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Swiss-Chinese trade deal takes effect

Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann and a high-ranking Chinese government delegation have celebrated the entry into force of a key free trade agreement between the two countries.

The accord, signed last July, improves mutual market access for goods and services, and together with a bilateral agreement on labour and employment, will contribute to long-term economic development.

The economics ministry said the deal is the most important free trade agreement for Switzerland’s export industry since the 1972 accord with the European Union.

China is the third most important trade partner for Switzerland after the EU and the US. Trade volume with China reached CHF20 billion ($22.5 billion) last year, according to a officials.

On Tuesday, the festivities took place simultaneously at the Rhine port of Basel and in Beijing.

Switzerland’s pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech industries said the deal was a crucial step to improve the competitive edge of Swiss companies.

However, the non-governmental Society for Threatened Peoples has protested against safeguards in the agreement for the respect of human rights. Another NGO, the Berne Declaration, staged a demonstration in Bern on Tuesday.