Policy Areas

Trade Policy and Third-country Relations

Through membership of the European Economic Area Norway is part of the EU’s Internal Market, with its free movements of goods, capital, services and persons. The EEA is not a customs union. Hence, trade policy towards third countries remains outside the scope of the EEA. However, in the Doha Development Round in the WTO it has been important for Norway to stay in close contact with our main trading partners, the most important of which is the EU.

Norway has a small and open economy, which is largely dependent on foreign trade. Foreign trade (export and import combined) constitutes about 55 per cent of Norway’s GDP, making it one of the world’s most open economies.

External relations are an important area both for the European Union (EU) and for Norway. The increasing economic and political globalisation raises questions of common concern and interest. Through membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), Norway takes part in much of the economic co-operation within the EU. The EEA Agreement provides for access to a market with free movement of goods, capital, services and persons. About 75 per cent of Norway’s trade is with the EU. On 1 May 2004 the European Union was enlarged with ten new Member States; Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic. Norway was associated with the EU enlargement through the parallel enlargement of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Both Norway and the EU base their trade policies on the rules and agreements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). 

Together with Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland, Norway is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA plays an active part in the day-to-day administration of the EEA Agreement and the co-ordination and development of Norway’s trade agreements with third countries.

The EU’s relations with third countries all over the world have developed rapidly, particularly in the form of various co-operation arrangements. Such arrangements include those with the Mediterranean region, regional groupings in Asia (ASEAN, ASEM) and Latin America. The relations with the United States have been strengthened through the establishment of a Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP) see the web pages of DG External Relations or the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The dynamic development of the EU’s relations with third countries and the successive conclusion of agreements are in large part paralleled by a similar development in the agreements concluded by EFTA. The past few years have thus been significant in developing relations between EFTA states and third-country partners. The process that began in 1990 has led to the conclusion of 15 Free Trade Agreements and the opening of negotiations on such agreements and declarations on co-operation with many countries and partners in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, America and Asia.

(Updated August 2006)

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