China and Norway resume trade talks, ending six-year diplomatic freeze
The resumption of ties will give Norwegian exporters access to China’s 300 middle-class consumers, and may help bolster the market share of Norwegian salmon to 65 per cent of China’s market, from 5 per cent.
China and Norway signed a pact on Friday to resume free-trade negotiations, taking another step toward restoring economic ties and bilateral exchanges following the thawing of six years of diplomatic freeze.
The agreement was among 13 pacts covering economic development, wind power, technology, health, science and sport during Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s visit to China, the first since the countries resumed diplomatic relations in December. Soldberg brought 300 businesspeople from 190 Norwegian companies, her nation’s biggest business delegation to China.
“Your visit to China shows that our relations will again, from a new starting point, go on a long journey,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Solberg ahead of a formal bilateral meeting, Reuters reported. It was important to find “common areas of interest” as relations normalise, Solberg said in response.
Relations between Oslo and Beijing had been on ice, due to a spat over the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. China’s government objected to the award, which is hosted in Oslo every year.
The resumption of relations and trade could be an important marker that puts action behind the Chinese government’s words and commitment to fostering global trade, given recent setbacks to globalisation and rising protectionism.
“The resumption of free trade negotiations in this context is very important,” said Liu Weimin, the vice-director of the Chinese foreign ministry’s European department.
Soldberg agreed. “After six years, we now have the opportunities to regain lost ground and forge a closer ties than before,” she said during a Friday business summit attended by more than 1,000 people in the Chinese capital.
Solberg will travel to Shanghai over the weekend, and visit the Hangzhou campus of Alibaba Group Holdings on Sunday before returning to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping on Monday. Alibaba is owner of the South China Morning Post.
The trade normalisation between the two nations gives Norwegian small businesses access to China’s 300 million middle class consumers, among the fastest growing and biggest-spending shoppers in the world, Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma said during a Friday meeting with Soldberg.
“The normalisation means we can have a good excellent start,” Ma said. “Good government relations help business relationships to move much faster; the private sector will benefit.”
Oslo’s row with Beijing caused Norwegian salmon exports to China to slump, leaving them with a mere 5 per cent share of the Chinese market.
Alibaba, operator of the world’s largest online shopping platform, will host a promotion in May of Norwegian salmon on Taobao and on its juhuasuan.com group buying site. The promotion may bolster the 2017 market share of Norwegian exporters to as much as 65 per cent, according to Alibaba’s data.