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Ministerens tale ved AmChams ”Foreign Investor Summit 2011: The Business of Growth”

Afholdt 1. november 2011, Dahlerups Pakhus, København.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Danish Government has a clear vision to increase foreign investments in Denmark, to increase our trade and to give the companies the best possible platform for achieving higher growth and stronger job creation.

I am very happy for this opportunity to present our vision for trade and investment. Or maybe I should say our vision for growth and job creation. Because this is one of our most important “bottom lines” by which my Government will be measuring its success.

The key question is, of course, how we turn this political vision into practical reality? How are we going to increase growth and job creation? The Government has set out specific targets that we will be working towards, and they can be summarized in this way:

- We will improve Denmark’s international competitiveness concerning the labour market through negotiations between the Government, the Confederation of Danish Industry and the trade unions in the near future.
- We will improve overall productivity in Denmark. As a first step the Government will establish a so-called “productivity commission” to map out the underlying factors, that have caused the growth of our productivity to lack behind that of our peers since the mid-nineties. The Commission will then come up with concrete suggestions for solutions.
- Furthermore, we will improve the education level in Denmark across the board and give research and development much higher priority. We consider the level of education and innovation as crucial for improving our productivity. Denmark simply cannot afford to drop down the international rankings in areas such as math or reading skills.
- And last, but not least, we will make the general framework conditions for doing business in Denmark even more competitive through a number of initiatives. Let me just mention a few.

There is the issue of improved infrastructure. This has to happen, and this Government will make substantial investments to this end during the next couple of years.  

We will carefully study when and how Public-Private-Partnerships can be utilized and when they make sense economically. I am sure you have read in the media about various ideas for instance pension funds investing in road infrastructure around the greater Copenhagen area.

As another major reform the Government will liberalize those sectors of the economy where we see too little competition. This applies for instance to the construction and services sectors.

Also, we want to reduce red-tape in the public sector in order for businesses to get efficient support quickly and thereby helping them to stay competitive. To this end, we want to work towards one-stop-shops.

We will promote innovation through active and targeted procurement policies.

We will strengthen Denmark’s position in the green area as well. We aim to make significant gains in the short run within areas such as energy efficiency and biotechnology.

And –this will interest all of you here today I am sure – we want to be better at attracting foreign investors to Denmark, because foreign investors are crucially important to Denmark.

We know the statistics. So we know just how important you are to the Danish economy. While you account for 1.2 percent of the companies in Denmark, you are responsible for 19 percent of private sector employment and 23 percent of turnover in the private sector. That is what the latest data from 2008 tell us and I hope that figures for 2011 are even higher and climbing.

You are an important part not only of the business environment in Denmark, but also of Danish society, and you absolutely make a key contribution to the prosperity of this country.

The fact that I stand before you today in my capacity as Minister for Trade and Investment, is a very concrete testimony to the Danish Government’s commitment to increase foreign investments in Denmark, to increase our trade and to give you the best conditions for achieving higher growth and create more jobs.

I have already met with companies from China, from Europe and from the US, and the message from these meetings is clear: Denmark has something to offer despite the fierce competitive pressures from a globalized world economy:

- We are among the best countries in Europe and in the world when it comes to starting-up and running a business. And that is not just coming from me. The World Bank came out with the “Doing Business Index” only a few weeks ago, where Denmark was ranked first in Europe and fifth globally.
- We have a labour market that is second to none when it comes to flexibility. Businesses in Denmark are in an excellent position to react quickly in order to adapt to market changes.
- Then there is the question of skills and competences. Despite the need for boosting the quality of the education system in some areas the general level of education within the Danish work force is quite high. The majority of Danes speak at least one foreign language, and we have world leading expertise within specific areas such as wind power and audio technology.
- And last but not least: There shall be no doubt – these are new times, and Denmark will change. We will open up to business and seize the opportunities of globalization. Through the last 10 years, we have been hiding behind mental walls, maintaining an antiquated immigration policy. It has been an unnecessary barrier for the increase of foreign investments in Denmark. It’s been bad for business, a source of frustration to many of you, and harmful to growth and job creation in Denmark. It is not only possible, but necessary to move in a new direction. And I will do my utmost to make this happen.

But should you in any way encounter problems in relation to making investments in Denmark, please let me know. As Minister for Trade and Investment, it is my ambition to actively engage in a dialogue with you. 

And it is a “must”. Getting to know you, getting to know what drives your decisions now, getting to know what will  drive your decisions a few years from now, that is the first step for us, if we want to learn how to attract more foreign investors to Denmark.

Being here today at this Foreign Investors Summit is another step.

Thank you very much for the invitation to come here today to give you my views on the efforts of the Danish Government to attract more foreign investments to Denmark.

I hope for a good and constructive debate where we all can exchange ideas, learn from each other, and hopefully end up a little wiser. Let me underline that we will only be able to make significant progress in the future, if we work together and maintain a close and open dialogue.

In conclusion allow me to tell you a short fable from a famous Russian author, Ivan Krylov, often regarded as Russia’s equivalent to Hans Christian Andersen. The story can be a reminder to all of us of what might happen, if we don’t pull in the same direction and don’t  co-operate to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.  The fable goes like this:
Once a crayfish, a swan and a pike set out to pull a wagon.

And all together they settled in their traces;

They pulled with all their might, but still the wagon refused to budge.
The load it seemed was not too much for them;
Yet the crayfish kept crawling backwards, the swan headed for the sky, and the pike moved towards the sea.
Who is guilty here and who is right – that is not for us to say;
But the wagon is still there today.

Thank you.



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