Though the COVID-19 outbreak has led to delays in bilateral negotiations, major progress on the China-Norway free trade agreement is expected to be made this year, a senior Norwegian official said.

Norway is prepared to work with China both at the global level and bilaterally to strengthen international economic and trade cooperation, said Iselin Nybo, Norway’s minister of trade and industry, adding her government has given high priority to the negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement between the two nations.

According to Nybo, the world is facing a deep economic crisis and to face the challenges ahead, it is important to resist protectionist pressures, keep markets open and work to stimulate renewed growth in world trade.

“There has been good growth in bilateral trade between Norway and China over the last two years. We have been particularly pleased by the strong growth in Norwegian seafood exports to China,” she said.

Though there was a decline in bilateral trade in the short term, Nybo hopes for a return to past growth levels in the long run.

The two sides completed the 16th round of negotiations on the China-Norway FTA in November last year. They held consultations on related issues such as trade in goods, trade in services and investment, rules of origin, trade remedy, environment, legal issues, dispute resolution, competition policy, government procurement, e-commerce and institutional terms. China’s Ministry of Commerce said both sides had made positive progress in negotiations.

Norway is one of China’s important trading partners in Northern Europe as well as one of China’s main suppliers of fertilizer, aquatic products and oil in Europe. China exports mainly raw materials, computers, transport equipment, plastic and rubber products, textiles, garments and household appliances to Norway, data from the General Administration of Customs show.

Boosted by surging Norwegian goods imports between January and March, the bilateral trade volume amounted to 20.06 billion yuan ($2.82 billion) in the first quarter of this year, up 88.3 percent on a yearly basis, according to Customs data.

“In the future, we might see a further diversification in trade and an expansion in areas such as technologies for renewable energy, green growth and digitalization,” said the Norwegian minister.

Bai Ming, deputy director of the international market research institute under the China Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said the two countries have carried out increasingly intensive cooperation and exchanges in fields like trade, investment and technology imports to enrich their commercial relations in recent years.

“China will continue to export consumer goods in exchange for Norway’s high-tech products such as electronic and chemical products, shipbuilding, offshore engineering machinery and aquatic products, as well as environmental protection solutions,” he said. “Most of their imports are complementary. Therefore, it is not direct competition.”

CIMC Raffles, a subsidiary of Shenzhen-headquartered China International Marine Containers (Group) Ltd, delivered the world’s largest and most advanced deep-water aquaculture workboat built for Nordlaks Oppdrett AS, a Norwegian aquaculture group, in late March. The ship will be deployed in Hadsel, Norway, for deep and open sea salmon farming operations.

The workboat is 385 meters long and 59.5 meters wide, with a total area of about four standard football fields. It includes six intelligent deep-water cages, and the farming scale can reach 10,000 metric tons, or about 2 million salmon. The workboat is the world’s first farming equipment using a single point mooring system, said Ni Tao, CIMC Raffles’ executive vice-president.

“Norway’s advanced marine engineering design capabilities and China’s high-end equipment construction capabilities led to the creation of this vessel,” he said. “With the full cooperation of ship owner, design company, classification society and suppliers, we have enriched our experience and capability in the field of deep and open sea aquaculture cages.”

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