Switzerland and China have signed a memorandum of understanding for negotiations to take place “in the near future” on a bilateral free trade agreement.
The document was initialed in Beijing on Friday in the presence of Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard and the Chinese head of state Hu Jintao.
A Swiss government statement said that both had approved the findings of a feasibility study for such an agreement.
A joint study group found that the economies of Switzerland and China were mutually complementary and that a comprehensive free trade agreement would “significantly improve the general conditions for economic cooperation”.
Leuthard, who also hold’s the post this year of Swiss president, has been leading a high-level business delegation on a five-day visit to the people’s republic.
Her stay coincides with the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and China.
China has been Switzerland’s most important trading partner in Asia since 2002, with commercial relations developing “extremely dynamically”.
It is the fourth largest market for Swiss exports, after the European Union, the United States and Japan.