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Speech to the Diplomatic Corps

Speech by Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation Mogens Jensen to the Diplomatic corps on 8 May 2015

 Distinguished ambassadors, representatives of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here with you for the second time as minister for trade and development cooperation. When we met a year ago, I had only been in office for a few weeks. It was accordingly very novel that the government for the first time had combined exports and investment efforts with our long-standing efforts to fight poverty and promote human rights.

Today we are one year and a lot of actions wiser. During the past year I have visited 28 of the countries represented by you here today. I do of course hope that the Danish voters will reelect the government in the upcoming election, so I will get the chance to meet with all of you again next year and hopefully be able to tell you that I have visited all of your countries.

I can sincerely assure you that the merger of trade and development has been a success. My portfolios of respectively trade and development cooperation each have their own objective and justification. However, the ministerial merger promotes a lot of synergy and new approaches in the intersection where the two areas overlap.

An overriding framework for me as well as for the whole government is promotion of economic growth and job creation.  As minister for both trade and development cooperation, I have the pleasure of striving for economic growth and employment opportunities in a very concrete manner for the benefit of both Denmark and our development partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.    

Let me use this opportunity to provide you with a few examples of our work.

Economic diplomacy
Last year I promised you that we were about to launch an ambitious strategy for export promotion and economic diplomacy. Indeed we did present such a strategy in May 2014 aiming at lifting Denmark’s foreign economic ties even further by (i) prioritizing economic diplomacy as a key tool across the government, exploring the fact that many line ministries are internationally engaged and (ii) improving the efficiency of the existing toolbox of the Foreign Service.

We are now in the midst of implementing this landmark strategy. Its focus on economic diplomacy and strategic sector cooperation is probably our biggest foreign policy initiative in years. No less.

Economic diplomacy is about activating the full diplomatic toolbox and organization to promote Danish growth and employment. This is a decisive priority these years in order to fight back the economic challenges facing us. And we are succeeding. Growth is slowly returning and is mainly trade driven.

We prioritize efforts towards the Asian, African and Latin American growth markets. Surely we maintain an active engagement in Denmark’s biggest export markets in Europe and North America. But we also see a need to respond to the fact that global growth mostly occurs outside Europe and that Danish companies have an extra need for assistance in countries that are far away from Denmark in terms of both geography and business culture.

I am accordingly happy that we in the last year have opened four new embassies. I did the official opening in Colombia, Myanmar and the Philippines, and based on the interest and number of guests the opening of Danish embassies is very relevant and welcome in all countries.

Economic diplomacy is vital. However, strong diplomatic relations is a pillar for economic diplomacy. Therefore, we maintain our distinct foreign policy and development priorities, but when it does not compromise the primary focus, we add economic diplomacy.   

Our approach to economic diplomacy is based on partnerships with you and the institutions in your countries. With the strategy for export promotion and economic diplomacy we also now have a joint framework for the involvement of other Danish authorities. We call it strategic sector cooperation.

Strategic sector cooperation
In the core of our strategic sector cooperation stands the Danish Government’s initiative “Partnering with Denmark – Danish Authorities in International Cooperation”.

The Initiative has high priority for our Government and is part of our development cooperation. We are testing new grounds of how we work with synergy between trade and development at country level. It is also an example on how we in the Foreign Ministry strengthen our cooperation with Danish line ministries and jointly strengthen our international relations.

The Danish line ministries will offer their competences and experiences on policy development; regulatory frameworks etc. within their specific sector and implement Strategic Sector Cooperation projects together with the local authorities. Sector experts from Danish ministries, the Growth Counsellors, will facilitate this cooperation, but will also convey insights of the chosen sector and knowledge of any commercial opportunities to Danish companies in order for them to gain better access, and pursue opportunities in the countries.

I recently attended a ceremony where the Danish Ministry of Employment signed an agreement with the Bangladeshi Ministry of Labour offering the support of the staff of the Danish Ministry to their Bangladeshi counterparts on factory inspections. This is a follow-up to the Rana Plaza Tragedy, and we together with the Danish textile sector hope this initiative can help raise standards to the benefit of the Bangladeshi workers and consumers worldwide.

I must say, that meeting with seriously wounded survivors, young women and men, made a huge impression on me. It made me even more determined to continue our strong involvement in improving building safety and working conditions in third world countries.

Danida Business
I also encourage Danish companies to contribute to development through market-based approaches that further economic, social and environmental progress. And many Danish companies are taking advantage of our Danida Business instruments that help identify, facilitate and develop business opportunities, share costs and reduce risks when doing business in developing countries.

I am about to launch a new Danida Business Platform, that will   capture all our tools for engaging Danish companies in Denmark’s development cooperation. With this new framework, we will rethink our support schemes and set the direction for our future collaboration with the Danish private sector.

Post-2015/development policy/refugees
Let me now turn to some of the major issues on the global development agenda this year. 2015 will be an important year for the world. The trifold of international events in Addis Ababa in July, in New York in September and in Paris in December will outline the global path for decades to come.

In September, Heads of State and Government will meet in New York to agree on a set of new sustainable development goals to replace the current Millennium Development Goals.

In order to transform lives and protect the planet, this new universal agenda must bury any silo mentality and ensure that the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability are truly integrated in all of our future actions. In the long run, sustainable prosperity can only be achieved if we respect planetary boundaries and build inclusive, green economies.

Denmark is strongly engaged in the work to formulate an ambitious new development agenda. One of our key priorities is to promote the sustainable access to and use of water and energy as well as increased resource efficiency. We are also working actively to promote gender equality and women’s and girl’s rights, including not least their sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as quality education for all. Moreover, the challenges facing fragile states must be addressed.

