Even a pandemic has not dampened the spirit of openness that has characterized Denmark’s approach to the global economy, its diplomat covering Georgia told Global Atlanta in an interview.
As the world looks to recover from a year of isolation and retrenchment, the Scandinavian country of about 6 million people is pushing, perhaps counterintuitively, for even deeper integration with the world, Ambassador Berit Basse said in a Consular Conversation sponsored by Miller & Martin PLLC.
“We are a nation of traders, descending from the Vikings — I think it’s in our DNA,” said Ms. Basse, who serves as consul general of Denmark in New York. “It’s who we are — a small, open economy heavily engaged in international trade. And likewise, we really see how a foreign direct investment into our economy really contributes in terms of innovation, motivation, setting the bar higher and bringing in new ideas.”
Ms. Basse, who carries the ambassador rank from serving in that role in Singapore and Brunei, now covers a broad swath of the East Coast of the U.S., including Georgia, out of the country’s New York consulate. Before taking up the post, she managed economic initiatives for the foreign ministry out of Copenhagen.
She used the Global Atlanta interview to outline two key items on her economic-diplomacy docket: promoting Danish exports as a vehicle for recovery, while also embarking on a mission to show the world how economic growth can be decoupled from ever-growing carbon emissions. Denmark last June enacted the world’s first climate law, which binds the country to its pledges to reduce emissions by 70 percent by 2030, with new goals to be set on a rolling basis every five years.
Watch a recording of the discussion:
Denmark Means Business
The first objective is to be achieved through the “Denmark Means Business” campaign, a “comprehensive export and investment strategy to really get Danish companies back on track,” she said.
The effort disburses EU recovery funds to promote Danish exports, promotes opportunities via export webinars and connects Danish firms with potential customers through the council’s offices in 70 countries.
It also has an investment recruitment component, and Denmark has a good product to sell. While small, Denmark has access to the 450 million consumers of the European Union and serves as a gateway to the Nordic and European markets. It boasts an open economy with low levels of bureaucracy, praised for consistently smoothing the way for investors.
“The World Bank has for the past nine consecutive years rated Denmark the easiest place for doing business. I know that resonates well with you in Georgia,” Ms. Basse said, a nod to the state’s top ranking for business in the U.S.
She also touted Denmark’s livability — it’s a world leader in per capita use of bicycles and is often recognized as one of the happiest countries in the world.
Ms. Basse emphasized the flexible labor market strong moves toward digitization, yielding opportunities in the fintech sector and creative industries like video games and Esports. Other sectors of note include health (clinical trials and biotechnology), along with logistics and e-commerce.
“And we can pride ourselves with having a very talented, innovative, motivated workforce, due to a very strong education system. Many companies also choose Denmark because it’s an excellent test market for new products and technologies,” she said, given the relatively homogenous society and low levels of income inequality.
Pioneering Climate Law
Danes have given near-unanimous public support for what’s been heralded as the world’s first legally binding climate measure.
The law mandates not only a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050 and adherence to the Paris Climate Accords’ goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but it also provides the means to hold future governments accountable to these goals.
“It’s not just an intention, a strategy, a policy — it is a goal which is legally binding. And that that’s very important,” Ms. Basse said.
Each year, the Ministry on Climate, Energy and Public Utilities, established in 2015, must send a report to parliament on the current government’s progress toward the prior-year’s goals. An independent body of experts, the Danish Council on Climate Change, reviews the report and makes recommendations. In theory, a minister could lose his or her position if progress is insufficient. Given that climate goals need a majority in parliament to be enacted under the law, there could be electoral consequences to missing the mark as well.
Ms. Basse said the Danish diplomatic team across the U.S. is always looking for potential clean-energy technologies that can help the country achieve its aggressive climate goals.
She added that the country is keen to explore potential collaborations with Georgia’s world-leading forestry, fintech and film sectors and offered her team as a conduit for connecting with the appropriate industry sector leads in six Danish missions across the U.S.: innovation centers in Boston and Silicon Valley, consulates in Chicago, Houston and New York, as well as the Danish Embassy in Washington.
In Georgia, Denmark is represented by one of its 10 honorary consuls in the U.S.: Christopher N. Smith, a Macon attorney who provided opening remarks for the Global Atlanta event.
While more recent interactions have led to more than 60 Danish companies setting up shop in Georgia, Denmark’s first diplomatic mission set up in Savannah all the way back in 1802, Mr. Smith said.
“At the time, our state had a population of about 163,000 people. Thomas Jefferson was in the White House,” he said. “It’s probably one of the oldest consulates in the state, and we’re still here. The reason is commerce,” he added.
Companies like Danish shipping giant Maersk, muffler manufacturer Dinex, water meter maker Kamstrup and defense contractor Terma continue to create jobs in the state, he said.
“Every day 3,300 people get up to work in Georgia who have their paycheck to Denmark. That’s something we want to expand.”
To get in touch with Ambassador Basse, reach out to Maiken Lauritsen at email@example.com.
To reach Honorary Consul Chris Smith in Georgia, visit https://chrissmithlegal.com.
For trade inquiries, contact head of trade Martine Gram Barby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Invest in Denmark’s office in New York, which focuses heavily on clean technology, email Jens Brandt Nellegaard, investment manager for Cleantech, at email@example.com
Mikkel Hagen Hess is director for North America at Invest in Denmark: firstname.lastname@example.org
See more at https://investindk.com/contact.