Norway waits out Trump’s trade war

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While the EU loads its canons for a threatened trade war with the US’ Trump Administration, Norway’s foreign minister has decided to “sit still in the boat,” as Norwegians are fond of saying. Norway has no immediate plans to strike back, but reserves the right to do so if it deems necessary.

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said she had a “good meeting” with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in January. Now she’s worried about how his president may choke free trade. PHOTO: Ambassaden i Washington/Johanne Furuseth

“Norway hasn’t prepared any counter-measures,” to any sudden, punitive customs fees that may be imposed on goods imported from Norway, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide told news bureau NTB on Friday. Søreide isn’t ready to slap reciprocal fees on imports from the US that would add to their price: “I think there has to be a very high threshold for taxing Norwegian consumers and businesses to hinder imports (from the US).”

That’s a different strategy than the one being taken by the EU. Its officials have responded to Trump’s threatened 25 percent import duty on steel and 10 percent on aluminum by threatening high reciprocal fees on American products, from Harley Davidson motorcycles to cigarettes and Levi’s jeans. The goal is to make sure that the US is hit just as hard as the EU would be if Trump moves forward with his controversial plans.

Søreide is as worried as her foreign minister colleagues are all over the world. “It’s serious and worrisome that the US has warned of trade barriers for aluminum and steel,” she stated right after Trump announced his plans. Using national security as an “excuse for protectionism,” Søreide added, “is not constructive.”

She also claimed that Trump’s threatened fees on steel and aluminum raise doubts about the multilateral, regulation-based trade system “that has served us well for more than 70 years, and increases the risk that other countries will also close their markets.”

Norway’s own exports of steel and aluminum, the latter being the major product of the large state-controlled industrial firm Norsk Hydro, are mostly sent to Europe. Less than 1 percent of Norwegian exports of products convered by Trump’s threatened fees go to the US.

Norway thus doesn’t stand to be hurt in the first phase. “I’m more worried about the indirect consequences for Norwegian business, if an already demanding situation in global markets worsens,” Søreide stated. Norwegian officials are in principle opposed to trade restrictions, except those it places on imports of agricultural products to protect Norwegian farmers.

Her government colleague, Trade Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, agrees. “As a small, open economy, Norway relies on the most stable framework possible for sales of goods and services abroad,” Isaksen said. “Any measures that make that framework uncertain worry us.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund