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Norwegian agriculture remains heavily protected by subsidies and non-tariff barriers which adversely affect U.S. exports.
Some steps have been taken to deregulate the service sector. However, large parts of the transportation and telecommunications markets remain subject to restrictive regulations, including statutory barriers to entry. Looking ahead, the Norwegian government remains committed to an ambitious structural reform program which may gradually improve U.S. market access. This program includes the lowering of subsidies to industry and agriculture, gradual liberalization of the import regime, and some privatization of state enterprises.
Norway has embraced a cautious foreign debt policy to limit the state's exposure in foreign markets. The net external debt of the government stands presently at less than NOK 25 billion ($3.8 billion). The government's stated policy is that the domestic private sector should cover the bulk of financing requirements related to Norway's external deficits.
In the past, this policy has contributed to high interest rates, and a rapid increase in short-term foreign private debt. Since 1990, the Government has allowed the private sector increased access to long-term foreign capital markets to facilitate improvements in the term-structure of its foreign debt.
Significant Barriers to U.S. Exports and Investments
Norway supports the principles of free trade and is quick to condemn protectionism. In general, U.S. exporters experience few problems doing business in Norway. Nonetheless, some areas of tension exist. While Norway is in the process of reforming its agricultural support regime, quantitative import restrictions and producer subsidies continue to cover a wide range of agricultural products, including apples and pears.
A GATT panel has been formed at the request of the United States which alleges that the Government of Norway has discriminated against a U.S. company in its procurement of a toll ring around the city of Trondheim, in Western Norway.
The United States would like Norway to liberalize its procedures for regulating telecommunications terminal equipment. The Norwegian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (a separate approval authority under the auspices of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications) has improved the speed and efficiency with which it approves telecommunications devices used in Norway. The Government of Norway is in the process of liberalizing its telecommunications industry to make it compatible with EC integration.
Recent deregulation of financial markets appears to have eliminated many of the barriers facing U.s. financial institutions which seek to operate in the Norwegian market.
Norway's ongoing efforts to bring its laws into compliance with EC directives are being carried out on a non-discriminatory basis. This means that in many cases, U.S. financial institutions can look forward to continuing liberalization in the Norwegian market.
Norway maintains reservations to the OECD Code of Liberalization of Capital Movements with regard to inward direct investment. Foreign investment in Norwegian corporations is limited to 33 percent of equity. The ownership of seagoing vessels and real estate is even more restricted. Norway can expect to gradually liberalize these regulations as it brings its national laws into compliance with the EEA.
As a general rule the Government of Norway does not subsidize exports, however some heavily subsidized products may be exported. Dairy and fishery products fall into this category. Indirectly, the Government supports the export of chemicals and metals by subsidizing the electricity costs of manufacturers. In addition, the Government provides funds to Norwegian companies for export promotion purposes.
Protection of U.S. Intellectual Property
Norway is a signatory of the main intellectual property accords, including the Bern Copyright and Universal Copyright Conventions, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Norwegian officials believe that counterfeiting and piracy are the most important aspects of intellectual property rights protection. They complain of the unauthorized reproduction of furniture and appliance designs and the sale of the resultant goods in other countries, with no compensation to the Norwegian innovator.
Product patents for pharmaceuticals will become available in Norway in January 1992. Only process patent protection is presently provided to pharmaceuticals.
Workers have the right to associate freely and to strike. The Government can invoke compulsory arbitration under certain circumstances with the approval of Parliament.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
All workers, including government employees and the military have the right to organize and to bargain collectively. The right to organize is protected through the "Basic Agreement", negotiated between the National Union Organization (LO), Norway's largest trade union federation,
and the Employers' Union (NHO), is legally binding. Complaints of antiunion discrimination would be dealt with through the Labor Court. Collective bargaining is widespread, with most wage-earners covered by negotiated settlements, either directly or through understandings which extend the contract terms to workers outside of the main labor federation and the employer's bargaining group.
Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced and compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not exist.
Minimum Age for Employment of Children
children from the age of 13-18 may be employed part-time in light work which will not adversely affect their health, development, or schooling. Minimum age rules are observed in practice.
Ordinary working hours are mandated by law and normally do not exceed 37.5 hours per week, with 25 working days of paid leave granted per year (31 for those over 60). There is no minimum wage in Norway, but wages normally fall within a national wage scale negotiated by labor, employers, and the Government. The Workers' Protection and Working Environment Act of 1977 assures all workers safe and physically acceptable working conditions.
Rights in Sectors with U.S. Investment
Norway has a tradition of protecting worker rights in all industries, and sectors where there is heavy U.S. investment are no exception.
(D)-Suppressed to avoid disclosing data of individual companies
U.S. Department of Commerce, Survey of Current Business