A permanent duty free quota is to be opened for Norwegian exports into the European Union (EU) of certain soft drinks, following trade talks between Norway and the European Commission.

The EU Council of Ministers has been asked to approve the new arrangements, which would create a duty free quota of 13m litres for "waters, including mineral waters and aerated waters, containing added sugar or other sweeteners and flavourings" and "other mineral waters containing sucrose and invert sugar".

Where Norwegian producers export more of these drinks to the EU, they would attract a small €0.047/litre duty, which Brussels says reflects the difference in sugar prices between Norway and the EU.

Assuming the system is approved, it would be applied on a pro rata basis this year and be introduced in full from January 2005. Brussels also agreed to annually expand the duty free quota by 10%, if it was fully used by Norway manufacturers.