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Leuthard in China Swiss president attends ‘Silk Road’ summit

Swiss President Doris Leuthard with Li Jinzao, head of China's National Tourism Administration, and some tourism-promoting friends at the Great Wall.

(Keystone)

In addition to discussing energy and free trade during her visit to Beijing this weekend, Swiss President Doris Leuthard officially represented her country at the first international forum for a billion-dollar international Chinese trade initiative.

Leuthard attended the project’s first international summit in Beijing on Sunday, along with some 30 other heads of state from around the world.

Officially known as the “Belt and Road Initiative,” the ambitious project was launched in 2013 by Chinese president Xi Jinping, and aims to resurrect the ancient trade route that facilitated commercial exchange between Europe and Asia.

The updated version is named for a network of both terrestrial (‘belt’) and ocean (‘road’) trade routes connecting over 50 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The project will involve significant investments in infrastructure such as railways, autoroutes, ports and industrial parks in these regions.

The Chinese president pledged $124 billion (CHF124.1 billion) toward the project at the summit, which ends Monday, plus supplementary funding for the Silk Road Fund and development aid for organisations in countries along the route.

Trade, energy, and tourism

Upon her arrival in China on Saturday, Leuthard was greeted by the Chinese president, with whom she discussed energy and free trade. The leaders also focused on financial issues, particularly the opening up of markets, as well as the development of transport infrastructure and digitisation.

Several agreements were signed between Swiss and Chinese institutions in the context of 2017 as the “Year of Swiss-Chinese Tourism”, although no further details were given.

Leuthard and the Swiss delegation also visited the Great Wall with China’s tourism minister.

As Switzerland’s energy minister, Leuthard also met her Chinese counterpart Nur Bekri. A roadmap was completed for cooperation on energy issues between the two countries, according to a Swiss government spokesman.

Also present in the Swiss delegation was canton Geneva government member Pierre Maudet, who signed an accord with the COFCO – a company in the agriculture and food sector that has plans to establish its headquarters in Geneva. It’s a move that is expected to create some 150 new jobs.

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swissinfo.ch and agencies/cl

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