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FTA agreements on horizon (2)

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

08:29, January 25, 2013

"The two-way FTA is good for Iceland," he added.

Chen Deming, minister of commerce, said during the annual commerce work conference held late last year in Beijing that China will try to wrap up FTA negotiations with a few nations as soon as possible, including Iceland, in 2013.

Compared to the talks with Iceland, China's talks with Switzerland, which started a year ago, are progressing faster.

"I hope that the negotiations can be concluded soon - and successfully. And this will give a new and added boost to the economic relationship which has already developed very well in the past," said Swiss President Ueli Maurer in a written reply to China Daily.

Jacques de Watteville, Switzerland's ambassador to China, further elaborated on the progress of the negotiations. "Overall, good progress has been achieved. If the agreement is concluded in the near future, it would be the first of its kind between China and a European nation."

Despite the fact that both European countries are eager to sign the FTA with China to further reinforce bilateral economic and trade relations after China's leadership transition in November, Brussels seems to have ignored Beijing's proposal to do a feasibility study to kick off FTA negotiations.

Instead, amid a double-dip recession, Brussels has increasingly resorted to trade protectionism to hamper China's exports.

"The current focus with our Chinese partners is to make progress toward an investment agreement and further market access," said John Clancy, the EU trade spokesman.

"Only with positive and concrete developments on an investment deal on both sides will we be in a position to examine broader trade ambitions, such as an FTA with China," Clancy said.

He cited EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht as saying that such an investment deal is Brussels' first priority and both sides have to show progress in this field first.

Among other measures, Brussels has launched an anti-dumping investigation against China's solar panel exports, which has stirred mounting criticism.

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