by Dragana Paulsen
OSLO, April 12 (Xinhua) -- As the United States repeatedly imposed steep tariffs on imports, Norway's industry and business sector has voiced its concerns about increasing trade protectionism and called for the preservation of a rules-based multilateral trading system.
"Predictable conditions and common rules for trade and investment are a prerequisite for economic growth, prosperity and development," said Tore Myhre, director of the International Department of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), the country's major organization for employers and the leading business lobby.
"The World Trade Organization (WTO) is crucially important in promoting trade liberalization, predictability and legal security for the business sector," Myhre told Xinhua.
"Unilateral protectionist trade measures undermine the multilateral trading system. We want the WTO to be strengthened, not weakened", he stressed.
His remarks came after Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg last week came down heavily on the increasing trade protectionist measures by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, warning they might lead to "regression, war and conflict."
"A global trade war and increasing protectionism are the last thing the world needs now," Solberg said at her Conservative Party's annual national conference in Gardermoen, north of Oslo.
Harald Solberg, CEO of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, said his organization is a strong supporter of free trade and is therefore very concerned about increasing protectionism.
"The removal of trade barriers and the opening of markets in recent decades have been crucial to the globalized trade that we all enjoy today. Globalization has contributed to economic growth, welfare, and innovation," he said.
Their concerns came after the United States last month imposed a 25-percent tariff on imported steel and a 10-percent tariff on imported aluminum, and later unilaterally decided to levy massive tariffs on Chinese products, aiming to start a trade war.
Halvor Molland, senior vice president and head of media relations of the partially state-owned aluminum and renewable energy company Norsk Hydro, said the company "strongly supports a free, fair and rules-based approach to international trade."
"Unilateral tariffs, wherever they come from, will lead to trade distortions and would negatively affect the industry. Countries affected could invoke retaliations, increasing this impact," Molland told Xinhua.
NHO's Myhre said tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, implemented by the U.S. administration, are "very regrettable."
"The tariffs will not only affect exports to the United States. They will also change trade flows, affect prices and trigger protective measures on key markets," he said. "A potential trade war between the U.S. and China or other trading partners could lead to a spiral of protectionist measures that will hit the world trade and the economic growth."
Norway, with its open economy, is heavily dependent on international trade and will thus also be affected by the protectionist measures, Myhre said.
Harald Solberg shared the same view, saying that "as a small and open economy, Norway is entirely dependent on open markets and, in practice, takes part in the world trade.
"A trade war will therefore also affect the world trade that Norwegian business is, to a large extent, a part of. We fear that a possible trade war could hit the global economic growth, endanger workplaces and hamper the innovation development," he said.
As a response to the U.S. trade moves, China has vowed to take "comprehensive countermeasures," including having filed a request for consultation under the WTO dispute settlement framework with the United States regarding the U.S. Section 232 measures that slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
"When one country introduces trade barriers targeting specific countries or regions, it is not unnatural that the latter pays it with its own coin. And that is exactly the danger of an escalating trade war we are very concerned about", said Harald Solberg.
"The multilateral justice system and the global trading institute WTO have well served and still serve the world trade. It is appropriate to refer to the WTO and its Dispute Settlement Body in the case of conditions and measures that challenge the world trade and which are considered to be in breach of obligations imposed through the WTO," he said.
Harald Solberg said a global trade war will not serve anyone, and "on the contrary, (it) will only create losers."
Myhre agreed. "Everyone loses a trade war," he said.
"We trust that the United States and China will be able to resolve all questions through dialogue and in accordance with their international obligations," said Myhre.