China presses for conclusion of FTA with Norway

Legislation | | MIC Customs Solutions |

China and Norway are making fresh connections as a 'new normal' resumes.

The Chinese government has said it hopes to see a conclusion of talks concerning a free trade agreement with Norway sooner rather than later.

During a visit to the Arctic nation this month, China's foreign minister Wang Yi said he is ready to accelerate talks and is eager for both sides to build on an already fruitful relationship.

After meetings with Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg and foreign minister Ine Soreide, Mr Yi said the two countries are ready to resume cooperation following the tribulations of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Early completion of the China-Norway FTA negotiations is of great significance to the bilateral economic relations and trade, as well as to the efforts to keep the global supply chain open and connected. The two sides need to speed up the negotiation and bring it to an early conclusion," the official commented.

Lofty ambitions

China has been meeting with a number of European countries since the lifting of travel restrictions, but this inclusion of Norway as a non-EU member will act as a reminder that the Asian nation has more global ambitions when it comes to trade.

Norway would have been high on its list as one of the first countries in Europe (yet outside the EU) to recognize the People's Republic of China, as well as its market economy status.

The Norwegian industry minister Torbjoern Roe Isaksen also seems eager to build upon relations with China, having told Reuters in January that he hoped to see an FTA concluded by the end of 2020 after more than a decade of negotiations.

Although the global pandemic may have hampered this ambitious target, Norway has continued to underline its cooperation with China, particularly with regard to coronavirus vaccine research.

How would both sides benefit?

China and Norway have more in common than might be imagined, with both opposed to unilateralism and protectionism.

For its part, China is keen to continue opening up to global trade and to demonstrate that coronavirus has not put its ambitions in this area on the backburner.

It is keen to include countries in the EU and outside the agreement but still in Europe in this worldwide expansion.

Meanwhile, Norway is hoping to rebuild its powerful fishing industry and believes the Chinese market may provide some way towards achieving this.

Head of the International Department for Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise Tore Myhre recently told CGTN that Norway has a lot to offer China in terms of cutting-edge technology, while China would help to scale up Norway's exports and industries.

He added that signing an FTA now would provide some stability for businesses in such a small nation as his own.

Furthermore, China is also likely to have an eye firmly on the future as it aims to build bridges with Norway. In 2018, China published a white paper on what it called 'Arctic policy', detailing how it views the region as vital for future economic and geopolitical development.

As one of the world's Arctic powers, Norway could become an important ally in a region rich in resources like oil, gas and fish.

China is also hoping to build new sea and land infrastructure as part of its Polar Silk Road project, which would require Norway's cooperation as new routes for global maritime trade are established.

It may be that, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and an ally of the US, Norway could help China rebuild its relations with America in a potentially post-Trump era too.

"China and Norway are thousands of miles away from each other with very different national conditions. However, as long as we continue to respect each other, treat each other as equals, and take care of each other's core interests and major concerns, bilateral relations can move forward stably and the political foundation of bilateral relations can be further consolidated," Mr Yi said.

With both countries' foreign ministers expressing hope for a speedy FTA conclusion, it may be that a new trading relationship is achieved in the not-too-distant future.