NEW PACT: China and Iceland signed a free trade agreement, offering lower tariffs to the small North Atlantic country and giving Beijing a leg up in its drive for expanded influence in the Arctic.

SMALL MARKETS: Trade between China and Iceland, which has just 315,000 people, rose 21 percent last year to $180 million.

SHIPPING ROUTE: Iceland has unique importance to China as it attempts to gain a foothold in the Arctic, where melting ice is opening passages for shipping and could create a boom in extraction of resources such as gas, oil, diamonds, gold and iron. Shipping via the Arctic would cut about 4,000 miles and two weeks off the journey between northern Europe and Shanghai.