China-Norway free trade talks nearing agreement
China and Norway are close to the "final stage" of negotiations for a free-trade agreement, after talks were suspended for about two years following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo .
Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua said in Beijing yesterday that the two nations were negotiating on the trade deal, but did not give a time frame for its completion.
"Norway has raised some demands, which are quite difficult to our industries," China News Service quoted Yu as saying. "Both nations are scrutinising the demands of Norway and how far our industries can accept them. At present, neither side has proposed any solutions."
Yu's remarks came as Premier Li Keqiang announced the conclusion of talks for a similar deal with Switzerland.
Negotiations between China and Norway were halted in 2010 after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu, who was jailed for 11 years for co-drafting a manifesto calling for political reform.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in March that he was "optimistic" relations with China could be normalised.
Earlier this month, Norway supported the granting of Arctic Council observer status to China.
"Norway has given positive signals," said Ding Chun , director of the Centre for European Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, adding that although political differences existed, both nations were concerned about their economic interests.