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Free trade agreement opens door

By Li Xiaokun and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

08:26, April 16, 2013

Premier Li Keqiang welcomes his Icelandic counterpart Johanna Sigurdardottir outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday, when China and Iceland signed a free trade agreement. (Wu Zhiyi / China Daily)

Premier says deal with Iceland sets example for China-Europe relation

After six years of negotiations, Iceland on Monday became the first European country to sign a free trade agreement with China.

The agreement and the great benefits it will bring mark a breakthrough that is likely to give a strong impetus to China's FTA talks with the European Union and other nations in the region, experts said.

Premier Li Keqiang and his Icelandic counterpart Johanna Sigurdardottir officiated at the signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.

"This is a major event in the China-Iceland relationship. It also signals that our relationship, especially in the economic field, has been lifted to a new height," Li told Sigurdardottir at the start of their talks.

During the talks, Li said the agreement not only serves as a milestone in bilateral ties, but also sets an important example for China-Europe trade ties.

He called on both sides to expand imports and investment and seek a dynamic balance in bilateral trade.

Beijing and Reykjavik should beef up cooperation in clean energy, including geothermal, as well as in geologic, oceanic and arctic studies, he said.

Sigurdardottir told Li her country is proud of being the first European country to have such an agreement with Beijing.

In a declaration issued after the talks, the two countries said they are "opposed to trade and investment protectionism, and resolve to remove trade barriers through the creation of a free trade area to contribute to the harmonious development of world trade".

They also signed cooperation agreements in fields including financing, terrestrial heat and energy saving.

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