More Innovative Cooperation Between China and Switzerland
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Swiss President Doris Leuthard attended the “Belt and Road ” Forum for International Cooperation ( BRF) in Beijing from May 14 to 15. President Leuthard gave a keynote speech at the forum and had a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sideline of the event. Ahead of the BRF, Ambassador of Switzerland to China, Jean-jacques de Dardel, illustrates on Switzerland’s participation in the “Belt and Road” Initiative and the increasingly dynamic Sino- Swiss relations.
On the “Belt and Road” initiative
Q1: The “Belt and Road” Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was held in Beijing from May 14 to 15. Swiss President Doris Leuthard attended the summit at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Could you please share with us more details?
Jean-jacques de Dardel: Swiss President Doris Leuthard was invited to attend the “Belt and Road” Forum by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to Switzerland in January. I believe our president is among the first heads of state to be invited to the forum. At the forum, President Leuthard gave a keynote speech and attended the Leaders Roundtable discussions. On the sideline of the forum, our two presidents had a bilateral meeting. In addition to that, President Leuthard participated in a tourism event to further promote the Sino-swiss Year of Tourism, the SinoSwiss Business Awards organized by the Swiss Chamber of Commerce Beijing, and the Innofashion event at the Swiss Embassy, a fashion and design event to highlight Swiss and Chinese fashion, design and innovation.
The forum provides an opportunity for various countries to meet in a whole new setting. We hope that this bears the chance to create a new and positive dynamic, where a community of countries can work together on a common aim: increasing connectivity. This of course entails more than mere infrastructure. The “Belt and Road” Initiative has set up five pillars: infrastructure construction, investment and trade cooperation, f inancial cooperation, policy coordination, and promotion of people-to-people exchange. Due to our longstanding expertise in the different pillars, Switzerland can contribute to the initiative in a meaningful way. Suffice to say, with her attendance at the Forum in May, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard, expresses our readiness to do so. Q2: Wha t a r e t h e bus in e s s opportunities for Swiss companies from the “Belt and Road” Initiative, especially for companies engaged in infrastructure, financing and insurance?
Jean-jacques de Dardel: Switzerland welcomes the goal of China“belt and Road”initiative to strengthen the trade
Q3: The bilateral economic and t rade cooperation between China and Switzerland in 2016 has witnessed a historical record with the bilateral trade turnover of CHF 22.12 billion. How do you evaluate the bilateral economic and trade relations between the two countries?
Jean-jacques de Dardel: The Sino-swiss ties are more substantial than ever and bilateral trade and investment has been keeping the good momentum of growing in the past years. Since 2010, China has been Switzerland’s most important trading partner in Asia, the 3rd largest globally after EU and US. The implementation of the Sino- Swiss Free Trade Agreement, China’s first FTA with a continental European count r y, is a major succe ss in particular. Since it entered into force on July 1st 2014, it has created new opportunities for development and investment for both sides, and help Chinese and Swiss exporters save costs substantially.
In summary, bilateral trade between the two countries has increased 6 times since 2000 and the trade volume in 2016 reached 26.8 billion Swiss francs (incl. precious metals). The enhancement process of FTA has been launched during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Switzerland in January.
In terms of investment, Swiss direct investment in China has been growing particularly fast over the past 15 years. Today, more than 800 Swiss companies are present in China, in areas ranging from machinery and equipment, food, textiles, logistics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and the f inancial sector. On the other hand, Chinese investments and Chinese companies active in Switzerland have also been growing.
Mor e o v e r, Swit z e rl and is cu r rent ly posit ioning itsel f as one of the leading centers for the internationalization of the RMB in Europe.
Last but not least, let’s not forget the rising number of Chinese visitors in Switzerland nowadays, which is of significant importance for the Swiss tourism industry. In 2015, Chinese tourists overnight stays in Switzerland came to a record number of over 1.6 million. China now is the 4th source of tourists in Switzerland and the first from Asia. In the Sino-swiss Year of Tourism in 2017, we are expecting more people from Switzerland and China visiting each other’s country. Q4: For Chines e companies i n t e r e s ted i n i n ves t i n g i n Switzerland, what are the favorable business opportunities? What suggestions would you give to Chinese investors for them to do business effectively and to avoid risks?
Jean-jacques de Dardel: It goes without saying that Switzerland is the premium business location in the world. Factors like innovation and technology, liberal economic ecosystem, stable political system, being a gateway to Europe, top-grade education and high-level of workforce, highly developed infrastructure, favorable tax system are the major advantages for foreign companies to relocate to Switzerland.
For Chinese investors, there are a few factors that are of particular appeal. First of all, the political stability. As an investor you would like to look at a stable environment. We also stress our education level, our many languages, the favorable taxation system, f lexibility of the labor force and labor law as well as the very high level of innovation. We also present Switzerland as an excellent platform for reaching the other European markets.
The Free Trade Agreement ( FTA) between Switzerland and China is also pointed out as it is the only FTA signed by China with a continental European country, also one of the top 20 world economies. That agreement provides countless opportunities for investors from both sides.
We would like Chinese investors M