A delegation of Swiss business leaders and scientists is on a week-long trip to China in a bid to boost ties with the country.
The visit, during what has been designated "Swiss Innovation Week", is intended to give Swiss business a foothold in the Chinese market, which is progressively becoming more open to foreign firms since Beijing joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) last year.
Welcoming the delegation at an official ceremony, the Chinese deputy minister for foreign trade, Wei Jangua, said Switzerland was an ideal trading partner for China.
"We have a large market, a large labour force, and we are experiencing rapid growth. Switzerland, on the other hand, has all the necessary know-how, both in the industrial sphere [machinery and pharmaceuticals] and in services [insurance and finance]."
For their part, the Swiss delegation, led by two top government officials, kicked off the visit by granting a series of loans worth SFr20 million ($ million) for projects aimed at protecting the environment. The projects will be carried out using Swiss technology and equipment.
"This is an investment - the fifth in a series - which is fully in keeping with the Kyoto Protocol [on cutting greenhouse gas emissions]," said David Syz, the number two at the Swiss economics ministry.
He also urged his Chinese hosts to sign up to Kyoto "without delay", saying it would pave the way for future collaborative ventures between the two countries.
For the rest of the visit, the delegates will be making contacts with relevant government officials, research centres, universities and Swiss companies already active in China.
They are also scheduled to attend seminars on biotechnology, the environment and public transport.
In an interview with swissinfo on the eve of the trip, Syz said there was "huge potential" over the next decade for Swiss investment in China's pharmaceutical industry and public transportation.
"We won't be able to invest in the [transportation] infrastructure itself because this is still a national market, but we can provide technology like carriages and locomotives and we could get involved in the design of the entire system."
The government's head of science, Charles Kleiber, who is also accompanying the delegation said he was hoping to encourage Chinese doctoral students to come to Switzerland. "If they go to the United States, why not to Switzerland? It's a matter of providing the [right] conditions."
by Marzio Pescia, Beijing
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