The EFTA and Hong Kong have signed a free-trade agreement, which will effectively allow Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to use Hong Kong as a de-facto home market when exporting to other parts of Asia.
“This is one hell of a contract that we’ve managed to seal in just one year which ensures Icelanders completely duty free sales on industrial and ocean products that will be exported to Hong Kong. I hope that it will be a real boon for exporters; not least in the field of under-utilised products of the sea. I can, for example, point out that the Hong Kong and Chinese markets have in fact created a whole new Icelandic export commodity in the form of sea cucumbers. They are very sought after and have, in addition to the highly developed trade in cod liver oil from Iceland, accounted for a huge increase in oceanic products to Hong Kong,” says Ossur Skarphedinnson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. He spoke upon his arrival home from an EFTA meeting in Liechtenstein. Last week he and his counterparts from Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and Hong Kong representative Trade Minister Gregory So signed a new free trade agreement between the EFTA and Hong Kong.
Skarphedinsson told DV that many Icelanders are currently working in Hong Kong. “Among other things, they run nearly 20 companies which employ around a thousand people. There is no doubt about it that in the traditional services, such as selling fish, Icelanders have massive opportunities. Not least in selling from Hong Kong and selling from China, through Hong Kong. Aquaculture demand is growing massively quickly in the region, but they need sales experience, on the other hand.” He added that Icelanders have that experience and are sought after seafood dealers in aquaculture, for example in Vietnam, where fish farms employing 4,000 people sell fish through Icelandic agents.
“Hong Kong buys all the sea cucumbers it is possible to sell — and at a high price, because there is a shortage. They use them to ramp up sexual desire in middle-aged men. Chemicals in sea cucumbers also help relieve swelling, and however quaint it at first appears, chemicals from sea cucumbers are also used to relieve arthritis in obese pot bellied pigs,” the minister said. He admitted, however, that he has not personally tried sea cucumber. The next-to-untapped Icelandic sea cucumber stock is of an unknown size. Scientists will doubtless soon begin research.