US Considering Free Trade Agreement With Iceland

Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and US Vice president Mike Pence led a US-Icelandic Business Roundtable.

The Trump administration is considering a free trade agreement with Iceland, Axios reports. This comes on the heels of Vice President Mike Pence’s Iceland visit, during which Pence warned Iceland not to rely on Chinese technology and praised their decision not to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, although no such decision had been made.

According to the Axios report, it isn’t Iceland’s economy that’s tempting the Washington leaders, but the country’s strategic location. The President’s national security team has apparently emphasised the importance of investing in the region. The idea of a trade agreement was floated at a Senate GOP lunch last Tuesday, according to Axios, where Pence reportedly told those in attendance that a working group was exploring a deal and that he was “amenable” to the idea. Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson has made no secret of his wish for a free trade agreement with the US.

According to Axios, the intention of the trade agreement would be to encourage an alliance with the US, instead of Iceland building relationships with Russia and China. Iceland has had a free trade agreement with China since 2014 and when Vice President Pence congratulated Iceland on not participating in the Belt and Road initiative, both the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs quickly corrected him, stating that while Iceland hadn’t yet agreed to participate, no decision to decline participation had been made. China’s Ambassador to Iceland Jin Zhijian has called the Vice President’s comments on the Belt and Road Initiative and Huawei “malicious slander” and “fake news.”

Czech Traveller Found Dead

fatal accident Iceland

The man who was found dead by Sprengisandsleið north of Vatnsfell last Friday was a Czech citizen, born in 1975. He was travelling by bicycle, on his own, and his family were notified with the help of the Czech consul the same day, as reported by the South Iceland police.

Nothing was found to suggest that the man’s death was a result of criminal activity but an autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow. The man had been travelling around West and North Iceland, as well as over well-known highland paths. He was travelling the Sprengisandur route from Askja to Landmannalaugar.

The South Iceland police were notified of two additional deaths last week, which are being investigated as is customary when deaths occur outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities. In these cases, an autopsy is performed, unless the cause of death can be indisputably determined or the deceased’s medical history is such that an autopsy is deemed unnecessary.

RÚV Fined for Hatari’s Palestine Banners

The European Broadcasting Union has decided to issue RÚV with a fine for Hatari’s behaviour in the green room at the Eurovision Song Contest finale in Isreal last spring when band members displayed banners in the Palestine flag colours. According to RÚV Director of Broadcasting Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson, RÚV will receive the minimum fine of 5000 Euro.

RÚV objected to proposed fine to the EBU and claimed they were unhappy with the process and intended solution. RÚV’s letter to the EBU stated that it was the wrong conclusion and unfair to fine RÚV for breaking the rules when RÚV had taken every possible measure to make sure the rules would be followed. RÚV is of the opinion that the broadcasters taking part in the competition can never completely prevent their artists from saying or doing something that might be against the rules.RÚV’s letter also states that RÚV is nevertheless proud of Iceland’s contribution to the competition this year and believe that the Hatari performance was splendid and attention-grabbing.

The EBU ruling will have no further consequences and RÚV has decided that they will participate in the competition again next year. They are now excepting songs for the 2020 contest in Rotterdam.