Xi hails closer cooperation with Switzerland

Updated: 2013-07-19 01:23

By Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)

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Free trade is key to enduring partnership, says Premier Li

China's steady economic development will provide more opportunities for cooperation with Switzerland, President Xi Jinping said on Thursday, calling for more cooperation between the two countries in areas including investment, environmental protection, innovation and urbanization.

Xi made the remarks as he met visiting Swiss President Ueli Maurer, who also held talks with Premier Li Keqiang.

Calling China and Switzerland "close partners of mutual beneficial cooperation", Li said a free-trade agreement between the two, signed earlier this month, has injected new momentum into the bilateral relationship and set up a model for China-Europe cooperation.

Li said China is willing to promote the free-trade agreement with Switzerland, fight against trade protectionism and make great strides in bilateral exchanges and cooperation.

Maurer said Switzerland highly values the active role China plays in the world, adding that China's stability and development is a great contribution to world peace and means important opportunities for his country and Europe.

He said Switzerland is willing to be China's reliable partner in Europe and looks forward to deepening mutual trust and expanding cooperation with China in areas including economic and trade, innovation, finance and environmental protection.

After three years of negotiations, China and Switzerland signed the free-trade agreement on July 6 in Beijing, inking China's first such agreement with an economy in continental Europe. China also signed an free-trade agreement with non-EU member Iceland in April.

The free-trade agreement will "inject fresh impetus into China-EU business ties, bring tangible benefits to consumers and businesses in both our countries, and contribute to world trade and economic recovery," Li said in a signed article titled Why Switzerland? in Neue Zuricher Zeitung, a German-language Swiss daily ahead of his visit to the European country in May.

Switzerland was the first European destination on the list of countries Li visited after becoming China's premier in March.

Analysts see great potential in cooperation between the two countries.

"Switzerland is a post-industrial country while China is a huge developing economy. The two countries are highly complementary in economy, trade and investment," said Li Gang, head of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, in a recent online interview.

The free trade agreement is a win-win deal for both countries, said Xu Tiebing, an expert on international relations with the Communication University of China.

"It will be more convenient for Swiss banks and financial institutes to open businesses in China, and it will be easier for Chinese enterprises to enter the European market," Xu said.

Last year, China and Switzerland's two-way trade reached $26.3 billion, including $22.8 billion worth of Swiss exports to China.

China is Switzerland's third biggest trading partner, after the European Union and the United States.

Switzerland is among the first Western countries to have established diplomatic relations with New China, and also one of the first European countries to recognize China's market economy status.

The first industrial joint venture China entered after the beginning of reform and opening up was with Switzerland.