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Interview

H.E. Unni Kløvstad – Norwegian Ambassador to Australia

Her Excellency Ms. Unni Kløvstad discusses the focus of her mandate as Norway’s Ambassador to Australia, while drawing comparative parallels between the two nations. She also depicts the appeal of investing in Australia and highlights how Norwegian companies are leveraging their legacy in maritime to help advance the nation’s offshore sector.

As an introduction for our readers, can you please elaborate on the main priorities under your ambassadorship?

There are three major aspects to our presence here in Australia and the wider region; the first revolves around maintaining and developing bilateral relations between Australia and Norway. We’re also side-accredited to a number of countries in the region.  However, Australia is the primary focus, and there is longstanding collaboration between Australia and Norway in international organizations and multilateral processes. The cooperation also extends to more specific areas where we have shared interests. For example, both Australia and Norway are original claimant states in the Antarctic, and we also have a Norwegian fishing fleet in the Southern Ocean.  We collaborate very closely on the sustainable management of resources in that part of the world. On issues such as peace and conflict, disarmament and non-proliferation, we are also traditionally very likeminded.

Maintaining a close bilateral relationship is important. In order to further strengthen this close bilateral relationship, the first ever State Visit by Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway took place in February 2015. As a part of Their Majesties’ delegation, Norway’s Minister of Energy, Tord Lien, visited Perth to participate in an oil and gas conference hosted by INTSOK and the Norwegian Embassy.

The second aspect of the mandate is economic diplomacy, which has become much more important today than it used it be 20 to 30 years ago. The Norwegian Foreign Service works very closely with Innovation Norway, the main government agency that supports Norwegian businesses trying to establish a presence abroad. As they do not have offices in Australia, the Embassy will in act somewhat of a similar capacity in helping prospective Norwegian companies enter the Australian market.

The third aspect encompasses the consular and immigration services that we provide to Norwegian citizens and those wishing to visit, study or move to Norway that are here in Australia and the wider region.

What have been a few of the primary initiatives that you’ve been working on?

Following on from the State Visit, the Embassy has adopted a thematic approach with regard to our development and advocacy efforts. Specifically, the Norwegian defense industry looks to Australia as a growing and interesting market. The maritime sector also has a longstanding tradition in this country with some Norwegian companies having a more than 100-year history. This sector encompasses a lot of the different actors involved in the offshore sector—essentially comprising Norway’s major footprint in Australia.

In addition to those particular sectors, as a part of the Embassy’s climate change diplomacy, we have been focusing on what we call “the green shift”—the changes, innovation, modernization, development that businesses, government, and individuals have to go through in order to prepare for and contribute to a carbon neutral future. We have involved several of the Norwegian companies here in Australia that have a strong profile in this specific area. We have tried to combine economic diplomacy with a more topical focus of clean energy, energy efficiency, and carbon abatement, which are all key focal points for the oil and gas sector. Essentially, we have been attempting to draw attention to the parallels and identify synergies between the traditional fossil fuel industry and the renewable energy segment.

In your opinion, why is Australia such a favorable investment destination for Norwegian companies?

Australia is a fairly easy market for Norwegian companies to conduct business in.  Australia has well-established infrastructure with a relatively transparent working culture that seamlessly facilitates open communication among businesses and people alike. Underpinning these factors are robust governance practices and a comprehensive rule of law that promotes the utmost standards in integrity and trust.

Furthermore, just based on my observations, Australians and Norwegians share similar characteristics making us very compatible. Easy-going, direct, straightforward, informal—these are the qualities that have helped create an open line of dialogue and encourage widespread interaction between the two cultures.

That being said, however, even though there are these similarities that makes it very easy to live and establish a presence in Australia, there are of course also a deeper set of nuances and intricacies that must be fully understood in order to truly generate success.

From your perspective, what value do Norwegians companies bring to Australia’s energy sector?

Within the Australian offshore and associated service sectors, there are approximately 40 – 45 Norwegian companies—primarily operating out of Perth.  Historically speaking, Norwegians have faced many of the same challenges as Australians when it comes to offshore: deep sea, remote waters, rough conditions, and input costs. As such, the Norwegian companies bring with them decades of experience that align with the local environment, especially given our longstanding success in extracting oil and gas over the past few decades. Norway has also been able to develop large clusters of companies that specifically invest in innovation and new technologies—further accentuating the technical excellence and cutting-edge nature of Norwegian players.

How would you describe your experience working and living in Australia thus far?

Australia is a wonderful country in an incredibly dynamic region. That is exactly why it is such an attractive post for a Norwegian diplomat like myself. You have the responsibility for Australia and the side-accredited countries, and these are countries that are all exhibiting their own tranches of dynamism and developments. But for me, it’s also the fact that Australia is a major actor in the broader Asia Pacific region. Witnessing and trying to understand the regional developments from this vantage point is simply an unparalleled experience. Other than that, it has been as easy as I expected to communicate with my Australian and New Zealander counterparts.

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