Switzerland and the European Union today wrapped up negotiations aimed at removing technical barriers to trade for a range of industrial goods. The deal may be a sign that relations are improving between Bern and Brussels.
The agreement, announced by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), involves the mutual recognition of standards for a range of goods in the telecommunications, explosives, and electrics sectors.
Bringing up to date an existing bilateral accordexternal link signed in 2002, the deal takes account of technical changes in both Switzerland and the EU, and will allow the relevant goods to cross the border without having to be certified twice.
Easier market access will reduce costs and increase the competitivity of Swiss exports in Europe, said SECO in a statementexternal link. “It will also contribute to fighting against the Swiss price island by avoiding useless procedures for imports,” it said.
Last year, the 20 sectors in question amounted to over CHF75 billion ($76.3 billion) in exports from Switzerland to the EU, and over CHF70 billion in imports coming the other direction.
The deal comes several months after Swiss President Doris Leuthard and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker promised an “unblocking” of negotiations at all levels.
Following the decision by Swiss voters to approve an initiative against mass immigration in February 2014 – a decision that contravened Swiss-EU commitments to guarantee the free movement of people – bilateral dossiers across the board were frozen.
Today’s news could thus be interpreted as a welcome sign of goodwill, though official sources have yet to comment on the wider implications of the deal.
The EU’s position remains that it wants a comprehensive treaty to supersede the institutional patchwork of bilateral accords that regulate ties between the neighbours. Swiss politicians are wary about such a path.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos