Leuenberger continues diplomatic marathon

Moritz Leuenberger (left) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Keystone

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger spent the second day of the 2006 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos in a series of top-level discussions.

This content was published on January 26, 2006 - 22:51

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss hardly had a quiet day – he resumed the search for a free-trade accord between the United States and Switzerland with US trade representative Rob Portman.

The day after discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf, Leuenberger pushed the Swiss case with the Chinese deputy prime minister, the Turkish and Polish prime ministers and the Nigerian president.

"It's possible to make contacts at the WEF that can't be organised during the rest of the year," Leuenberger said, adding that the Swiss government is very pleased that an event of such importance takes place on a regular basis in Switzerland.


After a miserable year in 2005 for Swiss-Turkish relations, Leuenberger took the opportunity to exchange greetings and points of view with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Both men agreed that economic contacts between the countries should be consolidated, according to a Swiss government spokesman.

At any rate, Leuenberger managed to get closer to a Turkish politician than Joseph Deiss, whose trip to Turkey last year was postponed by Ankara just after the Swiss public prosecutor launched a criminal investigation against a Turkish historian in Switzerland.

The spokesman said that under no circumstances would the two countries allow their "traditionally good relations" to be strained by "open questions" such as the long-standing diplomatic spat over the Armenian genocide and the punch-up between players after Switzerland knocked Turkey out of the football World Cup.

Eastern promise

Leuenberger's meeting with Zeng Peiyan, the Chinese deputy prime minister, took place on Thursday morning amid an atmosphere of possible economic convergence between the two countries.

"We've had very close relations for many years and we have said we would like to intensify them," Leuenberger told swissinfo.

He said both sides had expressed their desire to structure the relationship - possibly through a treaty.

"Many contacts already exist at all levels in all ministries. Setting a common goal of intensifying these contacts would be useful for bilateral negotiations at all levels," Leuenberger said.

The Swiss president's round of talks also included an "exchange of views" with Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz concerning, among other things, the ongoing dispute over the distribution of Switzerland's billion-franc contribution to the the ten new EU member states.

Free trade

Joseph Deiss rolled up his sleeves and returned to talks with US trade representative Rob Portman having said yesterday that it was too early to begin negotiations on a free-trade accord between the two countries.

After the meeting both sides repeated their desire to consolidate their economic ties.

"That was an excellent new beginning," said Deiss, before adding that it was still too soon to talk of a full-blown bilateral treaty.

For his part, Portman said it would be a shame to throw away all the good work that has been made up to now. "Such discussions take time," he said.

Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, sang the praises of a possible Swiss-US free-trade accord. "I hope the politicians will display pragmatism," he said.


Key facts

The five-day WEF meeting is expected to attract 2,340 participants from around 90 countries.
The line-up includes 15 heads of state or government, 60 cabinet ministers, 21 ambassadors, and 65 heads or senior officials of international organisations.
More than 490 participants come from civil society, including 31 heads of non-governmental organisations, 13 union leaders and 23 religious leaders.
5,500 army personnel are being deployed in a SFr8.5 million ($6.75 million) security operation.

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In brief

On the second day of the 2006 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting, Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger met the Chinese deputy prime minister, the Turkish and Polish prime ministers and the Nigerian president.

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss resumed talks with US trade representative Rob Portman in the search for a free-trade accord between the two countries.

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