop stores seem to have some new bagged shredded varieties of mixed cheeses which I have not tried as of yet, probably made in Norway. Maybe they have a cheddar or cheddar blend which is real cheese and not “vegetable oil” cheese.

      Hard to find a good plain yogurt in Norway as Tine and all the other brands on the shelves add skim milk powder. Which is a sly way to get rid of milk waste product. Skim milk powder does not belong in yogurt and it makes it taste like chalk. I have seen only one brand of Norwegian made yogurt without milk powder made by Sunnova. It is Greek style and tastes awful.

      The best yogurt Is Lefdal’s imported from Germany or a variety from east Europe sold in immigrant owned markets.

      I could go on, but then I would read like the food snob that I am.

  • Travis Cleveland

    While no authority on cheese, I do like gammelost and gjetost and believe those two are made in Norway.

  • inquisitorX

    First thing you “need” to do is that when you ask me a question…don’t then tell me what I “need” to do.
    I have not deviated on any tangents, nor have I contradicted myself as you simplistically imply.

    And what I had stated in my other comment is that Norway should have the right to determine what it can and cannot import without dictates and threats from the EU failing superstate. It should have that power over its choices and the consumer should have the ultimate power with its purchase power. I also stated that it should not diminish its capacity to be self-sufficient. This was not at the exclusion of having imports.

    But if Norway does not make a product at all or a good quality or tasting one, then I am all for a quality and competitive product being imported.

    • Robert Neve

      But you can’t have a protectionist state that competes in the free market. Tine no longer needs to make it’s cheese good because the government will price out all foreign cheese.

      Besides if Norway has the right to protect it’s markets then the EU has a right to do the same. So why can’t they put a 350% tariff on salmon so the Scottish farmers can be lazy and not compete?

      Norway joined a free market agreement and then went the opposite way to what it agreed. The EU has every right to punish it.

      • inquisitorX

        “Free market”
        That would mean prices according to true supply and demand. Markets are tainted beyond belief.

        I did not argue that the EU could not put tariffs on anything, I only suggested what Norway should do.

        Entering into such overarching agreements with a failed socialist experiment run by un-elected leaders that crammed EU Constitutions down member nations throats was never a good idea.
        Do you know how many working people I talk to that tell me EU membership was the biggest mistake ever?

  • MD18

    I hope you do not succumb to the “Brussels European Soviets”

    • Robert Neve

      I think you need to look at the politics first because Norway is more Socialist than the EU.

      • MD18

        I lived under communism enough to I realize that the European Commission is only masked Politburo.

  • Tom Just Olsen

    Norway pay 4,6 billion NOK to get access to the ‘internal EU market’. – An unheard of sum. No other country demands such ‘fees’ for access to their markets. Deducted for the 4,6 billion NOK our fish exports (mostly farmed salmon) isn’t profitable on a national level. So, why keep it up? – Oil and gass, we shall see, EU wants to buy anyway…
    All the Scandinavian countries are ‘scammed’ by the central EU countries in the agriculturals. We pay, they (France, Germany) make the profit. This has to stop.

    • Robert Neve

      Cost of EU: €340 million a year
      Cost of the 74.8% exports from Norway to the EU: €49.8 Billion

      Yeh you’re right. Who needs that sort of deal. It’s not like Norway needs to export anything anyway

      • Tom Just Olsen

        Only Norway’s fish exports (food) is not protected by WTO regulations (if you know what that is).
        Regardless: We will soon see EU back down…

        • Robert Neve

          The EU has plenty of ways to ensure Norway suffers without breaking WTO rules. And if you truly thing the EU is backing down from this you are sooo misguided. The EU can not afford for it’s treaties to be unenforced or everyone will ignore them. 2ndly Denmark and Sweden will go it alone if they have to because Norway has them extremely annoyed and 3rdly this is not a knee jerk reaction. The EU has planned this response over months so you can be sure they have planned what would happen if Norway ignores them.

          • Tom Just Olsen

            Sorry, but I dont agree with you.
            I have about 40 years of export experience of industrial goods – from Norway to – mostly – EU. – I cant be all that misguided.
            EU are already doing all they can to restrict imports of goods from Norway. To protect their own industries. Except for goods they are ‘very’ dependent on. We do the same with them.
            When the loud members of the European parliement sobers up after lunch and read the EEC agreement – they will find that ‘Norway have this exclusive right’ to impose these custom tarifs. Øh, if it is such a small bumb for EU; why all this noise?
            Norway’s position regarding trade with EU is a strong one. – I know of no other non EU nation stronger. EU knows that…
            Sweden and Denmark will go it alone. – What a lot of crap. Ha,ha!

            • Adam

              “I have about 40 years of export experience of industrial goods – from Norway to – mostly – EU. – I cant be all that misguided. EU are already doing all they can to restrict imports of goods from Norway. To protect their own industries.”

              I’m sorry, but the notion that Norway produces and exports industrial goods at anywhere near a scale which would threaten the EU is laughable. Oil, fish, and the public sector are not industrial goods.

