Singapore is a natural partner for Norwegian companies looking to seize the opportunities of a growing middle class in Asean, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang yesterday.
The Asian Development Bank predicts that the proportion of the middle class in South-east Asia will jump from about 24 per cent of its population in 2010 to 65 per cent in 2030.
Given this, Asean will become an increasingly important market for Norwegian firms to grow consumer-centric activities, said Mr Lim at the 6th Norway-Asia Business Summit held at the Fullerton Hotel.
He added that the Asean Economic Community will make the region a more compelling market and production base as it promotes greater economic integration among the 10 member nations.
But the region is one with diverse cultures and differing levels of economic development.
This is where Singapore and Norway could tap on the two countries' track record of fruitful collaboration to help Norwegian companies "navigate the complexities" of doing business in Asean.
Norway is Singapore's eighth largest trading partner from Europe and its fourth largest investor from Europe. As of the end of 2014, Norway had cumulatively made $23 billion worth of investments here.
In an earlier speech, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who is on a three-day visit here, said Asia boasts some 500 Norwegian-controlled companies, providing jobs for about 60,000 people.
And Singapore is home to the largest number of Norwegian companies in Asia, she said. There are nearly 400 of them here.
Ms Solberg, who is leading a delegation comprising senior government officials, will also visit Norwegian firm DNV GL's laboratory here.
Mr Lim cited Singapore's robust intellectual property regime, transparent government and consistent and predictable pro-business policies as some of the advantages Norwegian companies can enjoy.
Its extensive network of 21 free-trade agreements can also help Norwegian companies gain preferential access to markets within Asia and beyond.
With the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asia-Pacific free-trade area could eventually be formed. This will integrate Singapore further into the regional and global economies, he said
Mr Lim and Ms Solberg said both countries recognise the need to innovate and harness technological advances to remain competitive. He said Singapore and Norway could work in areas where the countries have complementary strengths.
"This includes areas like advanced manufacturing technologies such as robotics and additive manufacturing... and the maritime, oil and gas and clean technologies."