Chinese, Swiss leaders look to upgrade free trade partnership

By Fu Jing in Bern, Switzerland | | Updated: 2016-12-13 01:33

Chinese, Swiss leaders look to upgrade free trade partnership

Visiting Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with his Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday. [Fu Jing/China Daily]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday that he has agreed with Swiss leaders that China and Switzerland are determined to upgrade their free trade partnership and oppose any form of protectionism.

"Facing a global situation which features the rise of conflicts, wars and uncertainties, China and Switzerland are determined to make our ties as stabilizing factor in international relations," Wang told reporters when he wrapped up two-day visit in Switzerland.

"While the trends of protectionism are picking up, we will take advantage of the chance to upgrade our free trade partnership to send active signals over maintaining the global trade system."

On Monday, Wang met the President of the Swiss Confederation, Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, who will be replaced by Doris Leuthard from the beginning of 2017. Both visited China in 2016.

Wang has also held talks with his Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday.

The talks happened after the foreign minister’s Sunday meetings with Michael Moller, director-general of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization and Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympics Committee based in Lausanne.

Regarding to the rise of protectionism, Wang recalled that Switzerland was the first country in the West to recognize China's market economy status. Currently, up to 100 countries have done so while some members of World Trade Organization, including the United States and Japan, have refused to do so.

Wang made the comments as China's 15-year transitional period of World Trade Organization accession expired on Sunday. The WTO accession protocol stipulates that after the transitional period, China should be given full market economy status when dumping prices of exports are calculated.

Schneider-Ammann said Switzerland attached great importance to the Sino-Swiss relationship and his country has benefited greatly from China's development over the previous decades.

"The Sino-Swiss relationship is excellent and both sides have implemented fruitful cooperation in various areas," said Schneider-Ammann.

"I hope both sides will substantially implement the innovation strategic partnership and jointly maintain the free trade system."

Schneider-Ammann paid a state visit to China in April and entered into agreement with President Xi Jinping to set up strategic partnership of innovation. During the meeting, Switzerland also became an observer country in the partnership between China and sixteen Central and East European countries.

When meeting Wang on Monday, Didier Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said China and Switzerland have set examples on how to establish a win-win partnership by ironing out differences in political and social systems.

"Swiss side is willing to deepen cooperation with China to explore innovation and maintain the global free trade system," said Burkhalter.

Burkhalter added that his country will also work closely with China in various multilateral areas to become stabilizing factors of the complicated global situation.

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