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, Liu Xiabao.
Negotiations resumed in 2017.
“Given the impact of Covid-19, early completion of the China-Norway FTA negotiations is of great significance to the bilateral economic bilateral relations and trade as well as to the efforts to keep the global supply chain open and connected,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters during a visit to Oslo as part of a European tour.
“The two sides need to speed up the negotiation and bring it to early conclusion,” he said.
But the minister warned against “interference” when asked about a proposal to nominate the people of Hong Kong for a Nobel, mooted last year by Norwegian politician Guri Melby, now the minister of education and immigration. Melby is a candidate to become the new leader of the centre-right Liberal party, a junior partner in the government.
Beginning in 2019, Hong Kong saw seven straight months of huge pro-democracy protests, culminating in the passing in June 2020 of a new national security law for Hong Kong by China’s top legislature, severely curbing the freedom of expression of people in the territory.
“In the past, and today, in the future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China's internal affairs. This position of the Chinese side is rock-firm and we do not want to see anyone politicising the Nobel Peace Prize,” Wang said.
This year's Nobel peace prize will be announced in Oslo on October 9th.