‘New opportunities are available, but they must be explored’, says Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s bilateral trade with Norway up by 26% since 2008


At the head-table: Vice President, SL – Nordic Business Council, Bobby Jordan Hansen, Ambassador Grete Lochen, Majid Awn, Secretary NBC, Sivananthan Anojan and Vice President, Nasvi Hassn. (Pic by Dharmasena Welipitiya)

By Steve A. Morrell

The balance of trade with Norway is in Sri Lanka’s favour, says Grete Lochen, Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan exports in real terms to Norway were US$ 20 million. Conversely, imports were US$ 12 million. The garments industry is the leading exporter to Norway, followed by rubber based products, the envoy told last week’s AGM of the Sri Lanka – Nordic Business Council AGM.

Irrespective of the apparent disparity these figures indicate, it is not that opportunities are non-existent for mutual expansion for trade between both countries, she noted.

"New opportunities are available, but they must be explored. I am sure the Nordic Business Council can play a key role in accessing markets for their members", the Ambassador said.

The primary objective of the Sri Lanka – Nordic Business Council (NBC), is to promote and facilitate bilateral trade between Nordic nations in a quadrant of four countries, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Membership in the Council was 35 as at March 31, 2015.

The listed objectives are promotion of trade and tourism, encourage joint ventures between these Nordic countries and conduct trade and investment.

President NBC, Majid Awn, said growing incidence of trade between Sri Lanka and Nordic countries were gradually gaining ground but the pace of such bilateral exchanges are relatively slow.

Reverting to tourism, he said visitor influx is barely two percent. This aspect of the tourism industry would necessitate deeper examination for wider acceptance of Sri Lanka’s image as a tourist destination. Particularly, that temperate climate in these countries would find increased tourism expansion because of the warm atmosphere and tropical weather conditions in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Grete Lochen further said recent changes in Sri Lanka and the political climate since the last AGM of NBC was that the new President, with a manifesto focusing on reducing executive powers, augured well for future of the country.

She said focus on good governance and fighting corruption had gained effective credibility and the achievement of the 100-day program and its target was a credible sequence to recent changes, effectively passing the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

Getting systems right are important to attract more Foreign Direct Investments ( FDI) and increasing export revenues. The prosperity of Norway hinged on enhancing business relationships and promoting such relationships abroad, she noted.

"The business relationship between Sri Lanka and Norway goes back to 40 years. New opportunities are available, but they must be explored. The starting point is not what you can offer, but understanding the market you want to enter or the company you want to do business with", the Ambassador said.

Sound environmental management will be indispensible. Notwithstanding that, as all European markets are moving into ‘green’ produced goods and services, it would be imperative that such commodities will have to be certified being manufactured in an effective atmosphere to ensure acceptability in such markets, she said.

Smart business is green business. CSR is clearly linked to this aspect of business, which did not mean that companies should donate some funds to charitable causes, but in effect ensure that personnel in such companies are within the vortex of Corporate Social Responsibility, the envoy explained.


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