“We should focus more on promoting Norway in Brazil”
Harald Martinsen is the new president of BNCC in Oslo.
Harald Martinsen took over as chairman of the board of the Brazilian-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Oslo when Terje Staalstrøm stepped down on April 18 this year. Mr. Martinsen was the president of Hydro in Brazil for several years, from 2000-2005 and 2008-2009, and he has also worked as program coordinator on Brazil at The confederation of Norwegian enterprises (NHO). After a total of 28 years in Hydro, he is currently working for the mining company Northern Iron, in Kirkenes, Norway.
Harald Martinsen is also a founding member of BNCC, and has significantly contributed to its growth. Although BNCC celebrated its 10 years anniversary last year, Mr. Martinsen is still only the second president in the history of the chamber. His main objective is therefore to continue the excellent efforts and work done by his predecessor.
“My ambition is to find my own style, so this will not be a copy cat job. I want to involve as many of the board members as possible, and we'll make specific efforts to get hold of some new, younger people as there is a growing group of young Brazilian people living in Norway, and particularly Oslo. We need to get their support, they are the future of the chamber”, Mr. Martinsen says.
An example is the increasing number of Brazilian students finding their way to Norwegian universities.
Even though it looks like the rush of Norwegian companies establishing in Brazil has slowed down a bit, the BNCC still believes there will be continued growth in the years to follow. This is good for the relations between Norway and Brazil. Mr. Martinsen believes there are more opportunities in Brazil than many Norwegians realize.
“It is a challenge to get other sectors in Norway, outside the oil and gas industry, to focus on Brazil, as it is a very strong economy and hence marketplace. Brazil is still growing rapidly, and some of the oldest Norwegian establishments in Brazil are non-oil companies such as Hydro and fish related companies, bacalhao exporters in particular. The main growth has however come from the oil sector over the last 10 years. Another challenge is to increase the cooperation on sectors like culture, sports and tourism. The World Cup and the Olympics will help stimulating the interest for Brazil, and that represents good opportunities for us as chambers whether we are in Oslo, Rio or São Paulo. I would also like to mention the imbalance that exists in the cooperation between our two countries. I believe we should focus stronger on promoting Norway in Brazil, both for business opportunities and for tourism and other activities.”
This is also where Harald Martinsen sees the biggest challenges.
“Another challenge is to try to present a chamber which is attractive to small and big, young and old, all at the same time. There has been a strong growth in BNCC, and many companies seem to have double memberships, both in Brazil and in Norway. The BNCC has seen the biggest growth within the oil and gas related sectors.
Martinsen believes that solid work in the chambers of commerce could strengthen the position of a tiny country like Norway.
“A better cooperation between the 3 chambers in Oslo, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is something I will prioritize in my work. I believe it could strengthen our position in a big country like Brazil if we appear more or less as one chamber with a few faces. I want to reach out a hand to both the NBCC chambers in Brazil and seek support for a closer cooperation to the best of all chambers, members and most importantly, to contribute to an even better relationship between our two lovely countries.
Opposites attract, and Brazilians and Norwegians have always gotten along very well. Harald Martinsen believes in mutual respect.
“We are quite different, but we also have a long history of trade. More than 150 years have passed since the first shipment of Norwegian codfish was sent to Brazil, bringing coffee and sugar back to Norway. All 3 are still major trade articles between the countries. If we as Norwegians are humble and seek to understand the Brazilians and their culture, it will work well also in the future. The same obviously also applies the other way around”, he says.
Where do you see room for improvements in the relations between the countries and between companies from the two countries?
“I believe a wider form of cooperation and a better balance would be a very good thing for the bilateral relations. One potential source to this could be the extensive partnerships many Norwegian companies operate in Brazil. Maybe there will be possibilities to "export" some of these partnerships to Norway or elsewhere for that matter. Good partnerships where partners grow together should in principle have no borders”, Harald Martinsen concludes.
By Runa Hestmann Tierno, NBCC journalist
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