Photographer: jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

China to Resume Norway Trade Ties, Sending Marine Stocks Higher

  • Marine Harvest soars to highest in three years on news
  • Rapprochement comes 6 years after Nobel awarded to dissident

Shares in some of Norway’s biggest fisheries stocks soared as the country said it will resume trade relations with China after a six-year hiatus caused by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident.

"We have agreed to immediately resume negotiations on a free trade agreement," Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende said in a joint statement issued after meetings in Beijing with China’s prime minister and foreign minister. "The normalization of our relationship is the result of long and painstaking diplomatic efforts at many levels to restore confidence between our two countries."

The rapprochement comes amid rising disillusionment with free trade and simmering tension between China and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. China is Norway’s fifth-largest trading partner, with the rift causing Norwegian salmon exports to the Asian country to plunge after relations soured in 2010.

Brende said exports would be prioritized in Norway’s talks with China, together with climate change and arctic exploration. Shares in Grieg Seafood soared almost 5 percent, while Marine Harvest, the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon, rose as much as 2.3 percent to touch a 13-year high.

Read more: Marine Harvest shares rise to highest in at least a year

Pareto Securities recommended that investors buy shares in the two companies, as well as in Leroey Seafood Group.

The absence of any political contact between Norway and China since 2010 "has been challenging for us in many international contexts and in many individual cases," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Norway’s parliament on Monday.

The deal agreed with the world’s second-largest economy "opens up great opportunities for Norwegian businesses," she said.

China froze top-level contacts with the northern European nation after a committee appointed by its parliament awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The Norwegian government said at the time it has no power over the Nobel Committee’s decisions. In 2014 it decided not to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to Oslo out of concern it would jeopardize its attempts to normalize relations with Beijing.

As a member of the European Economic Area, but not of the EU, Norway is free to pursue free-trade agreements with third countries. Norway has often been mentioned as a possible model for the U.K. once it leaves the EU.

Brende said he expects a Norwegian government and business delegation to visit China in the spring.

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