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Diplomacy and trade US ambassador talks up Swiss offer to host North Korea summit

Footage of US President Donald Trump (right) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Residents of Seoul, South Korea, watch a TV showing footage of US President Donald Trump (right) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 21, 2018

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s offer of good offices to help host a future summit between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump is “serious” and “a good opportunity”, the US ambassador to Switzerland has declared. 

“The Swiss have made it clear that they have a very keen interest, and good offices and opportunities for conversations [on North Korea] in Switzerland,” the US ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Edward “Ed” McMullen, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday. 

“We’ve made it very clear that the offer is there and it’s a serious one and it would be a good opportunity,” he said. 

A historic summit is taking place on Friday between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon-Jae-in near the countries’ border. This is in advance of a potential meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, for which Trump has said that five locations are under consideration. 

The Bloomberg news agency has speculated that Geneva and several venues in Asia and Southeast Asia are on the list. A decision is still pending.

During his Geneva press conference, the US ambassador also discussed steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as economic ties and opportunities between Switzerland and the US. 

McMullen felt Trump had “taken the bull by the horns” regarding steel and aluminum dumping practices in the US over the past decade. 

This week the European Union asked to join a dispute brought by China to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization over US import duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, imposed on grounds of national security. 

McMullen recalled that tariff exemptions were possible and that the US was seeking a fair deal for all countries. America has offered the EU a temporary exemption until May 1. 

The US ambassador said Switzerland’s request for a similar exemption on its exports of steel and aluminium products to the US had not fallen on deaf ears.

“Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann was in Washington last week with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and had serious conversations that this process will take its course and he was assured that an escalation into trade war language was not the objective of the US administration. From this meeting I hear there were very positive indications that Switzerland is being taken seriously,” he told reporters. 

During recent interviews with the Swiss press, the US ambassador, who started work in Bern last November, has insisted that his main aim is to build on strong existing Swiss-US economic ties. 

“The global economy is not only growing again but changing rapidly, and the US and Swiss economies are particularly well positioned to benefit from this prosperous time,” he declared in Geneva. 

“Switzerland has the seventh largest foreign direct investment in the US and it is outpacing many of our large allies. That’s a pretty substantial statement and something the US president and administration understands. Plus, Swiss companies in the US employ nearly 500,000 people. These jobs are well-paid, high-tech jobs which are the future of our economy and have a very important role. Switzerland is the US’s largest direct investor when it comes to research and development.”

New US ambassador

Edward "Ed" McMullen (born 1964), a political scientist and advertising entrepreneur, was appointed the US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein in November 2017. 

Prior to taking up the diplomatic post, McMullen was president of an advertising and corporate public affairs firmexternal link in South Carolina and helped steer President Trump’s victory in 2015 in the Republican primary in the state, according to South Carolina media. He went on to serve in a volunteer capacity on the president-elect’s transition team. McMullen first met Donald Trump at a baseball game in New York in the mid-1980s. 

McMullen also worked with the South Carolina Policy Council (SCPC) from 1989 until 2007, and as director of development research with the Heritage Foundation – a Washington-based conservative policy think-tank. 

As a member of the American Swiss Foundation, he first travelled to Switzerland in 1995 to participate in its “Young Leaders” program. He has visited the country numerous times since. 

He took over in Bern from Suzi LeVine, who served as US ambassador during the second Obama administration. She in turn succeeded Obama's first Swiss envoy, Donald Beyer.

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