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Switzerland set to clinch trade agreement in Mexico

Before flying on to Mexico, the Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, met political leaders including Chile's president, Richard Lagos (left) Keystone

Switzerland's economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, is to sign a landmark free trade agreement with Mexico on behalf of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) on Monday.

The deal is expected to benefit Swiss companies, which are expected to make savings on import duties of around SFr100 million. Couchepin will sign the document in the presence of the Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo.

His visit to Mexico concludes a six-day tour of Latin America during which he clinched trade deals with Chile and Argentina.

The tour has been hailed as an encouraging sign that EFTA – comprising . Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein -is still an effective economic body.

Couchepin said he was “tired but satisfied” with the outcome of his visit. He added that he appreciated the chance of having face-to-face encounters with government ministers and industry representatives.

In Buenos Aires, Couchepin obtained guarantees from Argentina that it would ratify a double taxation accord with Switzerland in due course. The agreement was signed in 1997.

The Swiss watch-making industry also benefited from the visit. Chile agreed to cut its taxes on luxury goods from 50 to 25 per cent. Argentina followed suit a few days later.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR