China, Switzerland sign free trade agreement

BEIJING Sat Jul 6, 2013 5:17am EDT

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng (R) toasts with Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann in front of the national flags of Switzerland (L) and China after signing a free-trade agreement at China's Ministry of Commerce in Beijing July 6, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng (R) toasts with Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann in front of the national flags of Switzerland (L) and China after signing a free-trade agreement at China's Ministry of Commerce in Beijing July 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/China Daily

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Switzerland on Saturday signed a free trade agreement in Beijing - a move that came amid escalating tensions between Asia's economic giant and the European Union.

The pact followed China's signing in April of its first free trade accord with a European economy, non-EU member Iceland. Saturday's deal, however, marked the first with an economy in continental Europe.

China's commerce minister Gao Hucheng and Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann inked the bilateral agreement in a ceremony in China's capital city.

According to government news agency Xinhua, Gao described its free-trade agreement with Switzerland as a comprehensive and mutually beneficial pact that should contribute to increased trade between the two economies.

Xinhua said 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, the agency said.

Saturday's free-trade signing came just days after the Chinese government formally began an investigation into whether Europe is selling wine in China below cost, a response to heightened trade tensions with the European Union.

EU officials have said China is only targeting the EU wine industry in retaliation for a dispute with the European Union over cheap Chinese solar panels.

(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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Comments (1)
MikeBarnett wrote:
China has beaten the US in signing a free trade agreement with Europe. If the US free trade agreement with South Korea that took 19 years for US ratification is indicative, the US may need 513 years (27 x 19) to ratify any EU agreement. In addition, the Snowden revelations about US spying on the EU will cause some delays.

Switzerland’s trade with China was $26.31 billion in 2012 and is on track to reach $54.94 billion, a 109% increase in 2013. I have often pointed out that China has been increasing its trade with small lands to make up for the recession in the EU and the sluggish growth in the US, China’s biggest and 2nd biggest trade partners. If China grows its trade at these rates in 150 small countries, China will not need the US and EU for China to prosper, but China will continue trade in the two areas anyway.

Jul 06, 2013 5:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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