The Swiss House of Representatives has approved a bill to forge freer trade ties with Mexico, despite strong opposition from the left over the country's human rights record.This content was published on June 5, 2001 - 22:24
The new bilateral agreement, drawn-up within the framework of the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA, will ensure that Switzerland gets more access to Mexican markets, matching the current levels enjoyed by the United States and the European Union.
Mexico is Switzerland's fourth most important trade partner in the Americas, with current exports worth SFr1 billion ($600 million). Closer trade ties would further increase this sum.
Mexico would profit from the waving of duty payments on products such as coffee, bananas and honey.
The left, however, staunchly opposed the motion with their argument focussing upon Mexico's human rights record. They drew specific attention to the war-torn Chiapas region, where the country's indigenous Indians are fighting for better rights.
They subsequently called for a human rights clause to be included in the trade agreement.
The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, rejected their suggestion saying that if such a clause were included in the agreement, Mexico would reject the proposal and the Swiss economy would suffer.
The House was also quick to point out that the new Mexican government led by President, Vincente Fox, had made significant overtures to improve human rights in the country.
The agreement will now go to the Senate to be ratified in mid-June and take effect from July.
swissinfo with agencies
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