Norway and China launch free-trade talks

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yohei Kanasashi/Pool

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway and China have resumed talks on a bilateral free trade deal, Norway’s Industry Ministry said on Thursday, in another sign that their relationship was thawing after a row over the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Beijing suspended discussions immediately after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize to Liu in 2010.

The dissident was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

Liu died on July 13 from liver cancer.

China and Norway agreed to resume full diplomatic relations late last year and in June stepped up energy cooperation. Several Norwegian firms, including Statoil STL.OL, signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with Chinese partners.

“It is good that negotiations are resuming,” Trade and Industry Minister Monica Maeland said in a statement.

The two sides had agreed to meet once more before the end of the year to discuss the trade of goods, services and investments, the statement said.

Initial reports from Norwegian negotiators were “very promising,” Maeland said.

A free trade deal would benefit producers of farmed salmon -- Norway is the world's largest producer -- such as Marine Harvest MHG.OL, Salmar SALM.OL, Leroey LSG.OL, Norway Royal Salmon NRSM.OL and Grieg Seafood GSFO.OL.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Jon Boyle