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Fast-tracking FTA 'would benefit all'

Updated: 2015-01-21 07:54
By Fu Jing in Zurich, Switzerland (China Daily)

Premier Li Keqiang and his Swiss counterpart should push for a "faster and more efficient" implementation of their free trade agreement to boost exports to China, a former Swiss official said after Switzerland abandoned efforts to cap the value of the franc against the euro.

"The strong franc has had an impact on commercial and business exchanges between China and Switzerland, though I don't know the exact consequences," said former Zurich mayor Thomas Wagner. "I hope Premier Li and our leader can discuss it."

Li will address the forum, meet business leaders and hold talks with his Swiss counterpart, Simonetta Sommaruga, president of the Swiss Confederation, during his stay in Switzerland.

As mayor of Zurich in the 1980s, Wagner initiated the relationship between Zurich and Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, linking them as sister cities.

Wagner, who is also president of the Switzerland-China Association, suggested the consequences of the stronger franc on exports and tourism could be partly mitigated if the leaders of both countries speeded up implementation of the FTA.

Since the Swiss central bank ditched the fixed euro-franc rate last Thursday, the franc has soared in value as a safe-haven currency. Speculators believe that the eurozone is close to introducing quantitative easing, which would probably lower the value of the euro.

"The stronger Swiss franc has consequences for our exports and tourism, and business between China and Switzerland will be affected as well," he said.

Wagner said the Swiss central bank moved on the basis that the euro would weaken with the introduction of quantitative easing.

"Our industry must come to terms with this decision due to a weaker and weaker euro, and I think the new balances will be reached within weeks or months," said Wagner.

China and Switzerland signed the free trade agreement during Li's first visit to Europe as premier in 2013. "And my country was the first leg of his first visit to Europe as premier," he said.

Wagner said China and Switzerland have potentially signed the "perfect" free trade agreement, which went into operation in July.

"I have been told that both countries have encountered some technical problems in its implementation, and I hope Premier Li can help resolve these," Wagner said. "I have read the full text, which, for me, is perfect."

Wagner said faster implementation of the agreement could fully realize the economic and business potential between China and Switzerland.

"And this will also set an example for China and the EU to forge a similar pact," he said.

The Swiss feel honored that Li visited their country twice within two years. "It signals how important and close our relationship is," said Wagner, adding that both countries will celebrate the 65th anniversary of bilateral relations this year.

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