Switzerland and China renew effort to reach WTO accord

Swiss China WTO graphic

Talks between Berne and Beijing resumed in Geneva on Monday, in an effort to reach an accord on China's application to join the World Trade Organisation.

This content was published on September 18, 2000

Switzerland is one of the last countries to negotiate a deal with China, which focused first on securing agreements with its biggest trading partners, the United States, Japan and the European Union.

The Sino-Swiss talks began a year ago, with Beijing hoping to conclude them by the end of September. After high-level talks in China last week, the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, said he expected the latest round of negotiations in Geneva to bring progress.

The deputy head of the Swiss office for international trade accords, Luzius Wasescha, said the outstanding issues were in the fields of financial services and tourism.

"There are many questions in the field of services where it is quite tricky to find a formulation which takes into account the defensive interests of China and the offensive interests of Switzerland," Wasescha told swissinfo.

He said Switzerland was particularly keen to negotiate licensing agreements for Swiss insurers in China, after Brussels secured such concessions for EU insurers earlier this year.

In tourism, Berne wants the same right to promote Switzerland in China as China has in Switzerland.

Wasescha said the atmosphere of the talks has been "businesslike". Swiss officials said last week's discussions in Beijing were proceeding "carefully", although the Chinese prime minister, Zhu Rongji, was more forthright at one point, urging the Swiss to show greater flexibility.

"We have made proposals on all open questions," said Wasescha, "and we are awaiting the Chinese response. It is only on the basis of the Chinese response that we can then assess whether we need additional flexibility or not."

Last year, Swiss trade with China reached SFr2.8 billion. About one third was accounted for by Swiss exports to China, with imports amounting to SFr1.8 billion.

Bilateral trade continued to grow in the first six months of 2000 with exports to China up by 43 per cent compared to the same period last year, and imports up 33 per cent.

swissinfo with agencies

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