Switzerland and China have launched a feasibility study aimed at drawing up a free trade agreement between the two countries.
The study will examine issues covered by free trade agreements, such as trade in goods and services, investment and other possible areas of cooperation.
Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard said the study would clarify how ambitious the accord should be. "Either we have too many expectations and an accord will take years to sign, or we are ambitious but realistic and negotiations could begin by the end of next year," she said at the launch of the study in Geneva on Monday.
Leuthard and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming both expressed optimism about the outcome of the study.
They noted that two workshops held in Beijing and in Bern earlier this year had shown how the Chinese and Swiss economies were complementary and had raised awareness of the opportunities and challenges for enhanced economic exchange and cooperation under such an agreement.
Leuthard said she was planning two trips to China in 2010 - in February for the free trade agreement study and in August for Expo 2010 Shanghai.
swissinfo.ch and agencies