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REGIONAL JOURNALISM, GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE.

Business
US-Greenland relations

They’ve got a friend in Washington

America has plenty of ideas for how it can help Greenland on its path to development, but Washington’s envoy says it is up to Nuuk to take the first steps
Business
There to help (Photo: Mads Pedersen)

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American diplomats are no strangers in Greenland. Take, for example, Rufus Gifford, the current ambassador to Copenhagen, which is responsible for diplomatic ties between Washington and the self-governing member of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Gifford, who took office in September, made his third visit to Greenland this week. A fourth is planned for September.

“The embassy’s staff has made a lot of trips to Greenland and our activity level is only increasing,” Gifford says. “This shows that the US is placing increasing importance on Greenland and the Arctic in general.”

During Gifford’s most recent visit, which saw him meet with students preparing to study in the US as well as with military commanders, he explained that Washington was interested in building up commercial and economic ties with Greenland.

“It’s in America’s interest for Greenland to develop a self-sufficient, independent economy. I am here to find out what we can do to help out with that development.”

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A part of Gifford’s trip, he said, was to find ways to encourage US businesses to invest more in Greenland.

“But we can’t do it alone. We need your help. No-one in the US knows what Greenland needs or what the conditions here are. There’s no information about the potential or the challenges businesses would face here.”

One way for businesses to learn more about doing business in Greenland, Gifford suggested, would be to establish a forum to exchange information and experiences working with each other.

“Tell us your ideas about how we can work together and how American companies can invest in in Greenland.”

Earlier this year, Nuuk sent its first permanent representative to Washington. Though not an official ambassador, Inuuteq Holm Olsen works out of the Danish Embassy and told The Arctic Journal in an interview earlier this year that his job was centred on commercial and cultural relations.

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The move is one that Gifford described as “perfectly timed”.

“We welcome the establishment a representative office in Washington. I’m looking forward to working together to strengthen the commerical ties between our two countries,” Gifford said.

American companies looking to do business in Greenland will also benefit from the inclusion, for the first time, of facts about the country in the embassy’s official investment information.

Such documents – known as ‘country commercial guides’ and ‘investment climate statements’ – are complied by embassies, but this is the first time Greenland is included in the Danish guide.

Before companies start arriving, Gifford hopes to be able to sound out lawmakers in Nuuk and learn whether Greenland is interested in American investments.

“We want to show our private sector what opportunities there are in Greenland, but we want to do it together with the Greenlandic government.”

SEE RELATED: Washington’s folly

Gifford also suggested initiatives such as industry specific delegations, meetings involving US business leaders lawmakers and their counterparts in Greenland.

On this visit Gifford met with representatives from the fishing and tourism industries. He also met with Aleqa Hammond, the premier, and Jens-Erik Kirkegaard, the industry and mining minster.

Both of them, he says, received his offer to assist them should they be interested in attracting American firms.

“This is a long process though. I can’t promise too much about what we can deliver, but we’re willing to work to promote investments and commercial opportunities. If you’ve got ideas that can entice American companies’ interest in Greenland, we’re all ears.”