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Speech to the Diplomatic corps

On March 10th the Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation met with the Diplomatic corps

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Distinguished Ambassadors, representatives of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like our Foreign Minister I am also very happy to be here today. Only five weeks ago I was placed in charge of the government’s new and merged portfolio of trade and development cooperation. It is the first time that a Danish government has combined efforts to boost exports and attract new investments with our long-standing efforts to fight poverty and promote human rights, including managing the 16 billion kroner in Danish official development assistance.

Some, not least the business community, have responded well to this “merger”, while others, including some Danish NGOs, have been more sceptical. But let me set the record straight. My portfolios of development cooperation and that of trade each have their own objective and its own justification. However, there is an obvious intersection where these two areas overlap and where there is demand in developing countries for solutions, services and goods that Danish companies can meet. This is where I want to step up our efforts in order to explore potential for synergies to the mutual benefit of both developing countries and Denmark alike. But I will revert to that.

Firstly, I would like to underscore that what we do in this field will not change the overall aim of Danish development policy and our long standing cooperation with many of your countries. Nor will it entail a change in our commitment to continue to provide a large part of our Gross National Income (GNI) to development assistance – currently about 0.83 per cent. Denmark will continue to remain one of only five countries in the world, which exceeds the UN target of providing 0.7 per cent of GNI in development assistance and has done so since 1978.

We do so out of solidarity with the poor and marginalized – not charity. And we do so because solidarity is part of our core values and the foundation upon which we have built our own society. Denmark’s development policy remains focused on fighting poverty and on promoting human rights, democracy and a growth that is sustainable and equitable.

Denmark’s development cooperation is internationally recognised for its high quality and its many results. It is a solid foundation upon which I am proud to build. Let me point to three areas, which I aim to give particular priority:
- Using human rights as a lever to fight poverty
- Building the bridge between emergency and longer-term development in fragile and conflict-affected states
- Promoting a post-2015 agenda with ambitious goals for poverty reduction and sustainable development

I will continue Denmark’s efforts to promote human rights and apply a human rights based approach to Danish development cooperation. I will do so because I am convinced that human rights can act as a powerful force for change because fundamental rights and democracy are needed in any development. Human rights will therefore be at the core of our policy dialogue, multilateral engagement and our development cooperation with partner countries, which all have made national and international commitments to respect and fulfil human rights.

In this light, it was a great disappointment that Ugandan president Museveni recently signed a law with severe consequences for the rights of lesbians and gays - and incompatible with the country’s international human rights obligations. I therefore decided to restructure close to 50 million kroner of assistance otherwise planned as support to the Ugandan Government. These funds will instead be directed to civil society and activities within the private sector.

Another area that has my keen attention is fragile and conflict-affected states – one of the most serious challenges to international development as well as to peace and security. The global fight against poverty will require concerted action to assist fragile countries in the transition towards peace and stability. I will give priority to supporting those fleeing war and disaster and assist fragile and conflict affected states in restoring peace and rebuilding state institutions and services. During and after conflict, Denmark will be ready to assist, including in the transition to longer term development. In 2014 alone, we have allocated over 3 billion kroner to protection, peace and stability interventions.

In Syria, we will continue our support to the victims of the war – innocent men, women and children. We are assisting the Syrian opposition by supporting peace-building, early recovery and transitional police and justice and are leading efforts to assist refugees in neighbouring countries.

Right now we are witnessing two major humanitarian crises in Africa; South Sudan and the Central African Republic where there is an imminent need for assistance from the international community. In 2013 and 2014 Denmark has provided around 312 million kroner in humanitarian assistance to the two countries. In addition, Denmark was the first country to provide financial support in the order of 10 million kroner to the UN Secretary General’s six-point initiative for the Central African Republic

The challenges facing fragile states must be dealt with long-term, not least in the work to develop the post-2015 framework for poverty reduction and sustainable development. We are engaging actively in these efforts, which should assist us in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, promote growth and development that is sustainable and work for peace, stability and security as a precondition for any development. Ensuring gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights will also be high on our agenda.

Let me revert to my ambition to strengthen the links between trade and development. The world is changing. Global growth is no longer driven by a few, traditionally well-off economies. A number of our development partners are experiencing impressive economic progress. Some are even acting as growth engines in their regions. Consequently, many developing countries are increasingly demanding trade and investments rather than just aid. They want jobs for their youth, know-how and skills that can help them grow and prosper.

At the same time, Danish companies are interested in exploring business opportunities in your countries and capable of providing solutions, competencies, goods and services that are in demand. In high growth developing countries where Danida is active, Denmark will not pull out once higher income status is achieved. Instead, we will forge new partnerships and step up our commercial engagement to help sustain growth and development to mutual benefit.

