Road to a friend's house is never long

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 12:00am

As a geographical hub, the wealthy Nordic country has much in common with Hong Kong and is a natural trading partner

THE SUCCESS OF Europe's oldest monarchy lies in its trade in services, emphasis on education, its role as a geographical hub and progressive outlook

Denmark, a small country with a population of 5.4 million, has earned a place among Europe's affluent and powerful nations due to its long traditions of internal co-operation, free trade and the education of its people, according to Soren Kragholm, Royal Danish Consul-General in Hong Kong.

Mr Kragholm partly attributed Denmark's wealth - it has a high per capita gross domestic product - to its education policy and an open-mindedness built on a tradition of co-operation and solidarity.

Denmark and Hong Kong were similar in this and other ways, he said.

'They are both dependant on international trade and trade in services, and they are both strong supporters of free trade. They also have the same structural need to fight unemployment through education,' Mr Kragholm said.

Denmark's role as a geographical hub was also comparable to Hong Kong's position as a bridge to the mainland, he said.

The country's unique location has made it a convenient hub for Northern European countries.

'We are a logistics centre for goods coming ... from all over the world. We distribute to other Nordic countries and the Baltic area, and some companies also choose Denmark as their headquarters because the Danish infrastructure is well equipped,' Mr Kragholm said.

Industrial exports now make up about 80 per cent of the country's total export value, with agricultural exports accounting for close to 11 per cent.

Denmark's expertise in what Mr Kragholm called 'invisible services', such as engineering and transport, was a staple of its international trade. Its major bridge-building projects are a testament to its expertise. The Great Belt Link, bridges and tunnels that connect the main islands of Funen and Zealand, was completed in 1998, and is a model of innovative Danish engineering and design.

Danish engineering and technology are also behind the country's progressive approach to renewable energy. Windmills dot the landscape, echoing its agricultural roots and its modern outlook.

Unlike most European countries, wind energy in Denmark accounts for nearly 20 per cent of electricity consumption in the country, making its target of 50 per cent by 2030 attainable.

Denmark is also on the forefront of windmill exports globally, with about 60 per cent of the world's modern windmills produced in Denmark.

Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, is a Danish company and currently one of Europe's hottest companies.

'This is part of our tradition,' Mr Kragholm said of the country's general concern for the environment.

This tendency stemmed from the country's agricultural origins and its small size, he said.

'We are dependant on having a clean environment.'

Denmark recently started exporting windmills to Hong Kong and the mainland. Hong Kong is the third-largest trading partner for Denmark in Asia after Japan and the mainland. The major Danish exports to Hong Kong are fur skin, telecommunications equipment and meat products.

Denmark's total trade with the SAR last year increased 13.5 per cent to US$1.15 billion. In 2003, the value of its exports to Hong Kong was US$650 million.

Mr Kragholm said, however, that much of this trade involved the movement of goods into the mainland through Hong Kong.