Norway is the world’s biggest producer of salmon. But hardly any of it goes to China, the biggest consumer of seafood.
Since the Nobel Prize was awarded to human rights activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010—at a ceremony in Oslo where the award was famously placed on an empty chair as Liu was in prison in China—Norway, and its fish, have been given the cold shoulder in China. In 2010, the country almost accounted for all of China’s salmon exports, according to data from the Norwegian government and DNB Markets, a Norwegian bank. Since then, its salmon exports to the mainland have plummeted, and by 2015 even the Faroe Islands, Norway’s tiny Nordic neighbor, was exporting more salmon to China.
So strained were relations that Norway’s ambassador to China, Svein O. Sæther, remained five years longer than the usual four-year tenure in his post for fear that a new ambassador may not be confirmed by Beijing, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten (link in Norwegian).
n December, the two countries made a breakthrough when they normalized relations (paywall) after Norway’s foreign minister visited Beijing. China said that Norway had “deeply reflected upon the reasons bilateral mutual trust was harmed.” Norway’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Last month, Norway’s seafood industry appeared to get the firmest sign yet that the Chinese market would be fully opened back to them when a delegation visited China and signed a seafood trade agreement, with the aim of exporting $1.45 billion worth of salmon to China by 2025. The agreement came after Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg’s visit to e-commerce giant Alibaba in April. Taobao and Juhuasuan, two Alibaba-affiliated shopping sites, hosted promotional events for Norwegian salmon in May.
A Chinese state-owned company will also deliver intelligent offshorefish farms—installations equipped with advanced technologies—estimated to be worth around $300 million, to Norwegian fish-farming giant SalMar, China Daily reported on June 5.