Arne Aasheim – Norway Ambassador to Mexico

What is the role that Mexico plays for Norwegian investment in North and Central Mexico?

We are awaiting an opening for the petroleum industry. Mexico needs to let the foreign competition work in this industry and this aperture will mostly benefit the Mexican economy.

We need to have in mind that Norway represents only 0.1% of the total population worldwide. Thus said, we are a small Country but we have a greater influence than what the size of our population suggests.

Our total foreign trade represents 37% of our total GDP. Our foreign direct investment in Norway has grown considerably since the year 2001.

We are a Country with an important amount of our economy based in the Oil Industry. Our strategy for our revenues in petroleum activities are invested in a pension fund. And then we invest it all around the world. During 2010 we had a total amount invested of US$500 billion in this program. This demonstrates that Norway has exemplary hydrocarbons industry management.

We not only invest in our local expenditure, we work on the future as well.

How successful has the Free Trade Agreement signed between Mexico and Norway been in terms of the increase in Norwegian investment in Mexico?

Mexico and Norway have signed an independent Free Trade Agreement via the European Association of Free Commerce (EFTA). This is not the one signed by the European Union, because we are not part of it. We share the benefits of the free transfer of people within the European Association of Free Commerce (EFTA) which is made up of Lichtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

This has been productive for us in terms of an increase in the share of commerce, investment and competitively with Mexico. The challenge is that we still need to grow and have a more profitable bilateral relationship.

When analyzed, the total commerce between both countries, comparing the years 2001 and 2007, increased 74%.

Comparing the year 2008 with its previous year (2007) another increase of 13% is seen. At this time there are 518 companies operating in Mexico from the EFTA.

They are found mostly in manufacture (74%) where the majority of these companies have Swiss precedence.

Nevertheless, this could change in terms of Norwegian investment with possible openings in petroleum foreign investment.

Our experience in the top markets indicates that the greatest benefits are to those countries that open their petroleum markets, while at the same time having good fiscal and regulated control.

What is the level of Norwegian company satisfaction with their operations in Mexico?

Our investors are pleased and happy.

Even though, State Oil has reduced its presence in Mexico. I see admiration and respect for Mexico because of its high technology and effective and transparent management of resources.

My impression is that our Norwegian companies operating in Mexico hire Mexican directors. This is because of their capacity and it would seem that working together we will see an optimistic and bright future.

What is your outlook for Norwegian trade and investment in Mexico?

It depends on the possibility of what Mexico will be offering in terms of hydrocarbons for foreign interests.

Here in Norway we have a diversified economy, but we need to be taking advantage of the fact that Mexico and Norway are both big petroleum producers.

I believe that our strategy of not immediately spending our profits is better than the one in Mexico. I even see a good possibility of increasing our trade and investment in Mexico. The bilateral relationship has never been as close as it is at this time.

We share common interests such as mutual actions against climate change.

Another fact is that President Calderon and our First Minister Jens Stoltenberg know each other very well and the relationship between them is very respectful.

Is there any additional Norwegian investment in Mexico to be expected in the near future?

I don’t think so. I still believe that the field of cooperation has to be focused on the hydrocarbons industry. We hold the expectation that Mexico will liberate this sector. This is our goal–it is our “El Dorado”. We would provide our wisdom, know how and expertise in order to contribute to the improvement of this industry at Mexico. We are ready to act.

Are there specific sectors targeted by Norwegian companies?

Beside the hydrocarbons, I would like to point out that Norway is the second largest exporter of fishery products in the world. Navigation has been very traditional in Norway and we could provide services that would add value to export of services in Mexico.

Another sector targeted by Norwegian companies is the development of raw materials using high technology.

Also, the exportation of goods and services to Mexico is being analyzed by Norwegian companies.

What is the interest of Norwegian Companies in Mexico’s oil industry?

The interest of Norwegian Companies in the oil industry relies on the Norwegian resources management being applied in exploration. In this way we are much more disciplined in generating funds seen worldwide and I think that is a good example for others.

Another field of interest might be the technologies. In Norway, our industry works in difficult climate conditions and because of our technology we are able to continue to develop our industry more. In deep water, Mexico will need to continue exploring and we have the expertise to provide back-up and support.

What conditions are needed in Mexico to increase Norwegian investment?

First of all there is security. This is because we need to have things calm in order to produce. There are many international companies that are working well in your country and Mexico is an increasingly important economy with many possibilities for foreign investment.

What future do you see in Norwegian and Mexican bilateral relationship?

The future seems bright because we are experiencing one of the highest order political relationships between Mexico and Norway. Tourism in Mexico is very attractive for Norway and that’s the reason why a direct flight from Norway to Cancun has been inaugurated.

In Norway at this time there is more and more information about Mexico in every aspect. We receive innumerable positive news stories describing Mexico and it is being heard all over my country.

I am very optimistic that the bilateral relation will grow.

What is your opinion of the Mexican economy?

Mexico has an enormous economical potential. Its population represents an immense market. The Mexican economy is an incentive for any investor in the world and its climate for investment is more than acceptable.

What can you explain about the bilateral agreement between the two countries regarding action to stop climate change?

We are interested in supporting Mexico with the same responsibility that Mexico decides to take on the subject.

Mexico has two faces. One is being an industrialized but also 3rd world country. In this way we are working with Mexico to stop deforestation and we have already signed an agreement in this regard.

We both have a tight dialogue and we meet in diverse forums. Our First Minister came to Mexico to meet President Calderon last April and they both went to see the area of Montes Azules in Chiapas, which is a beautiful ecological reserve.

Any last comment for the MEXICONOW subscribers?

Our bilateral relationship is most exemplary. It has have never been so close and concrete as it is at this time.

We, the Norwegians admire Mexico for their management of resources, transparency, openness and exciting new markets.

In Mexico the work done to protect human rights is remarkable.

Even though we are geographically far apart, we have been able to work well together. I certainly admire many things about Mexico.