The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, says Switzerland has received assurances that Spain will ratify the bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union by Christmas.This content was published on October 23, 2000 - 19:16
"This issue raises no problems," said Couchepin, after holding talks with the Spanish secretary of state for European affairs, Ramon de Miguel, during a two-day visit to Spain.
Only one country, Austria, has so far ratified the accords, but all the other EU states are expected to follow suit by the middle of next year.
Relations between Switzerland and Spain had been strained by differences over one of the seven bilateral treaties, that concerning the free movement of people. But Spain was now ready to proceed with ratification, Couchepin said.
Couchepin's visit to Spain - the first by a Swiss government minister since 1997 - comes amid an upsurge in trade between the two nations.
Last year, Spain was Switzerland's ninth largest trading partner, taking in Swiss exports worth SFr3.4 billion ($1.9 billion). This year trade has continued to grow; at the end of August Swiss exports to Spain had increased by 11.2 per cent, while imports from Spain were up by 17.3 per cent.
"Spain has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years," says economics ministry spokesman, Robin Tickle. He adds that Spain is seen as an excellent platform for investing in Latin America.
Couchepin is due to visit Argentina and Chile in November, and his discussions in Spain are seen as a way of strengthening ties with those countries.
swissinfo with agencies
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