Sino-Swiss FTA Pushes Bilateral Relations to New Heights

China Today: What specific benefits will the two nations’ citizens enjoy?

David Braun: There will be substantial tariff reductions. This means that Chinese people will be able to buy Swiss products for less. The same applies to the Swiss, who are already in the habit of buying Chinese commodities. About 99.7 percent of China’s exports to Switzerland and 84.2 percent of Swiss exports to China will be tax exempt. There will also be a 99.99 percent tax-reduction on Swiss products and a 96.5 percent tax reduction on those from China. Both nations’ citizens hence stand to reap considerable benefits.


China Today: What influence does the FTA have as regards promoting China-Europe economic ties?

David Braun: Although not a member of the European Union (EU), Switzerland, at the center of Europe, is an excellent location for business operations. The FTA between China and Switzerland constitutes China’s first step towards markets on the European continent. Switzerland’s FTA with the EU will give Chinese businesses greater access to them. Switzerland is consequently the perfect choice for Chinese enterprises looking to expand their business to Europe.


China Today: What is the FTA’s role in bilateral investment?

David Braun: That of enhancing security in both sides’ economic activities. We already have an investment agreement, referred to in the FTA, which affords greater security for both Chinese and Swiss companies. Also of importance is the FTA’s substantial chapter on intellectual property – a matter of growing significance for the investment decisions of companies in both Switzerland and China.


China Today: What is the FTA’s role in promoting technical and service trades?

David Braun: Among the FTA’s chapters are those dealing with technical barriers to trade (TBT), and also sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS). Although technical, these barriers are nonetheless extremely important, as many consist not of tariffs but rather regulations. Our FTA will enable us to streamline cooperation and facilitate trade unhampered by regulations that Switzerland and China respectively impose on imports. Besides the FTA, the two countries have concluded four additional agreements, namely on telecommunications equipment, certification/accreditation, SPS, and measuring equipment and apparatus. Resolving technical details will enable smoother conduct of the relevant trades. These auxiliary agreements are consequently of great importance to Chinese and Swiss companies.

As to service trades, the agreement provisions are based on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The rules of the agreement apply to all measures affecting trade in services taken at central, regional or local government levels, and by non-governmental bodies enacting these roles. China and Switzerland use this multilateral WTO agreement as a basis, but have gone beyond even those stipulated in their bilateral FTA in making commitments on specific issues. China, for example, now has improved access to environmental services, financial services, air transport services, logistic services and short-term contractual services. Switzerland, meanwhile, has greater access to Chinese providers of financial services, private sector training services (Chinese language in particular), air transport services, and to highly qualified providers of short-term contractual services.


China Today: Besides cargo and service trades, the FTA promotes new rules regarding, for example, the environment, labor and employment cooperation and intellectual property. These are hot topics in current international economic and trade negotiations. Under an open and inclusive approach, China and Switzerland have reached certain consensuses. How do these new rules promote the Sino-Swiss relationship and development of bilateral economic and trade?

David Braun: Both countries are agreed on the principle that economic development, social development and environmental protection are mutually supportive elements vital to sustainable development. Of all the FTAs that China has signed with other countries, this is the first that includes a chapter on environmental issues. It is hence an important milestone for both countries. Through it we reaffirm our commitment to promoting economic development and bilateral trade in a way that contributes to sustainable development, and also to bringing into effect the multilateral environmental agreements that both countries have signed. Moreover, Switzerland and China have a number of successful bilateral environmental protection projects, ranging from tackling climate change, clean air legislation, low carbon cities, sustainability standards, and a working group on environmental technology cooperation. Since we have a long-standing relationship in this regard, there is much we can learn from each other.

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