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China, Switzerland sign free trade agreement

Updated: 2013-07-06 16:26
( Xinhua)

BEIJING -- China and Switzerland on Saturday signed a free trade agreement (FTA) in Beijing, capping over two years of negotiations and legal processes.

The pact was signed between Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng and Swiss Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann.

It is the first free trade pact inked between China and a country in continental Europe.

Gao described the FTA as a comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial agreement at a news conference held after the signing.

Once the FTA goes into effect, as much as 99.7 percent of Chinese exports to Switzerland will be immediately exempted from tariffs, while 84.2 percent of Swiss exports to China will eventually receive zero tariff.

The scope of tariff reductions under the deal, which will cover 99.99 percent of Swiss exports to China and 96.5 percent of Chinese exports to Switzerland, exceeded the 90-percent level of an average FTA, Gao said.

The deal is also expected to facilitate industrial cooperation between both countries and set new rules in the areas of environment, labor, intellectual property and government procurement, according to Gao.

Schneider-Ammann, head of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, said the FTA will inject vitality into bilateral economic and trade ties.

Under the deal, Swiss enterprises' access to the Chinese market will be better protected on the basis of existing laws, said Schneider-Ammann.

The two sides also noted that before the just-signed FTA can go into effect, some domestic procedures in both countries will need to be completed.

Statistics show that the bilateral trade volume between China and Switzerland reached $26.31 billion in 2012. The figure for the first five months of this year surged to $22.89 billion, 114.2 percent higher than the same period last year.

China is Switzerland's largest trading partner in Asia, while Switzerland is China's eighth-largest trading partner in Europe, according to official Chinese data.