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Beijing and Bern Agree Free Trade Deal in 2024

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 15 January 2024

Reinforcing Bonds, Shaping Futures: Switzerland and China Forge Ahead in Post-Pandemic Era

Beijing and Bern Agree Free Trade Deal in 2024

Outline

President Viola Amherd has received Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang and a Chinese delegation for an official visit. It was the first high-level meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic. Both sides signed a declaration on the free trade agreement between Switzerland and China.

According to a statement from Amherd’s defense department, the “deep and diverse bilateral relations” between the two countries were discussed. Issues of international topicality were also addressed. China and Switzerland have maintained diplomatic relations since 1950.

The Chinese delegation led by Li Qiang included Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, Pan Gongsheng, Governor of the Central Bank, and high-ranking representatives from several ministries. One of them was Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu.

Modernising free trade agreements

The Swiss delegation led by Amherd included Economics Minister Guy Parmelin. Following the exchange between the delegations at the Lohn country residence in Kehrsatz near Bern, a joint declaration on the free trade agreement was signed by Parmelin on the Swiss side.

The document states that a joint study launched in 2017 on the further development of the free trade agreement between Switzerland and China has been completed. According to the press release issued by the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) on Monday, this represents an important step towards the start of possible negotiations.

The Federal Council’s Switzerland-China strategy for 2021 to 2024 states that the free trade agreement, which has been in force since 2014, should be modernized. There is talk of improved market access in the area of trade in goods and for Swiss service providers – including financial institutions – as well as an optimization of customs processes.

Resume dialogs

China has been Switzerland’s most important trading partner in Asia since 2010 and is Switzerland’s third most important trading partner worldwide after the EU and the USA. Following the pandemic, both sides want to resume their high-level dialog, including the foreign ministries, according to the press release.

The topics of development cooperation, mediation and human rights will be addressed. Bilateral dialogues will also be held on science, migration, work and employment, intellectual property, health and the environment. Dialogues will also be resumed in the areas of business and finance following the pandemic-related interruption.

Travel without a visa was also a topic of discussion: the question was whether China would add Switzerland to the list of countries whose residents can enter China without a visa for up to 15 days. Chinese nationals need a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland.

Sino-European cyber dialog

Another topic was the Chinese-European cyber dialog – Switzerland is also involved. According to the DDPS, multilateral cooperation with China and other international partners is important for the Swiss side in order to promote stability and security in cyberspace. However, Switzerland insists on respect for fundamental freedoms.

The delegations also discussed transnational issues, including Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the situation in East Asia, the fight against climate change and the results of the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai.

Li Qiang had already arrived in Switzerland on Sunday. Prior to the talks, he was greeted by President Viola Amherd on Monday morning at the Lohn estate and received with military honors. The Chinese Premier intends to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos GR from Tuesday.

The last high-ranking visit from China to Switzerland was in 2017 with President Xi Jinping. In 2019, China received the then President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer on a state visit. Several other members of the Federal Council have also traveled to China.

©Keystone/SDA

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