The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, says co-operation within the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation needs to be reinforced. He was speaking in Zurich at the annual meeting of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce.
"The outcome, or rather the non-outcome of the Seattle conference has made it clear that an enhanced dialogue on this question has become all the more important," he said.
"It is essential for our economies to continue to join forces in order to fight protectionist pressures and to promote and to practice continued liberalisation of trade and investment," he added.
Couchepin said the failure of Seattle had to be taken seriously and it was important to reaffirm the commitment for open markets.
He said the WTO faced several significant challenges, including implementation of WTO agreements, negotiations on services and agriculture, and building consensus for the launching of a new round of negotiations.
"It is very important for the WTO to succeed in meeting these challenges and Switzerland is ready to contribute very vigorously toward that aim," he said.
Couchepin also said that Switzerland strongly supported China's accession to the WTO.
"The opening of the Chinese market to foreign products and services which has taken place since the early 1990s has been closely linked with China's economic reforms, accession process to GATT and then to the WTO. This will continue with WTO accession and bring significant advantages to our business community," he added.
Referring more specifically to Swiss-US ties, Couchepin said that the new century still offered many opportunities for partnership and business in trade and investment between Switzerland and the United States.
"I wish to pay tribute to the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce and to its members for their efforts to encourage even closer economic ties between the two countries," he said.
swissinfo with agencies