Keynote Address by H.E. Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
at the Iceland-India Business Seminar
New Delhi, India, 7 December 2018
I have long been an admirer of India. It is a very special moment, indeed, for me to have finally arrived here in this vast and magnificent country, the biggest democracy in the world. It is amazing to land here after only nine hours flight from Iceland. I look very much forward to explore some of the most beautiful sights, the culture and the food. It is no secret that I am a big fan of Indian cuisine.
It is business that brings us to India today. The inauguration of the first direct flight between our two countries, operated by WOW air – a great day!
I am a strong believer in free trade. As Foreign Minister, it has been a priority to assist Icelandic companies in seeking new opportunities in world markets. Not least the great and fast-growing markets of Asia. Iceland, and the other EFTA countries, are interested in concluding a trade agreement with India. I look forward to discussing trade and other opportunities for bilateral cooperation with my colleague, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, tomorrow.
There is certainly no lack of interest in doing business with India in my country. I’m travelling here with a business delegation of over 50 people representing more than 20 companies from our strongest sectors; tourism, food production, innovation and high tech, who are eager to do business with India.
I am pleased that some of Iceland’s biggest exporters in the high tech sector, Össur, Marel and EC Software, are already successfully operating in the Indian market. I would also like to mention that Iceland welcomes Indian filmmakers’ increased interest in Iceland as a location for shooting films. Over the last nine years, around ten Indian films and ads have been shot in Iceland – including two last year.
Iceland and India have been cooperating and doing business for many years, trade has been modest, but the potential for growth is great. Icelanders are keen to visit India and we see opportunities for increased imports of Indian products. Imports already include cars, metals, textiles and more.
Indians are becoming great travellers. Around 11 thousand Indians visited Iceland in the first seven months of this year. With direct flights, we hope to see many of you in Iceland, for both business and pleasure. Be sure to bring warm clothes, because in Iceland we can promise you a cool adventure like you have never experienced before.
Iceland has exported some fish products and, more recently, we have started to export high quality lamb meat. One area that has potential for increased cooperation is the geothermal energy sector. Energy transformation is a pressing global issue and great priority for both our countries. Iceland has harnessed geothermal energy for decades and we have been happy to share our experience with other countries. Only a fraction of the potential for this source of energy has been realized in the world, including in India.
India and Iceland are at opposite ends of the great Eurasian landmass and may seem far apart from one another. A closer look reveals a number of similarities and common concerns. We share common values and principles. We are devoted to democracy and an open, rule-based global economy. We also have a strong commitment to sustainable development, sustainable management of natural resources and the Paris climate agreement.
Finally, allow me to pay tribute to the work of the bilateral Chambers of Commerce in both countries, with seventy companies from various industries as members. The two Chambers set a good example by working closely together. I am confident this will further strengthen opportunities for growth of business cooperation between our countries. I would also like to thank the Indo-Icelandic Business Association and its chairman for their invaluable contribution to strengthening the ties between our countries.
I wish you a productive business seminar.