Norway’s huge and important fishing industry remains deeply worried that its seafood exports will be slapped with higher customs duties, in retaliation for the Norwegian government’s decision to protect domestic agriculture by jacking up import tariffs on meat and cheese from abroad. Norway’s foreign minister has responded by telling the industry to stop publicizing their fears, to help prevent them from becoming reality.
Even though Denmark’s government has backed away from threats of a trade war over Norway’s new looming tariffs on its meat and cheese, fishing industry officials haven’t given up trying to get the tariffs reduced. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that they’re spreading their fears in Parliament, worried that other countries can do just what Norway has done and jack up their own import tariffs on Norwegian salmon, herring, mackerel and shrimp, for example.
Import quotas on such seafood are routinely renegotiated and Norwegian seafood generally faces customs duties of around 12 percent, reported DN. World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules allow it to be increased to 35 percent, though, and some countries or the EU itself may be angry enough over Norway’s protectionism that they’ll raise them. When their meat and cheese no longer can get past Norway’s import wall, the theory goes, they won’t allow Norway’s exports past their own.
Some foreign policy researchers agree the threat is real, but Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide downplayed it. Eide, who has had to defend the higher meat and cheese tariffs forced through by his Labour-led government’s small Center Party to appease its farming constituency, cautioned the fishing industry against giving other countries any ideas.
He claims he had “nice” meetings with members of both the Danish and Swedish governments last week, but Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Bjørling remains unhappy with Norway. “Norway is going in the wrong direction, with more protectionism,” Bjørling told DN. “This isn’t about money, it’s about principles.” Many officials of other European governments think Norway is violating an earlier agreement to liberalize trade.