Greenland is seeking a free trade agreement with the US

Regulations and tariffs currently hinder trade between the two countries.

By Kevin McGwin - June 14, 2021
Employees at Royal Greenland’s plant in Qeqertarsuaq process crab for export. (Royal Greenland)

Greenlandic lawmakers are hoping firmer relations with the United States can lead to the easing of a number of regulations that hinder trade between the two countries.

Although the highly competitive U.S. market is only seen as a potential supplement to the European and East Asian markets, any efforts to expand exports are hindered by logistical and trade barriers, while marine mammal protections would block the sale of sealskin entirely (narrow exemptions designed to allow Alaska Natives to sell fur clothing and crafts wouldn’t apply to Greenland).

“Firms in Greenland that want to sell fish products to the U.S. face a long list of requirements that make the export process difficult,” Pele Broberg, the foreign minister, whose remit also includes trade, said in a statement to the national assembly.

Currently, Greenland’s primary exports are fish and sealskin, but U.S. tariffs on things like water, aluminium, zinc, gold and iron could hinder the development of emerging industries, according to Broberg.

[The EU will pay more to fish less in Greenland waters]

He added that he had brought up the issue of a free trade agreement with Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, during his May 20 stop-over in Greenland.

Discussions about improving trade between Greenland and the U.S. began in 2020 as part of a renewed effort by Nuuk to convince Washington to provide some form of compensation for its use of land in the extreme northeastern part of the country for a military base.

“The elimination of tariffs from Greenlandic products will be one of the topics we will seek to address during trade negotiations with the U.S., either as part of TIFA or a free trade agreement,” Broberg said.

A TIFA, or a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, involves the U.S. and and foreign powers meeting to discuss “issues of mutual interest with the objective of improving cooperation and enhancing opportunities for trade and investment,” according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the White House agency that develops trade policy.

[In Copenhagen meeting, Pompeo talks up renewed US-Greenland ties]

Efforts to “simplify” the export process, according to Broberg, should include shipping fish directly from Greenland to the U.S., instead of via Iceland or Europe along existing cargo routes.

While welcoming potentially lower tariffs, fishing firms suggested that factors such as the volume of their exports to the U.S. and lower retail prices there were more important for determining where they sought to sell their products.

“In an ideal world, we would just fill up a ship and sail it directly across the Atlantic to the East Coast,”  Mikael Thinghuus, the managing director of the state-owned fishing company Royal Greenland, told broadcaster KNR.

“But that’s not possible right now.”