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What China-Switzerland FTA brings about?


13:24, May 25, 2013

BERN, Switzerland, May 25 (Xinhua) -- China and Switzerland on Friday concluded their talks over a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which will be the first between Beijing and continental Europe.

The achievement was hailed as a "milestone" by political leaders and business community, while Swiss media described it as one of the most important international deals in 40 years for Switzerland.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is on an official visit to Switzerland, said the FTA will not only benefit the two countries but also the trade between China and the European Union as well as global investment and trade liberalization.


Statistics showed that two-way trade between China and Switzerland exceeded 30 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, a record increase of 50 percent compared with that of 2010. Despite the persistent eurozone sovereign debt crisis and uncertainties in the world economy, bilateral trade volume remained as high as 26.3 billion dollars last year.

China is already Switzerland's third major trading partner behind the EU and the United States, while Switzerland is China's seventh largest trading partner in Europe.

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said the completion of free trade talks is a historic event in bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

Gao, who signed an MOU with Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, said it marked a significant achievement for China's FTA strategy.

He said the FTA would be one of the most comprehensive and high-level accords China has signed with a foreign country in recent years.

The agreement will cover a number of new areas like environment, labor and employment cooperation, protection of intellectual property rights, and information exchanges on government procurement, Gao said.

Experts say the Swiss pharmaceutical and chemical industry, tourism, engineering and watch-making sectors, as well as food producers, would benefit from the deal.

In a written interview with Xinhua on the eve of Li's visit, Swiss President Ueli Maurer said the FTA between the two countries would generate profits in the long run for businesses and citizens of the two countries and contribute to a sustainable expansion of trade and economic well-being.

He said by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers and increasing legal certainty, the FTA will help improve reciprocal market access and increase their competitiveness in the global market.

Zhang Yi, CEO of Addax Petroleum, subsidiary of China's energy giant Sinopec Group, said the development of bilateral ties will help boost the confidence and determination of Chinese enterprises in Switzerland.

He also said the FTA will help Addax make a better use of the capital and human resources in both countries and seek further development in Switzerland.

Swiss companies are also encouraged by the breakthrough in FTA negotiations.

Roland Decorvet, chairman and CEO of Nestle Greater China, said Nestle has been a big supporter of closer relations between China and Switzerland.

"A closer relationship is in the best interest of both countries in a globalized environment," he said.


Premier Li said in a signed article published Thursday in Neue Zuricher Zeitung, a German-language Swiss daily, that with the advent of FTA, Switzerland will become the first country in continental Europe and the first of the world's top 20 economies to reach an FTA with China, and the implications will be significant.

He said the FTA fully demonstrates that China will not stall in its opening-up and that it is firmly committed to upholding the multilateral trading regime, vigorously promoting regional trade liberalization, and accelerating the implementation of the FTA strategy.

"Moreover, a high-quality FTA agreement between China and Switzerland will also set a good example. It will not only upgrade our business and investment cooperation but also send a powerful message to the rest of the world that we reject trade and investment protectionism and, instead, we embrace trade liberalization and facilitation," the article said.

"It will inject fresh impetus into China-EU business ties, bring tangible benefits to consumers and businesses in both of our countries, and contribute to world trade and economic recovery," wrote Li.

Luzius Wasescha, special advisor to the Foreign Ministry of Switzerland, told Xinhua that the Sino-Swiss FTA is a chance for China to use Switzerland as a laboratory to further develop its relations with other European countries.

"The experience we can share with you may be useful in your development of strategies toward other European countries," said Wasescha, who was the Swiss ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 2007 to 2012.

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said that a mutually beneficial agreement could encourage other nations to strengthen global trade.

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