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Switzerland-United States US ambassador: free trade deal would be ‘a good thing’

Edward T. McMullen, US ambassador

Ed McMullen on his way to take up his new post as US ambassador to Switzerland  in Bern on November 21, 2017

(Keystone)

Ed McMullen, the United States ambassador to Switzerland, has encouraged Switzerland to start fresh free trade negotiations with the US, in an interview in the Sunday press.

A free trade agreement would be a good thing, he told the NZZ am Sonntagexternal link. US President Donald Trump is a businessman and open to deals, he said.

The US is always open to talks, said the 54-year-old former head of a PR advertising firm and close associate of the president. But it’s up to Switzerland to make the first step. “I encourage Switzerland to do so,” the ambassadorexternal link said.

+ Learn more about Ed McMullen

The US is the second most important trading partner for Switzerland after neighbouring Germany, but there is as yet no free trade agreement between Bern and Washington. A deal mooted in 2006 fell through, mostly due to the opposition of Swiss farmers.

McMullen says the situation has changed in the intervening years. “Switzerland is another country than it was then,” he said. He added that the banking sector also played a role in why the previous deal did not work out. The ambassador said he kept on being astounded at how closely tied the two countries were economically. “The starting point is promising,” he said.

Steel and aluminium

McMullen also considered the controversial additional US steel and aluminium import tariffs, which has affected Swiss companies. He said it was possible to apply for exemptions, and there was a fixed procedure for this in the US administration. “I support Switzerland in this and I am sure we will find a solution,” he said.

Switzerland and the European Union are among those who have lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the tariffs, which were imposed by the US administration on March 23.

SDA-ATS/NZZ am Sonntag/ilj

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