We must place implementation of the new goals at the center. Agreeing on the new global goals is no small matter, but agreeing on funding their implementation is a sizable task as well.

Denmark has high hopes for a successful outcome of the Financing for Development Conference which will be held in Addis Ababa this July. ODA alone cannot fund the new post-2015 agenda. But ODA is still of vital importance to the poorest and most fragile countries. Denmark is working actively to ensure that we as developed countries live up to our commitments to the world’s poorest and to the UN target of providing 0.7 % of gross national income as ODA. Denmark has done so since 1978. In 2015, the government has allocated 0.87 % of gross national income to ODA.

Moreover, innovative partnerships with the private sector will play a key role in efforts to mobilise new sources of financing. And so will the mobilization and effective use of domestic resources, not least through stronger tax systems, combating illicit flow of funds, and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.

Let me briefly return to one of Denmark’s key priorities for the post-2015 agenda: Women’s health and rights. Denmark has for decades been a strong and active advocate for women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights. In recognition of this Denmark has been selected to host the next international Women Deliver Conference. The conference is the world’s largest international conference on women’s health and rights and 5000 people from around the world are expected to meet here in Copenhagen in May next year.

The conference has generated a lot of buzz among Danish organisations and institutions. To tap into this energy, I have decided to gather some of our key partners from the private sector, organisations and cultural life in a national Women Deliver Committee to make the conference an event that involves the larger Danish public. Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary will be the patron of the conference and I can already now promise you that 16th to 19th May 2016 will be a week to look forward to.

Recent events have shown just how important it is to continue to prioritize our support to help build resilient, peaceful and stable societies through our development cooperation. We have all seen the dreadful images of migrants on overfilled boats and heard of the many lives lost on the Mediterranean Sea. And latest we have witnessed the massive destructions and loss of thousands of lives in Nepal due to the giant earthquake. And let me use this opportunity to express my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to H.E. the Nepalese Ambassador (present here today) and to the Nepalese people.

Denmark is there to help no matter whether the disaster is manmade or a result of nature. Due to the large number of international crises, the Danish Government has this year increased the budget for humanitarian aid significantly.

We must remember, however, that there is a fundamental difference between tragedies. The earthquake in Nepal shows that the forces of nature cannot be predicted, nor should they be taken lightly. When disaster hits, we must be ready to provide relief. But we also need to focus on building resilience and to support disaster risk reduction efforts in vulnerable societies.

The migrants on the Mediterranean, and the many drowned among them, is on the other hand a result of war, fear and lack of security, for instance in Syria, Libya, Iraq  and the Horn of Africa. In addition, people are fleeing from a life in extreme poverty, which is still the reality for 1.2 billion people worldwide. Risking your own life and paying huge sums of money to smugglers is often the preferred choice for people without hope for a better future. Therefore, migration should not only be seen as a humanitarian challenge, but also as a development, political and economic challenge.

We need to bring hope and a better future. We need to be there for the long haul necessary to create sustainable development and to strengthen the private sector in developing countries in order to ensure employment and lasting economic progress. This means that we must be willing to take on the necessary risks to support stability and development in fragile states and embryonic democracies. And we must not forget the millions of extremely poor people, whose daily struggle never reaches the front page.

Denmark will continue to deliver a high level of world class development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. We have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate but also a keen interest in doing so. On these matters, the policies of the government are in stark contrast to the opposition, who wants to cut the development aid budget by 2.5 billion Kroner should they come to power at the future elections. This would be unwise and short sighted! And they even refuse to give a clear answer when asked, where and how they plan to cut? Is it Nepal that just suffered a terrible earth crake? Is it poor women and children in Myanmar, Tanzania or Bangladesh? They are not prepared to answer these questions.

International trade policy
Linked to the international development agenda is the international trade policy and negotiation process. Through our trade policy Denmark seeks global trade liberalisation to the benefit of all – not least the developing countries. The area of trade is seeing a surge of interest.

The optimal way is to seek progress in the WTO. We want to see a conclusion of the Doha Development Round at the 10th WTO ministerial conference in December 2015. After 14 years, this is overdue. Challenges are still many, but we must keep optimism and momentum. First step, we hope, will be the conclusion of a work programme in July – according to the set time plan.

However, we also attach importance to ambitious bilateral free trade agreements. They are important drivers in the global economy that can lead to increased trade and growth. The geopolitical and economic perspectives of a free trade agreement across the Atlantic Ocean are far-reaching and Denmark is a firm supporter of a trade deal with the US. Such an agreement is very important for the EU as a whole. We must aim for an ambitious agreement for three broad reasons: 1) economic gains, 2) a strengthened transatlantic partnership and 3) global standard setting. We also attach particular importance to the trade negotiations with Japan, another large and strategic partner.

Green trade liberalization is another key issue for the Danish government. The vision is that an agreement on green goods liberalisation can be delivered as the trade political contribution to COP21 in Paris.

Denmark open and investment friendly
Denmark strives for global trade liberalizations because as a small open economy we know the importance of free trade. And it is not only about export-import. Denmark’ welfare and jobs are also dependent on foreign investments. So let me make it very clear: Denmark is open to business.

That is not just something I claim. In December last year Forbes ranked Denmark as the world’s best country for business. In February this year Apple announced the establishment of a new data centre in Viborg – an investment of more than six billion kroner. In my view, Apple’s investment confirms that Denmark is indeed a very investment-friendly country offering attractive business opportunities for innovative global companies.

But that doesn’t mean Denmark can’t improve. We can and we should. And we constantly look at how we can make the business environment even better. I look forward to working closely with you and your governments on this.

Thank you for your attention.

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