President Xi's Switzerland visit to explore upgrading free trade agreement
Chinese ambassador to Switzerland Geng Wenbing said President Xi Jinping will join his Swiss counterpart Doris Leuthard in scaling up a 2014 free trade partnership during his upcoming visit. [Fu Jing/China Daily]
President Xi Jinping will send a strong signal against rising global trade and investment protectionism when he joins his Swiss counterpart Doris Leuthard in announcing their two countries’ decision to scale up a free trade partnership that entered into force in 2014.
Chinese ambassador to Switzerland Geng Wenbing says increased action to facilitate two-way trade and investment between China and Switzerland tops Xi’s agenda during his upcoming visit from January 15-18.
“During President Xi’s visit, both sides will actively explore action to upgrade the free trade agreement,” Geng told China Daily.
“Leaders of both countries will join hands to send strong signals to fight against any form of global protectionism blocking trade and investment flow.”
In addition to beefing up the trade relationship, Geng said that both sides will announce new measures to boost cultural exchanges, tourism and financial cooperation.
After the state visit, Xi will be delivering the keynote speech at the annul meeting of World Economic Forum on 17th January in Davos. He is scheduled to visit the Lausanne-based International Olympics Committee and the headquarters of World Health Organization in Geneva, and speak at the high-level conference at the United Nations Office in Geneva before wrapping up his first overseas tour in 2017.
Geng said both sides are determined to set an example on free trade, which should be followed by the European Union and other global players to pave the way for the global economy to grow faster.
The two countries’ free trade agreement, which has waived most tariffs on goods, became effective in July, 2014. Talks began in 2011 and the two sides sealed the deal in July 2013.
While talks with Norway are ongoing, Iceland is the other European country which has already entered into a free trade agreement with China.
But the European Union insists that it should conclude a bilateral investment agreement with China before the two sides start free trade talks, though some of its member states are eager to clinch such deals with China.
Geng also said more countries have shown interest in free trade talks with China, mainly because Switzerland has already benefited from a partnership that has seen its exports grow.
Official figures from the Swiss government indicated overall exports slowed in October and November last year but export volume to China maintained two-digit year-on-year growth in the same period.
Exports to China increased 11.5 percent year-on-year in November while the rise in October was up to 24.1 percent.
“Such rosy results have led more countries to become interested in free trade talks with China and even some of them asked me for the agreement texts sealed by China and Switzerland,” Geng said.
“I am sure that every country that enters such trade arrangement with China will become a winner.”
Geng said China has been restructuring its investment and trade-led economy towards consumption and innovation, creating tremendous import opportunities.
In December, the European Union, United States and Japan, the leading global economies, refused to fulfill a promise made 15 years ago when China joined the World Trade Organization to recognize China as an equal trade partner.
But Switzerland, joined dozens of WTO members in recognizing China’s market economy status back in 2007.
Apart from efforts to boost their trade partnership, Geng said the leaders will also upgrade their political relationship.
Switzerland was the first Western country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1950. In April, 2016, former president of the Swiss Confederation Johann N. Schneider-Ammann visited China.
“Within less than a year, President Xi is returns a state visit and he is only visiting Switzerland during this tour, which indicates how much importance China has attached to the bilateral relationship,” said Geng.