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FTA with Switzerland proceeds at fast pace

Updated: 2013-05-17 08:08
By Bao Chang and Ding Qingfen ( China Daily)

China and Switzerland are poised to seal a free trade agreement in an accelerated manner based on the willingness and strong motivation of both countries to conclude the talks, Jiang Yaoping, vice-minister of commerce, said at a news conference on Thursday.

"Both countries are striving hard to reach the final goal with the ninth round of FTA talks between them wrapping up recently," he said.

The most recent China-Switzerland FTA negotiations took place from May 9 to May 11 in Bern, the Swiss capital.

Song Tao, vice-minister of foreign affairs, said there was very positive progress in the negotiations, and the agreement would provide new growth engines for bilateral economic ties between the two countries.

Chinese market is growing very fast and Switzerland has advantages in the technology sector. The two countries have previously cooperated in environmental protection and green industries, so the FTA, if signed, would promote bilateral trade and investment, Jiang said.

China is now Switzerland's largest trade partner in Asia, and Switzerland is the seventh-largest trade partner for China in Europe and its sixth-largest source of foreign direct investment.

Epitome of EU

In 2012, total trade between the countries reached $26.31 billion, with China's imports from Switzerland totaling $22.8 billion and accounting for 87 percent of the total volume. Switzerland is one of the first countries that recognized China's market economy status and initiated FTA talks with it.

"Switzerland is like the epitome of the European Union, and the FTA between the two countries could be considered a pilot program, because China and the EU may also launch FTA negotiations in the future," said Blaise Godet, Switzerland's ambassador to China. The FTA will have a broad scope and include finished goods, service industries and public purchases, he added.

Mei Xinyu, a researcher with the International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute at the Ministry of Commerce, said China and Switzerland have few competing areas so they would not need to make big industrial adjustments after the FTA takes effect.

"The economy of Switzerland will benefit more from the FTA, considering the bilateral economic scale," she said.

In recent years, China has made large-scale mergers and acquisitions in Switzerland, and Chinese companies have began to invest in industries including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and chemicals in the country.

The FTA will help Swiss luxury brands win a share of the Chinese market from other European luxury goods companies, Financial Times quoted Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets, as saying. But the FTA will not help Chinese companies enter the EU market since Switzerland is not a member of the EU, experts say.