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Leuthard wants free trade with Hong Kong

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard on Friday discussed the possibility of a free-trade accord with Hong Kong, having just signed a similar agreement with Japan.

Leuthard held talks with Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, Hong Kong's state secretary for trade and economic development, before flying back to Switzerland. Both agreed that they wanted a free-trade accord as soon as possible, said Evelyn Kobelt of Switzerland's economics ministry.

Whether Switzerland would draft such an accord alone or in conjunction with other nations in the European Free Trade Association (Efta) remained open.

A delegation of Efta trade experts plans to travel to Hong Kong in May, and the decision will be reached in summer, Kobelt said.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region buys about SFr6.2 billion ($5.24 billion) worth of Swiss goods each year. In return, Switzerland buys products and services from Hong Kong to the value of about SFr1.4 billion.

Switzerland has also expressed interest in a free-trade agreement with China, its fourth-largest trading partner after the European Union, the United States and Japan.

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