Norway fishing for further profits in China’s growing seafood market

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/31 21:33:40

Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Harald Nesvik holds a salmon at the Norwegian Embassy in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Li Qiaoyi/GT

"Good progress" is being made on a long-awaited free trade agreement (FTA) between China and Norway, a senior Norwegian official said in Beijing on Thursday, urging further dialogue and an open attitude toward trade to fend off lingering concerns over protectionism.

"There's been very good progress in the FTA negotiations," Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Harald Nesvik told the Global Times at a media briefing at the Norwegian Embassy in Beijing.

There is going to be a new meeting in Beijing in the coming weeks, according to Nesvik.

"Trade wars between big nations will influence all of us," he said. "It's better that nations trade with each other than build walls against their borders, so these FTA negotiations that Norway has with several countries are very important."

China and Norway reached an agreement on the launch of an FTA feasibility study in 2007. The two countries held the first round of negotiations on the FTA in Oslo in September 2008 and the 16th round of FTA talks was held in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province this September.

Nesvik didn't reveal details of the FTA talks or when the decade-long negotiations would eventually come to fruition.

"It's very hard to say when you're going to finish these kinds of negotiations, because very often when you think you see the light in the tunnel, it's not the light, it's the train [that] is coming," Nesvik said.

The minister appeared unfazed by a slowing economy in China, saying the economy is still growing at a pace faster than many economies in the world, and expressing his optimism about great opportunities to be tapped in the Chinese market for Norway, the world's largest salmon producer.

Year to date, Norway's salmon exports to China have hit almost 20,000 tons, up more than 90 percent compared with last year, Victoria Braathen, director of the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) for the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, revealed at the event.

As of the end of the third quarter, Norwegian seafood exports to China totaled nearly 112,000 tons, an increase of 14 percent year-on-year, official data showed. China has become the fastest-growing marketplace for Norwegian seafood this year.

Describing China as Norway's most important seafood market in Asia, Nesvik said he expected a shift toward seafood diets in China, citing the impact on pork consumption of a swine flu epidemic and the formation of a healthy eating habit. "Chinese people will eat more seafood in years to come."

This certainly augurs well for Norwegian businesses. A lot of Norwegian companies are looking to the Chinese market, where there is demand for quality products, Nesvik said.

Two years ago, Norway-based salmon farming heavyweight SalMar started offshore agriculture in China, building a plant and transporting goods to Norway, he noted.

In an attempt to appeal to Chinese consumers, the marketing push which now is mostly business-to-business will be shifted toward consumers next year through online campaigns, Braathen told the Global Times. 

The NSC revealed that it will be present at the second China International Import Expo along with Norwegian seafood firms, showcasing a selection of seafood products.

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