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FTA agreements on horizon

By Fu Jing in Davos, Switzerland and Ding Qingfen in Beijing (China Daily)

08:26, January 25, 2013

Swiss watches on display at an expo in Wuhan, Hubei province. Jacques de Watteville, Switzerland's ambassador to China, said good progress has been made in FTA talks, and the country could become the first in Europe to have a free trade agreement with China. (China Daily Photo)

Free trade talks with Switzerland and Iceland make good progress

Iceland and Switzerland are racing to become the first European countries to ink free trade agreements with China, in an effort to boost trade with the world's second-largest economy amid lingering global economic woes.

President of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer told China Daily that both countries have achieved "smooth and decisive progress" with China in the FTA talks, as the European Union has not put such negotiations on its agenda despite Beijing's proposal for a feasibility study.

Grimsson said China and Iceland are making efforts to finalize and sign the FTA within "one or two months" during Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir's visit to Beijing in February or March, which he said is yet to be arranged.

"I hope we can finalize it then. It is high time to conclude it," Grimsson told China Daily at the World Economic Forum annual conference on Wednesday, adding that both sides kicked off talks in 2005 when he made a state visit to Beijing.

Grimsson said if the prime minister's visit can be arranged, it is very likely that Iceland will be the first European country to sign an FTA with China.

"I was told the negotiations are at the final stage now," Grimsson said.

An official from the Ministry of Commerce who is close to the matter said on Thursday that China and Iceland have reached consensus on the framework of the bilateral trade pact and a majority of related issues, which paves the way for conclusion of the China-Iceland FTA.

But, the two sides still differ on a few minor issues that are not related to the bilateral FTA itself, he said.

"It's possible that the two countries will sign the deal in a month or two, if the north European nation adopts a more sober attitude and doesn't make demanding requests," he said.

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