Free trade talks resume with China

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Negotiations finally started up again last week on a free trade agreement between Norway and China, but Norwegian salmon exporters are getting impatient. As of last week, there’d been little if any progress on getting China to open up its market.

“We had expected that trade would be normalized during the summer,” Sigmund Bjørgo, chief of Norway’s seafood advisory board (Sjømatrådet) in China, told newspaper Dagens Næringliv (DN). Eight months after Foreign Minister Børge Brende announced full normalization of relations with China, following a six-year diplomatic freeze over the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, China still hadn’t lifted a long quarantine on Norwegian salmon that in practice blocks nearly all imports.

Officials at Norway’s food safety authority (Mattilsynet) told DN they didn’t have any more information than the advisory board had. Norwegian salmon exporters aim to take around 65 percent of the market in China, which is expected to grow to 240,000 tons within 10 years.

Chinese and Norwegian diplomats, meanwhile, sat down together for the first time in Beijing last week, to resume the free trade negotiations that were abruptly cut off in 2010 when Liu won the Peace Prize. Liu died of cancer earlier this summer while still in custody because he challenged Chinese authorities over a lack of human rights. The Norwegians and Chinese are due to meet again on trade talks before the end of the year. staff