Trond Giske was flying home from his last planned overseas trip as Norwegian trade minister on Wednesday with a new free trade agreement in his briefcase, this time with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was the 14th secured by the left-center government since it took office in 2005, but one major pact remains missing, with China.
“On the political level, there’s still a standstill with China,” Giske told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He hopes an agreement with China will materialize for his successor in a new Conservatives-led government, even though it was the Conservative Party’s MP Jan Tore Sanner who nominated Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize that he won, angering the Chinese government and setting off a diplomatic freeze between China and Norway that’s dragged on for nearly three years.
The outgoing government has been able to agree on free trade deals with other Gulf states and with South Korea, Egypt, Canada, Colombia, Albania, Serbia, Peru, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Montenegro, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Costa Rica, Panama and Nigeria. Free trade agreements were earlier signed with Morocco, Mexico, the Palestinian territories, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Croatia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Chile and Tunisia.
Free trade agreements allow companies that are party to the deal to avoid various tariffs and streamline exports.