Greenland’s premier signals a pivot to the west | Polarjournal
Time to look in another direction (Photo: Wilson Centre)

There were two high points of Múte B Egede’s week this week. Greenland’s premier began his first visit to North America since taking office by putting his name on an agreement that ends a century of ambiguity about the border between Greenland and what is today Nunavut. Strictly speaking, this was a matter for Copenhagen and Ottawa to sort out, but Mr Egede’s government had reportedly been closely involved. The second high point — a confidently delivered message in Washington that Greenland sees its future as more closely linked to the United States and Canada than it does to Denmark — was, on the other hand, entirely of Nuuk’s own making.

Mr Egede has a long of list things he would like investors to put their money in, and, when the country’s mining industry takes hold, products it hopes to be able to export. For now, though, most of the money that goes into Greenland comes from Denmark — in the form of a subsidy from Copenhagen that amounts to a quarter of GDP — and most of what it exports (fish) goes to Denmark (taking 80%) and the EU (14%).

Changing that pattern has long been a priority for Nuuk. And, in recent years, it has made a big push to sell more to China and Russia, but North America, given what Mr Egede described as an “arc of commonality” stretching through the Inuit communities from Alaska to Greenland, as well as America’s financial heft, makes a better choice, he admitted.

“We need to rethink our partnerships and develop our partnerships for the future,” he said said during a presentation at the Wilson Centre, a think tank (below). “I hope that we can move a little closer towards a new era in our partnership (with the US, ed) and among all the countries of North America.”

Greenland already has much that binds it to America economically and politically — Washington, for example, remains one of only two countries with diplomats stationed in Nuuk (Iceland is the other). But with little concrete to show for its lobbying efforts so far, Greenland and its diplomats will be doing more in the coming years to make sure that, especially American firms, consider it an attractive bet, particularly in fields like tourism, renewable energy and mining.

Explaining that he considered his visit to Washington as “a stepping stone towards a new era”, Mr Egede said his government was looking to work out a formal agreement with Washington that would expand trade and support Greenland’s aim of an economy that is independent of Denmark. “We feel that our closest friends have not invested the way we had wished in recent years, now we are changing our strategy to go to our friends and make some new partnerships.” If that happens, it would be a high point that was entirely of its own making.

Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal

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