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Norway and Peru Targeted for FTAs
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As China seeks to extend its global network of free trade agreements (FTAs) and is engaged in discussions with two dozen nations, Peru and Norway have emerged as China's two likeliest options.

China is expected to start a joint approach with Peru later this month or in early April, and put the finishing touches to an FTA with Norway.

The date for the talks will probably be announced during the upcoming visit to Peru by Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China's Politburo.

Li will embark on a tour starting today which will see him take in Mexico, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru and Samoa before returning on April 5.

China signed an FTA with Chile at the end of 2005, with Peru set to follow thanks to a similar trade structure, Foreign Affairs College professor Fan Ying said.

A Peruvian official stated his belief that an FTA could be signed as early as next year.

General Administration of Customs statistics place China's exports to Peru at US$1.01 billion for 2006, up 65.6 percent year on year, while imports from the South American country reached US$2.91 billion, up 27.7 percent.

According to the Peruvian exporters' association, the range of materials exported to China has risen to incorporate more non-traditional exports, such as fish products and timber, which enjoyed a meteoric rise of 79 percent to top US$138 million.

As for China's FTA agreement with Norway, this demonstrates China's urge to cement trade relations worldwide, said Fan.

"The proposed FTA talks with Norway reflects China's move to strengthen its presence in North European markets," she said.

Sino-Norwegian trade reached US$2.95 billion last year with the foray of Chinese consumer goods into the Norwegian market, as opposed to its exports based on its well-developed metallurgy, petrochemical and oil exploitation sectors.

During a visit to Norway in September last year, Commerce Minister Bo Xilai spoke of the "potential in Sino-Norwegian cooperation, thanks to the two countries' economies and trade volumes". He further spoke of the need to improve joint efforts in terms of shipbuilding, tunnel engineering and infrastructure construction.

(China Daily March 19, 2007)

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