LONDON, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Iceland is seeking opportunities to work closer with China on Arctic scientific research, resources development, as well as other businesses, said Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, minister for foreign affairs and external trade of Iceland, in London Tuesday.
Bilateral cooperation in this regard has been guided by an investment agreement signed in 1994 and related statements issued by both countries, Sveinsson said in an interview with Xinhua at The Economist's Arctic Summit 2014.
"Our good relationship with China has been lasting for many years, and we see China as an important player in the world," the minister said.
"We seek opportunities to work closer with China when it comes to do research and even do business in the Arctic. In fact, a Chinese company has been granted license to explore oil and gas resources in the Dreki area, which is located between Iceland and Jan Mayen Island," he said.
According to Icelandic newspaper Vidskiptabladid, China National Offshore Oil Corporation had reached an agreement with privately held Eykon Energy to co-explore the country's offshore Dreki area.
In a speech on the same day, Sveinsson noted the Icelandic government has identified Arctic development as a policy priority.
"China has shown great interest in research in Iceland on the Arctic. We have a northern lights research station owned by the Chinese government-run Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC). So there are lots of opportunities we can pursue," Sveinsson said.
Iceland Review magazine reported last October that PRIC scientists had gone to Iceland to set up a northern lights station in Reykjadalur, northeast Iceland.
BOOSTING BILATERAL TRADE
The foreign minister also noted the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) signed with China is another breakthrough and a great step to further the good relationship.
"I think both countries can benefit from it in many ways, and we are looking forward to keeping working with the Chinese government."
Last April, Iceland became the first European country to sign an FTA with China. And in late January of 2014, the Parliament of Iceland announced the passing of the agreement. China's Ministry of Commerce has said the agreement is to come into effect in the second half of 2014.
According to data compiled by the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, annual growth of merchandise exports from Iceland to China had more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, while Iceland's imports from China had grown fivefold in the last decade, accounting for 7.6 percent of Iceland's total merchandise imports in 2012.
Iceland is expecting to increase its exports to China, mainly in fishery and other agricultural sectors, and the country also welcomes more Chinese tourists to visit Iceland, said Sveinsson.
"We have seen some Icelandic tourism companies that are opening offices in China, so I believe there will be more tourists from China in the next few years, though now they have to go to Iceland by way of Helsinki," he said.
"Hopefully in the future, we will see direct flights between China and Iceland," Sveinsson added.