Norway hopes for China free-trade deal in 2020, industry minister says

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway aims to reach a free-trade agreement with China by the end of 2020, more than a decade after initial negotiations began, the Norwegian industry minister told Reuters on Wednesday.

“By the end of last year we had good progress in the talks ... we continue to be optimistic and think it is realistic to get a deal in place during the year,” Torbjoern Roe Isaksen told Reuters during an industry conference in Oslo.

Recent discussions have revolved around tariff levels and market access for an array of products, he said, without elaborating.

Talks on a free-trade pact began in 2008, but relations between Oslo and Beijing were frozen from 2010 to 2016 after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident.

Norway is western Europe’s top producer of oil and gas and the world’s largest maker of farmed salmon.

Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Writing by Terje Solsvik; editing by Larry King