Seeking a Level Playing Field

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p 25According to the House of Industry, the Faroes should work further to establish a level playing field at home and abroad to help secure the competitiveness of Faroese businesses in the domestic labor markets as well as in export markets.

Following its successful lobbying for better Faroese access to export markets beyond the European Union, the House of Industry has reiterated its call for further work on Free Trade Agreements while at the same time calling for government policies that allow Faroese businesses to compete on equal footing with foreign ones in the domestic labour market.

A few years ago, the House of Industry recommended that a Free Trade Agreement be established with the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan), China, and Turkey.

Last December (2014), the Faroe Islands and Turkey signed a Free Trade Agreement, much in line with recommendations outlined in a report issued by the Faroese Employers’ Association, a leading member organization of the House of Industry. Meanwhile, further in line with the recommendations, a Free Trade Agreement is expected to be signed with the EEU shortly, according to Faroese government sources.

“We are pleased to see that progress is being made in these strategic areas,” said House of Industry representative Marita Rasmussen, managing director of the Faroese Employers’ Association. “We want to stress the importance of maintaining the momentum that has been gained to make sure the vital interests of the Faroese seafood industry are met. We need to develop our trade relations further with several countries and blocs including the EU, the EEU, and China, to name some.”

‘Appropriate policies’

As for the Faroese labor market, the situation has somewhat improved, Ms. Rasmussen said with a reference to new provisions allowing for the employment of EU citizens under certain conditions.

“However,” she added, “imbalances remain that put our employers at a fiscal disadvantage in the competition for skilled workers, not least in relation to neighboring countries where large numbers of Faroese people are working under favorable arrangements. This situation has led to a long standing deficit of skilled workers in certain fields, which is costing some of our members serious amounts in lost business. As we acknowledge the progress that has been made, we urge the government to address this issue further in order to resolve it in the near future.”

“There are countless parameters of competition that governments can do little or nothing meaningful about and indeed should not get involved with,” Ms. Rasmussen said.

“On the other hand, they can use fiscal policy and foreign trade policy in constructive ways to adjust imbalances. Obviously, to the extent we want to create conditions in which our industries can thrive in the export markets as well as in the domestic markets, appropriate policies must be applied. We have no doubt that our political leaders are aware of the issues and that they are exerting their efforts to find solutions.”