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FTA offers multiple opportunities for Iceland, China

Xinhua, November 2, 2014 Adjust font size:

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and Iceland has become one of the topics at the current Arctic Circle Assembly here for bringing Arctic opportunities.

Addressing a breakout session of the assembly, Thordur Hilmarsson, Director of Invest in Iceland under Promote Iceland, said that FTA between Iceland and China offers multiple opportunities for both countries for bilateral trade and investment. For Iceland in particular the FTA agreement opens up for new opportunities regarding FDI projects.

According to the FTA which came into force on July 1, China will implement zero tariff on goods under 7,830 tariff numbers imported from Iceland, which accounted for 81.56 percent of China' s total imports from Iceland, including its aquatic products after the agreement coming into effect.

Hilmarsson said it is really remarkable that China, a country of about 1.35 billion people, is doing a free trade agreement with Iceland with only about 320,000 people.

"In addition to the favorable terms offered by the free trade agreement, foreign investors who would like to put up a production facility to make use of Iceland as a hub for export of their products, are offered considerable incentives according to an incentives scheme currently being processed by the Icelandic Parliament," he said in an interview with Xinhua before his presentation.

Hilmarsson said that the free trade agreement offers many opportunities regarding foreign direct investment in Iceland as companies from China, Europe, USA and Canada can use Iceland as a production hub to trade without barriers bilaterally.

Fish products are important in Iceland and the FTA offers opportunities to increase the seafood trading even further bearing in mind that prior to the agreement the tariffs were up to 18 percent on export of seafood.

"Trade opportunities on the basis of the new free trade agreement seems to be at hand in other categories as well such as in export of alcohol and beverages, food processing equipment, mink skins and fresh water to name a few."

There are more considerations regarding the FTA.

"The reasons - according to the discussion that has been taken place in Iceland as the country being a member of the European economic area - could open up trade possibilities for China into Europe. Doing this free trade agreement with Iceland it is possible for China to consolidate their international business and also to actually strengthen their abilities to do similar agreements with other European countries," said Hilmarsson.

The location of Iceland in the Arctic relations is of course of issue because of the potential opening of the passage between Europe and Asia via the Arctic Ocean where Iceland might play a major role as a distribution hub.

"That is something to consider for China as well," he added.

Ossur Skarphedinsson, MP and former foreign Minister of Iceland who signed the FTA on behalf of Iceland last year and chairs the breakout session of the assembly, told Xinhua that he is very enthusiastic about the possibilities opened up by the FTA between Iceland and China and that it can be very fruitful for Iceland, and hopefully for China too.

"In general an FTA serves to lower the prices for consumers in both countries, and to enable a greater market reach by eliminating tariffs. This will be very important for producers in Iceland especially in the fish processing industry," he said.

"The FTA will give the Icelandic fishing industry an advantage with regard to the competing nations to create a good market for our traditional fish products, such as cod, herring, even mackerel, " he said.

"I also have hopes for markets in China for Icelandic lamb products. Such products already are competitive with regard to prices, and with zero tariffs this might lead to important trade for the agricultural sector in Iceland with China." he added.

Skarphedisson said that Iceland has, as part of the EEA, an unlimited access to the EU market.

"That, in combination with the FTA and the green renewable energy on offer in Iceland this invites the possibility of Chinese investments in Iceland to produce goods to export to the EU market without tariffs. That seems a very attractive option that needs to be examined," he said.

"I always have maintained that the FTA should eventually lead to cooperation between Chinese and Icelandic flight operators on direct flights between Iceland and China. Iceland could become a hub for Chinese travelers to Europe and the United States, and I believe the time has come to explore such possibilities very seriously," he added.

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