In the course of a century, Norway has evolved from a quiet agrarian society to a dynamic, high-tech country that stands in the first rank of the world economy. It is one of the world’s foremost oil exporting nations, and a global leader in a wide range of industries such as aquaculture, maritime industries, hydropower engineering and telecommunications.
Historically, most Norwegians eked out a living from small, subsistence farms in combination with a variety of other activities such as forestry, hunting, or fishing. Because of the country’s climate and topography, a family’s survival often required flexibility and ingenuity.
Utilizing Nature’s Resources
Norway’s economy has always depended on its vast natural resources. Norway’s tradition as a significant exporter of timber, fish, minerals and other commodities dates back to the Middle Ages. Around 1900, the taming of the country’s many waterfalls paved the way for energy-intensive operations such as the metallurgical, chemical and paper/pulp industries.
The sea plays a vital role in Norway’s economy. The transport of raw materials laid the foundation for Norway’s role as a leading shipping nation. This shipping tradition in turn created the framework for the country’s present maritime activities, such as the oil and gas, ship’s gear and seafood industries. More recently, tourism has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries in the country.
Within the span of just a few decades, Norway has been transformed from a natural resource-based economy to a knowledge society. Norwegian companies work to develop cost-effective, environmentally sound and technologically advanced solutions in order to increase industrial productivity and enhance efficiency. A focus on R&D activities and joint ventures with foreign companies has promoted the development of new areas of national expertise, including software and communications technology, space-related industries, engineering and biotechnology.
Norway exports 40 per cent of the goods and services it produces, while imports correspond to a solid one-third of the national GDP. Core markets include the Nordic region and Europe, although certain products, such as oil, gas, minerals and seafood, are successfully marketed worldwide. Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU), but its membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) provides full access to the EU Single Market. At present, the EU accounts for some three-quarters of Norway’s foreign trade.