Norway and China have signed an agreement on the import and export of foodstuffs, as the relationship between the two countries thaws, following a diplomatic spat that lasted several years.

The agreement was signed in Norway by Norwegian fisheries minister Per Sandberg and Chinese minister of veterinary authorities, Shuping Zhi.

“China is Norway’s most important trading partner in Asia and there is a huge potential for the export of Norwegian seafood to China,” says Sandberg.

“It is therefore very positive that Zhi is visiting Norway, and the contact between the food safety authorities now resumed. The agreement we signed today will strengthen the bilateral co-operation in the import and export of food products, and is important for the Norwegian seafood industry.”

China and Norway have had a strained diplomatic relationship since 2010, after Norway awarded dissident Liu Xiabo with the Nobel Peace Prize. Ties between the two countries were officially normalised in December last year. Norway’s fish farming industry is hoping the move will allow it to regain access to the Chinese market.

Earlier this year Norway announced that talks on a free trade deal between the two countries were expected to start before the end of the year, after Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg led a trade mission to Beijing in March.

China is the world’s largest producer largest market for seafood. The country imports large quantities of seafood for domestic consumption and for processing. In 2010, it exported 152,500 tonnes of seafood valued at Nkr2.35bn (US$275mn) from Norway. In 2016, this had dropped to 143,000 tonnes.