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Swiss president sees no negotiating room on free trade deal

Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann assumes the US-EU free trade deal known as TTIP is coming – and that Switzerland will have to decide whether to “take it or leave it”. 

In an interview with Swiss public radio, SRF, the Swiss leader said he had been in “frequent contact” with European Union and American negotiators as the TTIP discussions go forward.

“We’re currently in a holding pattern…receiving information openly,” he said. 

However, Schneider-Ammann admitted that Switzerland did not have any influence over the direction of the negotiations, meaning it will need to decide whether to opt in or out of any deal that is struck. 

“Either we take it the way it is negotiated, or we leave it,” he said. “There’s no need to consider whether we could still negotiate anything for us.”

Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it could decide to take part in the deal anyway – or it could opt out and try to continue negotiations on its own free trade agreement with the US. 

Adjustments necessary

However, Martin Naville, chief executive of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, told SRF that “it would be a bit egotistical to think that our bilateral negotiations with the US will result in a better deal than the EU’s”. 

Naville believes TTIP will be beneficial to Switzerland in the long-term, but that considerations must be made to avoid short-term fallout – especially for the agriculture sector. 

“One thing is clear: there will be a certain opening of agricultural markets,” he said. “The pressure will rise and adjustments will be necessary. This will be costly and must be paid by the public. It cannot be that farmers lose out in the end.” 

Still, Naville believes free trade agreements among trans-Atlantic partners are necessary in a world where other countries like Brazil, Japan, Russia and China view free trade in a fundamentally different way. 

“TTIP will massively strengthen free trade as we, a country of exports, need to understand it.” 

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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