Our cooperation with Vietnam can serve as an illustration. For many years, we have had a close sector-specific collaboration with Vietnam, who has made great strides in fighting poverty and now has a fast-growing economy that is attracting a growing number of investments. Yet, while Vietnam has transitioned to (lower) middle-income status, there are still many development challenges where Danish companies have competencies to offer. Therefore, disengaging Danida’s business instruments, which remain in high demand by both Vietnamese and Danish companies, would be pointless.

Another case in point is the Danish initiated Global Green Growth Forum, 3GF. 3GF operates in the nexus between development, business and diplomacy by promoting public-private partnerships for green growth. Through these partnerships 3GF convenes private companies with expertise in green solutions, governments that regulate the market framework and countries looking for innovative solutions for sustainable growth.

Enhanced synergy between Danish development cooperation, export promotion and trade policy, creating sustainable growth and decent jobs in both developing countries and Denmark is a win-win solution. Based on dialogue with key actors, public as well as private, I will look at how to improve synergy in the trade-development nexus even further. Whether it will be through a more systematic use of trade policy in promoting the needs of developing countries, the launching of new business initiatives or strengthening of existing ones, is too early to say. What I can say with certainty, however, is that this is an area where we must and will do more!

Now, allow me to turn towards my second portfolio - trade. As a small open economy with a limited national market, Denmark is heavily reliant on international trade for our growth, jobs and welfare. We have stepped up our efforts in this domain, launching a number of growth market initiatives, a new pro-active trade policy and a thorough reform of the Danish Foreign Service.
Later this spring, the government will present an ambitious strategy for exports and economic diplomacy, which aims to boost foreign economic ties even further by (i) prioritizing export as a key issue across the government, exploring the fact that many line ministries are internationally engaged, (ii) increasing foreign trade through a better coordinated whole-of-government approach, and (iii) improving the efficiency of the Trade Council’s existing toolbox. We will set ambitious targets.

The same applies to our trade policy, our export to both well-known and emerging markets and our aim of attracting foreign investors to Denmark. The Bali agreement gives new momentum to the WTO. The first priority should be implementing the Bali package. We should keep the LDCs central in our efforts, actively facilitating their participation.

As we pursue further progress in the WTO, Denmark will continue to support bilateral free trade negotiations between the EU and relevant partners. Ambitious bilateral free trade agreements are important drivers in the global economy and lead to increased exports and growth for all involved parties. In this regard, I attach particular importance to the negotiations with Japan and the US, as ambitious trade agreements with these two countries can lift Danish exports with more than 30 billion kroner.

Green trade liberalization is a key issue for the Danish government. In January in Davos, a group of WTO countries agreed to launch negotiations on liberalizing trade in green goods. The participating countries are now working to rally a critical mass of WTO countries behind the initiative. I will do whatever I can to promote this agenda.

The global economic shift and rise of emerging economies has fundamentally changed our foreign economic conditions. Consequently we are altering our approach. In the coming years, global growth will predominantly take place outside Europe. A stronger Danish presence in the emerging markets is essential as the new economies grow. We understand that our businesses must grow with the new markets. And in the same vein, we must further our presence in the new markets also with a view to increasing awareness about Danish know-how and commercial strongholds. Denmark has very important commercial competencies to offer these new economies as they continue their economic development.

Therefore, we have launched a number of initiatives vis-à-vis the BRICs and other growth markets such as Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam. Our growth market strategy identifies ambitious targets about increasing Danish exports to these countries by 50 per cent in 2016. So far, this is going well. Danish companies are improving their performance – even beyond the targets.

At the same time, the reality is that – despite the new global growth patterns in Asia, Africa, and Latin America - our traditional markets will continue to play a crucial role in Danish foreign trade. For Denmark, this means we must tread a fine line between prioritizing our global presence in new geographically distant markets and nurturing a vital economic presence in big, traditional markets. We are therefore now launching export action plans focusing on three big markets, namely the US, Japan and Germany – markets of immense importance to Danish export.
Our international economic interests are not only about exports. It is hard to find a more internationalized economy anywhere. Our welfare, jobs, growth and overall economic well-being are extremely dependent on remaining attractive to foreign investors. So let me make it very clear: Denmark is open to business. That is not just something I claim. A few months ago, the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” report ranked Denmark as the best country in Europe in which to do business – for the third year in a row.

That doesn’t mean we can’t improve. We are constantly improving the conditions for foreign investors in order to make the business climate even better. One of Denmark’s key advantages is our strong R&D, and an innovative workforce capable of translating cutting-edge research into concrete products and processes. Innovation is not a result of divine intervention. We need inspiration from abroad. In this regard, we have now opened six innovation centres from Silicon Valley to Shanghai. The centres are acting as match makers giving Danish companies and universities access to the newest technologies and the brightest minds worldwide.

Today’s world demands an open mind and a global outlook. You, distinguished Ambassadors, know that better than anyone. We need to engage with the world around us. If you take one thing away with you today, let it be that Denmark is more than ready to do so. I look forward to working closely with you and your governments.

Thank you for your attention

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