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Saturday, April 8, 2017, 09:44

China, Norway to resume free trade negotiations

By HU YONGQI

China, Norway to resume free trade negotiations
China's Premier Li Keqiang (R) talks with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg as they attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on April 7, 2017. (Yohei KANASASHI / POOL / AFP)

Beijing and Oslo agreed on Friday to restart negotiations on a free trade agreement, after Premier Li Keqiang's meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Beijing.

A memorandum of understanding was signed to resume the negotiations. It was among six documents whose signing was witnessed by Li and Solberg after their meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

The document was the latest signal of China's support for free trade after President Xi Jinping and Premier Li pledged such a stance on a number of occasions, amid rising protectionism and sentiment across the world against globalization.

Another memorandum of understanding was signed to resume China-Norway economic and trade cooperation, along with others to promote cooperation in health, sports, science and research.

China is willing to restart the negotiations and hold a new round of joint conferences for economic and trade cooperation while resuming political consultations and establishing inter-governmental dialogues on energy policies, Li said.

In addition, Li said Norwegian companies and sovereign wealth funds are welcome to expand investment in the world's second-largest economy to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

Solberg said Norway adheres to the one-China policy and respects China's core interests and concerns to boost political trust and long-standing friendship. Oslo is also willing to start the FTA negotiations as soon as possible and expand bilateral cooperation in various fields, as well as enhance communications on Arctic affairs and regional issues, she said.

In 1954, Norway was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with China. However, bilateral relations were later weighed down, in part by the controversial Nobel Peace Prize award in 2010.

Solberg's four-day visit, which began on Friday, is the first such trip to China by a Norwegian prime minister in 10 years.

She is leading a large delegation, including Foreign Minister Borge Brende, whose trip to Beijing last year paved the way for the prime minister's visit.

After six years of deteriorated ties, China and Norway announced a joint statement to normalize bilateral relations when Li met with Brende in December as the Northern European country pledged respect for China's core interests.

Li and Brende also confirmed the resumption of free trade negotiations, which spurred the increase of stock prices of Norwegian salmon exporters.

Liu Weimin, deputy director of the European Department of the Foreign Ministry, told a news briefing that more of Norway's salmon is welcome to enter the Chinese market.

"Lessons have been learned from the six years' setback of bilateral relations… and I believe cooperation between the two countries will have a bright future," Liu said.

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