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Interview with Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, from the World Economic Forum 2017


Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, from the World Economic Forum 2017 with Carolin Roth.

CR: Prime Minister thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. It is an election year in Norway this year and late last year we saw a cabinet reshuffle. You have been very open to taking in many, many refugees but this cabinet reshuffle, was that a clear move to the right?

ES: No I don't think the cabinet reshuffle was a move anywhere. It's the same two parties that are in government, we are cooperating with the same two parties in parliament. And in fact the numbers of refugees have come in 2016 in a record low compared to 2015 were record high because now all of the border controls in fact means that you will be passing through some borders where you have to seek for asylum before you reach Norway. So now we have been able to concentrate on integration policies.

CR: Theresa May made sure the week that the world knows that she is hoping to pursue a hard Brexit. It's not a Norway model, it's not a half in half out model. It is a hard Brexit. Do you think that for the UK that's the right decision? What kind of advice can you give her?

ES: I think British politicians are better on deciding what they want to do for their country than foreign politicians are. They know the mood, they know their business they know what is the most important. What I hope is that we get an agreement that is functioning both for Britain and for Europe and for those member countries of the single market who are not members of the European Union because I think it's important that we continue to have growth in Europe. That we can have an ability to sort out those competition problems, the problems that we need of creating new jobs and we need to have… We should have finalized the agreement I think quite rapidly if that's possible and find how the terms will be in the future. Because I think most of us what we need now is job creation in Europe to make sure that people are seeing that there is an economic development.

CR: But do you believe that for Norway, the half in half out solution, was the right one?

ES: Well we believe that because it means that it's a flexible solution in the fact that when things change in the European Union, in terms of single market framework, we are participating in that. We do make our own decision whether things are inside the single market or not, we are discussing that with the European side and we have a mechanism of sorting out these issues. But of course it's for Norwegian businesses being sure that they have the same rights in all other European businesses is extremely important. We are in a transformation period in our economy and the oil price has been low, we have to build up new types of industries and market access and for a small country who is very export-oriented it's extremely important.

When I talked to business leaders here in Davos at the World Economic Forum, there's plenty of optimism about tax cuts, about more jobs being added to the economy. From where you stand, from politics, how worried are you about some of the protectionist policies that are being put forward?

ES: Well, I am worried of that because we know when protection of politics are starting to rise between countries, smaller countries who are small and open economies are in fact those who are getting hurt by it. That means that for Norway it's a, it's a bad deal because we have a various export, we are a high cost country with a lot of high cost exports. But we are managing that quite well today. And we are having to transform our economy. But I also think it lowers the wealth of the whole of the world when you have more tariffs, more technical obstacles for cooperation. We see that we have lifted more than a billion people out of extreme poverty through the last 20 years due to market participation.

CR: Donald Trump has called Nato obsolete. At the same time we're likely seeing a rapprochement between Russia and the US. That must be a concern for you?

ES: Well, I have spoken to Donald Trump but he did not say that Nato was obsolete in the discussion with me nor with any other Nato countries. He has said that he is a great supporter of Nato, he just wants us to pay a little bit more of the bill, which also Obama wanted to do and all American presidents have. I think it's very important that an organization like Nato answers to today's security issues. And yes, I think all European countries are increasing their spending on the defence and we are going to do that. We have also a large transformation of our defence. But I think the United States always will need some friends with the same type of value since basis and their closest friends are in the NATO alliance.

CR:Prime Minister, one final question to you, I have to ask it: While in Davos, I know you're extremely busy, but have you been able to play some Pokemon Go?

ES: No, I have not been able to play Pokemon Go, I am sorry. That's a..not been time.

CR: All right. Thank you so much for that. Appreciate it. Thank you.