China and Switzerland expressed willingness on Wednesday to officially launch negotiations on upgrading a bilateral free trade agreement, or FTA, as soon as possible, and to continue cooperation in areas including finance, science and innovation, climate change and winter sports.
Both sides are satisfied with the completion of the joint feasibility study of the upgrade of the FTA, according to a Foreign Ministry readout issued after the third round of China-Switzerland Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue, held in Beijing.
The China-Switzerland FTA was signed in 2013 and came into effect in 2014, making it Beijing's first such agreement with a country in continental Europe.
In the dialogue between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis, the two ministers pledged to continue to respect each other's core interests and major concerns, to respect each other's systems and development paths, and to consolidate the political foundation of bilateral relations.
They also discussed enhancing strategic mutual trust, pragmatic cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and multilateral coordination and pushing forward the China-Switzerland innovative strategic partnership.
Switzerland is China's sixth-largest trading partner in Europe, while Beijing remains Zurich's third-largest trading partner.
From January to November 2023, the volume of bilateral trade reached $53.44 billion, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Wang said that China hopes Switzerland will provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese enterprises operating in the country.
Cassis appreciates China's openness, saying his country always supports free trade and opposes protectionism.
Noting that Switzerland was one of the first western countries to recognize and develop relations with China, Cassis said that differences between the two countries will not affect bilateral cooperation, with ties between the two nations remaining solid and strong.
As China and Switzerland are in preparations for the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, and the China-Switzerland Year of Culture and Tourism in 2025, Cassis said that he welcomes Chinese tourists and will also facilitate visas for Chinese citizens, as well as Chinese enterprises investing in Switzerland. Last month, China announced a visa-free policy for citizens of Switzerland.
In a media conference after the dialogue, Cassis said that next year might be a good chance to sign the upgraded FTA, when the two countries celebrate the 75th anniversary, so as to better promote bilateral ties and trade cooperation.
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