China and Norway have signed a pact to resume free-trade negotiations, signalling a restoration of diplomatic ties six years after Beijing froze relations with Oslo over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg yesterday held talks and witnessed the signing of cooperation documents ranging from the resumption of a free trade agreement negotiations, and science and technology, to sports and health.
Solberg’s visit is the first by a Norwegian Prime Minister since bilateral ties deteriorated after the Oslo-based Nobel Committee conferred the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on convicted Liu Xiaobo who campaigned for civil rights.
Liu, 63, a literary critic, writer, professor and human rights activist, had called for political reforms and the end of the one-party rule of the Communist Party of China (CPC). China calls him a criminal. He was sentenced to 11 years in jail on December 25, 2009, after a court in Beijing convicted him of engaging in activities designed to overthrow the government and continued to languish in prison.
Till 2012, Nobel Prize was viewed with contempt by China and its official media as it was awarded to the Dalai Lama for his peaceful struggle for the betterment of Tibetans and to Liu. However, Beijing welcomed Nobel Prize for literature to Chinese writer Mo Yan in 2012, saying that Mo’s “victory reflects the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China”.
China and Norway agreed to normalise relations in December after Oslo pledged to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Receiving Solberg at the Great Hall of the People yesterday, Li said that China-Norway relations had got back on track, which deserved to be treasured by both sides.
Li called on Norway to adhere to the one-China principle and work with China in the spirit of mutual respect, treat each other on an equal footing, and respect each other’s core interests and major concerns to enhance political trust to reboot the relationship.
“China is willing to restart free trade agreement negotiation and political consultation mechanisms with Norway, establish an inter-governmental energy policy dialogue and increase the exchanges between the business community,” Li said. Li said China and Norway could strengthen cooperation in energy and marine projects to explore third markets, enhancing exchanges in various fields including agriculture, fishery, husbandry, science and innovation, and law enforcement.
“China is pushing forward a new round of opening-up to make the country the most attractive investment destination. China welcomes Norwegian enterprises and sovereign wealth funds to expand investment in China for win-win outcomes,” he said.
Solberg said Norway would follow the guideline of a joint statement on the normalisation of bilateral ties, uphold the one-China policy, respect China’s core interests and major concerns, and enhance political trust with China.
Solberg said Norway hoped for the early resumption of bilateral free trade agreement negotiations and would expand cooperation in areas like agriculture, fishery, environmental protection, finance, investment and winter sports. “Norway supports China to play an active role in the Arctic Council,” Solberg added.