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China, Norway resume free trade negotiations

Premier Li Keqiang welcomed Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Beijing on April 7, as the two countries resume negotiations on a free trade agreement and continue to normalize relations after recent setbacks.

During talks, Premier Li told Solberg: “Your visit will find more common areas that China and Norway can cooperate on to expand our common interests. From this new beginning, let’s make new progress in the development of our relations.”

‍Solberg meanwhile noted: “We consistently adhere to the One-China policy (and) we do attach great importance to both China’s core interests and major concerns. Based on that, we believe that we can find very good areas of cooperation in the future.”

China froze relations with Norway in 2010, when the Oslo-based Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for subversion.

Negotiations for a bilateral trade deal were suspended and China imposed restrictions on imports of Norwegian salmon. Now those restrictions are being lifted and trade talks are resuming.

Answering a question from a Norwegian reporter, China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing accepts dialogue on human rights on the basis of equality and mutual respect, but that should not be a priority in bilateral exchanges.

“I hope reporters won’t be obsessed with human rights issues every day. We can communicate on human rights issues, but we should spend more time on meeting the needs of our peoples.” said Liu Weimin, deputy director of the Ministry’s European Department.

China and Norway have signed deals in many areas, including innovation, health and Arctic research. And with Norway having hosted the Winter Olympics twice, China will be looking to tap into its experience ahead of the 2022 Games in Beijing.

Solberg took with her what is said to be the largest ever official business delegation from Norway, on her five-day visit to China. She will also go to Shanghai and Hangzhou, where she will visit the headquarters of e-commerce giant Alibaba.