Strong, long-stand­ing Sino-swiss ties

Bi­lat­eral links cel­e­brated on Switzer­land’s national day, re­ports

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS -

On the 122nd an­niver­sary of Swiss National Day, Salome Meyer, Charge d’Af­faires of the Swiss Em­bassy in Bei­jing, talked about the coun­try and its ties with China in an in­ter­view with China Daily.

Since 1891, Aug 1 has been cel­e­brated as Swiss National Day. The date marks the found­ing of the me­di­ae­val Swiss Con­fed­er­a­tion by the three can­tons of Uri, Sch­wyz and Un­ter­walden on that date in 1291, Meyer said.

Men from the three can­tons swore eter­nal al­le­giance to one an­other, promis­ing mu­tual help and as­sis­tance.

The al­liance was mainly formed to op­pose the Hab­s­burgs, who were striv­ing to strengthen their po­si­tion in the strate­gic re­gion.

The Swiss have a rep­u­ta­tion as hard work­ing, prag­matic and in­no­va­tive peo­ple, said the charge d’af­faires, not­ing “we share th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics with the Chi­nese peo­ple”.

Switzer­land was one of the first Western coun­tries to rec­og­nize the New China when they es­tab­lished of­fi­cial diplo­matic re­la­tions in Jan­uary 1950.

Over the years, re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries have been strength­ened and the co­op­er­a­tion has deep­ened and ex­panded in a vast ar­ray of ar­eas.

In 2007, Switzer­land was also among the first coun­tries to rec­og­nize China as a full mar­ket econ­omy.

To­day China is the largest eco­nomic part­ner for Switzer­land in Asia and its third­biggest in the world fol­low­ing the United States and the Euro­pean Union.

And in that bi­lat­eral trade, non-EU mem­ber Switzer­land has main­tained a bal­ance sheet in its fa­vor for many years.

Ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese statis­tics, trade vol­ume be­tween China and Switzer­land reached $ 26.31 bil­lion in 2012 and $22.89 bil­lion in the first five months of this year.

The high­light of 2013 has been sign­ing of a free trade agree­ment be­tween the two coun­tries.

“This agree­ment was con­cluded af­ter only two years and nine rounds of ne­go­ti­a­tions and will bring sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments for both part­ners,” said the charge d’af­faires.

The FTA deal cov­ers goods and ser­vices as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, em­ploy­ment, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the FTA, both par­ties agree to lower tar­iffs — some­times to zero — on the ma­jor­ity of prod­ucts to fur­ther en­cour­age trade.

“The agree­ment will boost the bi­lat­eral trade and in­vest­ment and will be ben­e­fi­cial for bi­lat­eral re­la­tions as a whole,” said Meyer.

Ed­u­ca­tion, cul­ture and in­no­va­tion are par­tic­u­lar fields of co­op­er­a­tion, she said.

“Be­yond the in­ter­state ex­changes, in­creased ac­tiv­ity on a per­sonal level, the peo­pleto-peo­ple con­tact, will grow,” she added.

The num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors to Switzer­land sur­passed 600,000 in 2012, a new record high.

And there is also a sharp rise in high-level vis­its from both coun­tries. Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang vis­ited Switzer­land in May as his first Euro­pean des­ti­na­tion af­ter he took of­fice in March.

China has been the des­ti­na­tion for four out of seven of Switzer­land’s min­is­ters. Last month Swiss Pres­i­dent Ueli Mau­rer vis­ited China to meet Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pre­mier Li.

“And we are ex­pect­ing fur­ther min­is­te­rial and high­level vis­its in the sec­ond half of this year,” said the diplo­mat.

“So many Swiss min­is­ters have never trav­eled to China within one year only.” Con­tact the writer at zhouwa@chi­nadaily.com.cn

ALEXAN­DER F. YUAN / AP

Swiss Pres­i­dent Ueli Mau­rer re­views an honor guard dur­ing a visit to Bei­jing in July.

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