We have discussed numerous recommendations and thoughts about how the government should support initiatives aiming to promote export. In our view, this issue is twofold: 1) The recommendation for support for trade fairs made before Jan Christian Vestre, Minister of Trade and Industry, presented his project – “Hele Norge Eksporterer”, and 2) the Minister of Trade and Industry’s project: “Hele Norge Eksporterer” (all of Norway exports). Below, we will lay out our views on support for trade fairs and briefly describe what we believe is required in order to implement “Hele Norge Eksporterer”.
The maritime industry is the most important export industry for Norway. In 2020, the maritime industry had a revenue of NOK 425 billion and value creation of NOK 144 billion. The number of employees in the industry is estimated to be approx. 80,000. In other words, this is an extremely important industry for Norway. For our segment alone – equipment and service suppliers – equipment manufacturers have a share of approx. 65% of exports, and service suppliers 25-30% (source, Menon Economics).
Norway’s current government has stipulated an objective to increase exports other than oil and gas by 50% by 2030. This is a very ambitious goal, and will require specific initiatives. There are a number of organisations dedicated to working with exports. NME can immodestly claim to be the leading organisation, but NORWEP, the GCEs and others also work to promote exports. NORWEP receives annual support from the government of NOK 34 million, and the GCEs receive approx. NOK 10 million each. NME does not receive any governmental support, despite being the preferred organiser of the Team Norway pavilions at maritime trade fairs, as stated in the report entitled “Mer og grønnere maritime eksport. Anbefalinger fra maritim industri” (more and greener maritime exports – recommendations from maritime industry). This report was based on the work produced by a team from the maritime industry established by the Export Strategy Council (Eksportstrategirådet), chaired by Heidi Nakken. We quote (translated from Norwegian):
“Norwegian Maritime Exporters (NME) is the centre of expertise for the maritime industry in terms of pavilion organisation and trade fair participation, and must receive support for their work. NME should be the preferred organiser of Team Norway pavilions for maritime trade fairs, and must receive economic and human resources support where appropriate from Innovation Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ foreign service missions.”
General support for trade fairs
During the planning stage, we were presented with the following draft of a support scheme:
- Companies may submit applications for up to 50% of the costs incurred when taking part in a trade fair.
- The maximum amount was NOK 60,000, which was subsequently reduced to NOK 50,000.
- NME would be able to submit applications on behalf of all companies taking part in our pavilions, but this has subsequently been withdrawn.
- NME would be able to apply for support to cover some of the labour costs we incur on projects.
NME’s view is that:
- Irrespective of whether the amount is NOK 60,000 or NOK 50,000, this is not sufficient support for one company at one trade fair. The figure has been based on the maximum limit for support in Denmark, which is DKK 50,000, overlooking the fact that – with the current exchange rate – this would amount to approx. NOK 70,000. We are firmly of the opinion that the maximum limit should be NOK 150,000 – partly due to the significantly high costs of taking part in trade fairs, which have only increased in recent months, with major increases in stand lease charges, material costs, booth construction costs, travel costs, a weaker Norwegian krone etc.
- The application process as described in the draft report is too complex. One of the requirements in the process is confirmation that the applicant fulfils all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals! In the best-case scenario, this will result in greenwashing, as we are confident that extremely few, if any, of our members have the capacity to adapt to all of the Sustainable Development Goals. Most of our members have selected three to four of the Goals, and are working actively on these. Moreover, the planned application process requires reporting of numerous unnecessary details. We would prefer to see an application process that is as simple and efficient as possible.
- It is extremely important and only fair for pavilion organisers, be it Norwegian Shipbuilders, NORWEP, NME or others, to receive support for implementation of trade fairs. We invest significant time and resources in this work. We are the hub in the pavilions and for the maritime cluster. We market Norway and Norwegian industry in numerous ways in our lounges, we are instrumental in increasing sales via our networking and B2B meetings, and we organise social gatherings for the cluster during trade fairs. If we did not play this central role for the Team Norway pavilions, any form of joint effort would be impossible. The clusters exhibit in our pavilions, and we compose all elements to provide a comprehensive presentation of the maritime industry. We also carry out a number of initiatives to promote each individual company, but also Norway as a green maritime nation.
- In Denmark, the pavilion organiser submits applications for support on behalf of all the companies taking part. In our view, this is a sensible and practical approach. It saves time for the companies taking part in the pavilions, and cuts down on red tape for the public bodies, as they only have to process one application per pavilion.
- Trade fair support must be made exclusively available to companies that are part of the cluster and are exhibiting in a shared Team Norway pavilion.
“Hele Norge eksporterer”
As for item 2), we have extensively discussed the “Hele Norge Eksporterer” project, and included much of this in our report to the Export Strategy Council, which you can read (Norwegian only) here. In summary, our views are as follows:
The objective to increase exports other than oil and gas by 50% by 2030 is ambitious, and will require significant efforts. Success will depend on the investment of numerous human and financial resources. Countries such as Denmark, Germany, Singapore, England and others are already far ahead of Norway in terms of support. We unashamedly believe that direct support for NME is one of the initiatives that must be taken. We currently receive zero support, and have to earn money from all our activities. With proper support for our “foundations”, we would be able to better serve the industry at trade fairs, but also organise other activities for which we currently do not have the resources. These could be B2B meetings, visiting yards, helping companies get on the maker’s list and gain contact with shipowners, increased networking and cluster collaboration, to mention only a few. Support is also required for major export projects and initiatives.