China, Norway boost business ties, aiming for free trade pact

China and Norway are making strong progress toward a free trade agreement expected to be sealed next year, Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen said yesterday.“The optimistic and realistic scenario we can aim for is to finish within the year of 2019,” he told Shanghai Daily in an exclusive interview.“Apart from the economic effect it can have, it can also send a political signal, because it will show that both China and Norway — which are in different parts of the globe — a rich small country and a giant that is the second biggest economy in the world — can find common ground and have a win-win situation through such a trade agreement.”The agreement would be more than selling each other goods and raw materials, he said, because both economies are more sophisticated with potential to form economic and technological partnerships.“We’ll never be the leading nation in the world when it comes to artificial intelligence, in which China has a head start,” he said. “But we have every possibility when artificial intelligence gets applied to the maritime industry.”He was part of a 300-strong delegation visiting Shanghai with King Harald V and Queen Sonja.They took a bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai, a first time for the royal couple, who are impressed by the skyline of the Bund which is completely different from their last visit in 1997.The queen, who has a special interest in art, is also pleased that an exhibition of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch will be held in Beijing and Shanghai by 2020. The highlight of the royal couple’s Shanghai schedule included a business conference “Ocean of Opportunities” at which they witnessed the signing of 10 business deals between Chinese and Norwegian companies in sectors such as shipbuilding, energy, innovation and health care.“There is clearly a need to further develop green business solutions,” the king said at the opening ceremony.“Bright minds from China and Norway are working together to find solutions, and Shanghai — as China’s polar research capital and key maritime hub — is playing an important role. We look forward to an interesting day here in ‘the city by the sea.’“The ties between our countries go back a long way. Still, I hope and believe that our most important joint accomplishments are yet to come.”In the afternoon, the royal couple met China’s e-commerce giant Jack Ma, as Alibaba’s food supply chain Win-Chain signed a memorandum of understanding with Norway’s salmon producer Marine Harvest ASA.

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