COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway and two other non-EU European nations on Friday reached a trade deal with Britain following the country's departure from the bloc last year.
Britain is Norway's largest trading partner outside the bloc. The deal also covers Iceland and Liechtenstein.
In Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the deal "ambitious and comprehensive.”
“When Norway is speeding up on its way out of the pandemic, then good export agreements are important,” she said.
Talks between Britain and Norway have been going on since 2020. Negotiators had to tackle sticky issues including the import to Norway of agricultural goods such as meat and cheese, and exports of fish to Britain, Norwegian media said.
The three nations' membership in the European Economic Area grants them access to the EU’s vast common market, and most goods are exempt from duties. However, obstacle-free trading across the North Sea ended when Britain left the bloc’s economic rules at the end of 2020.
“Although it is not as good as the EEA agreement, this is the most comprehensive free trade agreement ever,” Solberg told a press conference.
Britain said total trade with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein was worth 21.6 billion pounds ($30.5 billion) in 2020. Solberg said Norway’s exports to Britain are worth close to 200 billion kroner ($24 billion).
Britain said British farmers will benefit from lower tariffs and more duty-free access for goods like cheese, pork and poultry. They also stressed that reduced import tariffs on shrimps, prawns and haddock will lower costs for British fish processing.
Also, it will support 18,000 jobs in Scotland and northern England by creating new opportunities for the British fish-processing industry, London said.
Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss called the deal “a major boost for our trade with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein," while International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena said it “shows that the United Kingdom will continue to be a trade partner of choice.”
However, the deal contains some barriers as Britain had completely free trade with the three countries when it was a member of the EU.
Solberg said that at least two issues remain. “One is that (the deal) is not dynamic. That means that when rules are changed, they don’t follow everywhere.”
“The second is the veterinary rules at the border, which have not been fully cleaned up,” she said.
Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.