Norway country brief


The Kingdom of Norway occupies the western and northern portions of the Scandinavian Peninsula in Europe, bordered by Sweden, Finland and Russia. It also shares sea borders with the United Kingdom and Denmark. The capital of Norway is Oslo. A rugged country of mountains, fjords and glaciers, Norway covers an area of approximately 324,000 square kilometres. Norway also holds sovereignty over Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Norway has a population of 5.2 million (2014) of which approximately 80,000 are Sami, an indigenous people living in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Sami settlements are located mainly in the north of the country. Norway celebrates its national day on 17 May.

Political overview

Norway is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with legislative powers vested in a unicameral parliament (the Storting). The Head of State is His Majesty King Harald V, who acceded to the throne in 1991. The Storting is made up of 169 members directly elected for four-year terms through a proportional representation voting system. Parliamentary elections are mandatory every four years.

Following parliamentary elections in September 2013, a minority government was formed by the Conservative Party and the Progress Party, with Conservative Party leader Ms Erna Solberg as Prime Minister. The minority government is supported by the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party to form a majority in the Storting on matters of confidence and supply. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in 2017.

Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU), having voted twice (1972 and 1994) against joining. Successive governments have, however, tried to establish the closest links possible with the EU through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. Norway has good access to the EU single market for most of its products through the EEA agreement and participates in regular consultations with the EU on a range of political, trade and security related issues.

Norway is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and a member of numerous other international organisations including the United Nations (UN), the Arctic Council, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Economic overview

With one of the world's highest per capita incomes, Norwegians enjoy high standards of living. Norway has an open economy with a floating exchange rate. Real GDP in Norway contracted by 1.6 per cent in 2009 following the global financial crisis, before returning to positive annual growth of 0.6 per cent in 2010. In 2014 Norway’s economy is estimated to have grown by 2.2 per cent.

Norway's emergence as a major oil and gas producer in the mid-1970s transformed its economy. Norway's per capita income is one of the highest in the world due to the large influx of capital investment into its North Sea oil and gas fields and its substantial resource revenues. The oil and gas sector contributes just under half of Norway's total export revenue. All production activities take place off-shore in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. In 2014 Norway was the third largest gas exporter in the world, supplying about 20 per cent of total European gas consumption.

To insure against the eventual depletion of its oil and gas resources, Norway created the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) in 1990. The market value of the GPFG rose to 6.4 trillion Norwegian kroner (approximately A$1.1 trillion) in 2014, derived mainly from royalties on the country's oil and gas reserves. It is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

Bilateral relationship

Norway is an important interlocutor for Australia on Antarctic issues. The only significant area of disagreement between Australia and Norway is whaling. According to the 2011 census, over 23,000 Australians claim Norwegian heritage.

A bilateral Working Holiday Maker arrangement came into effect in August 2001, and is a popular means for young Australians and Norwegians to experience each other's country. A reciprocal health agreement came into effect in 2003. A bilateral Social Security Agreement came into effect in January 2007. A revised bilateral Double Taxation agreement entered into force in September 2007 (further information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website).

Australia's Ambassador in Copenhagen is accredited to Norway. Australia maintains a Consulate in Oslo headed by an Honorary Consul. Norway maintains an Embassy in Canberra and Consulates in all States and the Northern Territory.

High Level Visits

In May 2011 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, visited Norway. The Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, the Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP, visited Norway in May 2009, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, visited in December 2008.

Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway visited Australia from 22 to 27 February 2015 on a State Visit. Their Majesties visited Canberra, Sydney and Perth accompanied by a high-level delegation of senior government and business leaders including Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Børge Brende, and Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Mr Tord Lien. The Norwegian Prime Minister, Mr Jens Stoltenberg, visited Australia in December 2011 with a Norwegian business delegation focused on oil, gas and shipping. The Norwegian Minister for the Environment and Development Cooperation, Mr Erik Solheim, visited Australia in May 2008.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

In 2014 total two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Norway was worth A$635 million. Australian exports to Norway were valued at A$194 million, predominantly ships and boats (including hovercraft), inorganic chemical elements, pumps (excluding liquid pumps) and parts, and arms and ammunition. Merchandise imports from Norway were valued at A$441 million, consisting mainly of specialised machinery and parts, electrical distributing equipment, fish and measuring and analysing instruments.

Two-way trade in services was valued at A$755 million in 2014. Australian exports of services to Norway were valued at A$290 million, predominantly in transport and personal travel (excluding education). Australia’s service imports from Norway amounted to A$465 million, also mainly in transport and personal travel (excluding education).

In 2014 Australia’s investment relationship with Norway was valued at A$19.7 billion. Australian investment in Norway amounted to A$6.5 billion and Norway’s investment in Australia amounted to A$13.2 billion.

For advice on doing business in Norway, see Austrade’s website

Last updated: July 2015

Last Updated: 26 July 2013