              • Tom Just Olsen

                “I’m sorry, but the notion that Norway produces and exports industrial goods at anywhere near a scale which would threaten the EU is laughable..”
                – Still EU is quite protective of their own industries of just any competitor from outside EU (Norway, Turkey, Switzerland, USA etc). All the meassures is too complicated and numerous to sum up here. – Your ‘notion’ just shows that you have no incling of export sales or world trade.

    • MD18

      Exactly it! Luckily Norwegians were smart people and refused adherence to the “European Soviets.”
      Standard of living decrease if Norwegians adhere to the “European Soviets.”

      • Adam

        “European Soviets” lol, If I remember correctly it was the Norwegian system that had people queuing for butter.

        • Robert Neve

          I gave up with him. It’s like trying to reason with any conspiracy nut job. Although lower the standard of living? Clearly he’s never lived in Norway.

  • MD18

    I see comments filtered through censorship: D

  • Adam

    Perhaps empty supermarket shelves would have been a better way to illustrate the parallels between the Norwegian economic model, and that of the Soviet Union.

    Do you really think Europe’s major dairies were falling over each other to get a slice of this tiny market, which they would then be again excluded from nearly as soon as the infrastructure to export to Norway was in place? Tine went to them asking for help, not the other way around.

  • Adam

    I grew up in Iceland, and also hold Canadian citizenship. There is no need to demonize anybody who might question your opinions, or the Norwegian status quo, or to suggest such opinions could only be held by an American.

    I never set out to associate Norway with the Soviet Union, I simply noted, after another poster conflated the EU and Soviet Union, that Norway has suffered shortages of staple foods. As far as I know, this has not occurred in the EU on a comparable scale. These shortages are something mainstream economists and historians worldwide associate with the Soviet Union.

    Please take a deep breath.

    • Tom Just Olsen

      We did not experience ‘a shortage of butter’ – in the shops. It was hardly noticed. But Norwegian butter producers had to ask the government for reduction of butter tariffs & volums so more butter could be imported, – to cover their shortage. This was just before Christmas which was high season for butter consumption and changes to food habits etc. – It was a great gift to the farmers of EU who have ‘mountains’ of butter ( and ‘seas’ of Cognac etc.) – due to heavily subsidised overproduction.
      Our socialist government as that of a choice. A choice we make by fair elections. I look around and I see that it has been a great success. And far away from the examples Soviet Union. Making such a silly comparison speaks of ‘no education’. – Not all that uncommon among Americans. I am sorry if I offended you.
      Iceland, possibly The World’s Richest Country per capita, has chosen another direction. That of Milton Friedman and other crackpot ‘economists’. As far as I can see, it has been a disaster. It ended up with not only shortage of butter, but money itself. A weird destiny for such a rich country.
      PS. The kiosk down the road had no more Zero Coke today due to the warm weather here in Oslo. – Should I blame the socialist government…?

    • goldensilence

      Mainstream economists and historians oh my!

    • J.M. Becker

      @adam: You know what adam I’d trade corporate outsourcing for Norway’s quality of life stats anyday. They rank the best across the board, so they are definitely doing something much better than the rest. Those free trade agreements undercut the ability to set an economic policy, and force the labor market to compete with the lowest bidder globally. This isn’t even just on factory products, I’m in IT and the outsourcing is rampant. If we can’t even hold middle class, high tech jobs, what exactly did we gain? Corporate profits seem to be the only benefit from these garbage agreements. I support Norway 100%, they are a shining example on whom a government should serve.

  • Tom Just Olsen

    That’s not quite true. (But close).
    That the writing on the labels on all food is a standard law here in Norway (and elsewhere). So, the first shipments of butter was ‘raw butter in tanks’ shipped for packaging here in Norway. – The packaging lines was not the bottleneck, but the raw material (fat milk) was. But later Raisio just put in a block of Norwegian text on their standard butter packages and butter packaged for the shelves was supplied later on. In between they had to make shortcuts that was not in compliance with the law. – Which Tine just can’t do themselves, they have to get an OK from ministry of Agriculture. A Danish supplier (that I don’t remember the name of) did something similar. But people got their butter.
    PS. the shop down the road had no Zero Coke today due to the warm weather. Should I blame our socialist government…?

  • Erik

    to all the haters. Norway dont want anything to do with you EUs. please let us be and move on. dont ask us for oil n fish either. go get your shit from china. its the best way. glhf

    • Robert Neve

      It’s Norway that willingly signs up to the EEA over and over. You’re free to leave whenever you wish. The EU would barely notice. Scotland would rejoice as it’s salmon could easily fill the gap

      • Tom Just Olsen

        Willing? The EEA agreement was negotiated by Høyre (predominantly) with a lot of open space for ‘future alterations’. The EES agreement was voted over twice. First at the end of one parliament session with Høyre at the power. The result was ‘yes’ by a few votes. Then was a new election and a new Storting.

        Then Senterpartiet insisted that it should be voted over once more. Now also AP (Gro Harlem Brundtland) had become in power. Even within AP there were doubts about the EEA. This time it was a clear majority ‘nei’.
        Then Høyre – NHO and major business leaders started to make a hell of a noise: Busnesses now needed predictable market conditions etc. – So, the was reckon ‘not legal’.

        Today we see that it was a coup.

  • goldensilence

    Haha 🙂