A free trade agreement between China and Norway is expected "sometime next year" as productive discussions are continuing between the two nations, Norway's top envoy in China said on Tuesday.
"The FTA with China is a priority for Norway," Geir O. Pedersen, Norwegian ambassador to China, said at a news briefing in Beijing.
Pedersen said Norway "has the same ambitions as before. We believe it is more important than ever to deepen and develop political dialogue, economic dialogue, exchange of tourists and investment, and have trade (with China)".
Last month, China and Norway concluded the 12th round of FTA negotiations in Beijing. China is currently discussing signing or upgrading FTAs with 27 countries.
Starting Thursday, Norwegian King Harald V and Queen Sonja will make a state visit to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.
It will be the couple's first visit to China since China and Norway normalized their diplomatic ties in December 2016. It is also their fourth visit to the country since their first trip in 1985.
"The visit is a political and symbolic expression of the deepening relationship between China and Norway," Pedersen said.
Besides Beijing, the couple's 10-day trip also will take them to Dunhuang, Gansu province; Shanghai; and Changshu and Suzhou in Jiangsu province.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Tuesday that China considers the visit an important opportunity that will help China and Norway deepen mutual trust, expand cooperation and facilitate people-to-people exchanges, thus advancing their relationship.
Joining the king and queen is a Norwegian business delegation of 340 people representing 140 companies.
"It will be the largest business delegation ever from Norway to China," said Knut Sorlie, the embassy's commercial counsellor.
According to Sorlie, 40 commercial agreements will be signed during the visit, "which reflects the dynamism of China-Norway business cooperation and will also consolidate and further deepen bilateral business relations".
China is Norway's largest trading partner in Asia, with two-way trade having reached $5.62 billion last year, according to the Foreign Ministry.