August 2, 2018 / 1:17 AM / a year ago

China says free trade talks with Norway should be accelerated

BEIJING, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Free trade talks between China and Norway should be sped up, the Chinese government’s top diplomat told his Norwegian counterpart, as the two countries continue to step up efforts to put a row over the Nobel Peace Prize behind them.

Beijing froze ties with Oslo and suspended discussions on a bilateral free trade deal immediately after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010. Liu died last year while still in Chinese custody.

In August of last year, the two countries resumed talks on the free trade agreement.

Meeting on the sidelines of a regional forum in Singapore, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi told Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide that relations were getting back on track, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

China’s rapid development offers an important opportunity for all countries in the world including Norway, Wang said.

China and Norway advocate free trade and both sides should accelerate negotiations for a free trade agreement to safeguard the rule-based global free trade system.

“Both countries should earnestly respect each others’ core interests and major concerns, and consolidate mutual trust so as to continuously develop the future for the bilateral relations,” the statement cited Wang as saying.

“China and Norway advocate free trade and both sides should accelerate negotiations for a free trade agreement to safeguard the rules-based global free trade system,” he added, without elaborating.

China is in the midst of a trade war with the United States and has been looking for allies around the world, especially in Europe, even though many major European countries share U.S. concerns about market access and intellectual property rights.

A free trade deal would benefit producers of farmed salmon - Norway is the world’s largest producer - such as Marine Harvest , Salmar, Leroey, Norway Royal Salmon and Grieg Seafood. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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