Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide signed a friendship and cooperation treaty with the ASEAN nations on Monday, strengthening Norway’s ties to Asia at a time when Asian countries are getting increasingly interested in Norway and its Arctic backyard.
Eide joined a ministerial meeting of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian nations in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.
“ASEAN is the premier cooperation forum in Asia and an important point of contact for Norway,” Eide said before signing the Treaty for Amity and Cooperation (TAC). The treaty was first signed by ASEAN members in 1976. The TAC was amended in 1976, allowing non-members to accede to it. Norway is the 32nd country to join, following in the footsteps of big and small nations from Papua New Guinea to Japan, the US and the EU.
“Norway’s long-standing ties to this region and our belief in multilateral solutions makes it natural for us to join the TAC,” Eide said.
“As a trading nation with global interests in the maritime sector, the climate and energy issues, and as a large investor, Norway is already heavily present in southeast Asia,” Eide added. “But it’s necessary to further our cooperation in view of developments in the world.”
He also pledged to establish a Norway-ASEAN fund intended to support regional activities of mutual interest, the details of which will be fleshed out in a separate declaration on cooperation. From Brunei, Eide was traveling on to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, where he also planned to meet representatives of Norwegian companies in Malaysia and Jakarta.
Eide earlier told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv that Norwegian companies should consider Southeast Asia for future investments and not just focus on business in China. In fact, they already do, with more than 200 Norwegian companies operating in the ASEAN region, from Singapore and Malaysia to Thailand and Vietnam. These days, Myanmar/Burma is a hot destination for Norwegian investors, with corporations like telecoms firm Telenor and painting giant Jotun scrambling for market share.
Before departing for Brunei, Eide had met with ASEAN ambassadors in Oslo. Four ASEAN member states have embassies in Oslo — Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. That meeting on June 26 was the first, but not the last, in such a format, ministry officials said. The ambassadors, for their part, agreed to form an ASEAN committee in Norway.
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