Norway accounts for less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s population, and is thus a small country. Norway’s economic importance, however, is greater than its population would otherwise indicate. According to WTO statistics, Norway was the world’s 28th largest merchandise exporter, and the 37th largest importer, in 2004.
Foreign trade amounts to approximately 37 per cent of Norway’s GDP. Norway enjoys substantial market shares in certain sectors. It is currently among the world’s top five exporters in the seafood, crude oil and shipping services sectors, and has significant market shares in the light metals and ship equipment sectors, as well as in a number of maritime services such as classification, consulting and marine insurance.
The makeup of Norway’s foreign trade sets it apart from other industrialised nations. According to OECD statistics, industrial products make up 85 per cent of the OECD countries’ total goods exports, whereas the figure for Norway is around 28 per cent. Norway’s reputation as a raw materials supplier must, however, be understood in light of the fact that major segments of its raw materials industry are highly knowledge- and technology-intensive, even though the end products are not considered to be processed industrial goods. A good example is the petroleum industry, in which technology and know-how have in themselves become an increasingly important business with a share of goods and services exports that has reached a significant level.
Although exports of traditional goods rose throughout the 1990s in absolute terms, their share of overall export income fell from 36 per cent in 1991 to 31 per cent in 2001. This share is, of course, significantly affected by fluctuations in the price of oil.
Norwegian service exports have increased substantially in recent years, to around NOK 176 billion in 2004. The shipping sector accounts for around half of service export revenues. Of other types of services, commercial and financial services have shown the greatest increase in the past decade, although petroleum-related services have also grown strongly. The increase in oil and gas revenues has resulted in a reduction in the share of export revenues attributable to services, from around 28 per cent in 1991 to around 24 per cent in 2004. Services account for a growing share of world trade. The opposite trend in Norway is due to the fact that its petroleum exports are growing even more strongly than its services exports.
Geographically, Norwegian exports focus on the developed markets of Europe, North America and Asia.