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US-Swiss trade forum to boost bilateral ties

Deiss (right) and Portman during a meeting in Washington last year Keystone Archive

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss has signed an agreement aimed at strengthening trade and investment between Switzerland and United States.

This content was published on May 25, 2006 - 18:49

The joint forum to boost economic relations is seen as a platform to negotiate a free-trade accord with Washington at a later stage after the failure of an initial project earlier this year.

During a ceremony in Washington on Thursday Deiss said the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum was important to maintain the smooth flow of goods, services and investment between the two countries.

"This is essential to facilitate the work of Swiss and US companies. The US is the second largest market for Swiss goods and ranks first as destination for Swiss direct investment," said Deiss.

He described the agreement as a milestone and provided a vision for the future.

"The agreement will strengthen economic ties between Switzerland and the US at a level never reached before," Deiss said.

"Base camp"

He added that the Forum left the door open to resume exploratory talks on a free-trade agreement. "It's like a base camp from where you set out for the summits."

The framework agreement allowed both sides to take up initiatives on trade or investment issues and promote cooperation, according to Deiss.

US trade representative Rob Portman said the agreement underlined the importance of bilateral trade ties.

Agriculture

The Forum will be chaired by a representative of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) and an officer of the US trade representative (USTR). They will shortly draw up a work programme, said the economics ministry in a statement.

The proposal for the Forum was launched in January at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

The announcement came only days after the failure to agree on the terms for negotiations on a free-trade accord amid differences over the trade in agricultural products.

Washington insisted on a fully-fledged deal, while the Swiss government wanted to exclude agriculture in a bid to protect the Swiss farming sector.

The Swiss parliament is due to begin debate on closer trade ties with the US during next month's summer session.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In 2005 Swiss exports to the US grew by 12%, while imports from the US posted a 16.8% growth.
The US is the second most important destination for Swiss exports behind Germany.
Swiss investments in the US reached SFr85 billion ($69.8 billion) last year, while US investment in Switzerland stood at SFr90 billion.
Switzerland is the sixth biggest foreign investor on the US market and the fourth most important destination for US investment abroad.

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