In relations with China, symbols often have a greater importance than details of contracts.
Li Keqiang held his first speech on European in front of the top ranking representatives of the Swiss economy. He campaigned for free trade and cooperation in the financial sector and sent unmistakable signals to Brussels and Washington.
During his first trip to Europe in Switzerland, the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang set a some signs and signals.
First of all, he did not begin his visit with official talks in the Swiss capital Bern, but with a visit to a Swiss cow farm. Li visited Guldenberg family farm in the suburb of Zurich with alphorns, flag-throwing and yodelling – he was warmly welcomed by local residents in a typical traditional way of Switzerland.
Then the Chinese head of government met in Zurich’s Dolder, a top class, luxury and world-famous hotel, a diverse group of business and government representatives for lunch. Li exchanged ideas with various industry representatives during about two hours. The security was remarkably loose and thereby restrained.
Li Keqiang delivered a more or less free speech – in a style clearly different from the last generation of Chinese leadership – with some personal impressions and jokes.
EU slammed for telecom probe
Addressed to the EU political leaders and top representatives in Brussels, Li castigated the initiated anti-dumping proceedings against Chinese solar industry emphasising that the planned measures would “not only cause serious damage to related industries, enterprises and employment in China, but will also hurt the personal interests of users and consumers in Europe.” Li said he hoped the EU would uphold the principles of free trade while keeping China-EU economic and trade relations in mind.
“In the current economic circumstances all countries should strive to support a stable and open international trade environment and be cautious in using trade remedy measures.”
China is the world’s second-largest economy and the EU is its biggest trading partner. However, the balance is largely in China’s favour, with Chinese exports to the EU worth $375 billion in 2012, and EU exports to China, $186 billion.
MoU on Swiss-Sino Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed
In contrast, Switzerland is one of the rare Western countries with a positive trade balance with China, its third-ranked partner after the EU and the United States.
Swiss-Chinese bilateral trade totalled $26.3 billion in 2012, with $22.8 billion of that in Switzerland’s favour. In the first quarter of 2013, Sino-Swiss trade grew 119.7 percent from a year ago.
The non-EU Swiss inked a preliminary FTA accord during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s Swiss visit: applauded by Switzerland’s business sector, the forthcoming Swiss free-trade deal with China is heavy with symbolism, coming as Beijing locks horns with the European Union in a raft of commercial disputes.
The final Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be signed in July, capping two years of talks. The deal covers goods and services, environmental protection, intellectual property protection, market competition and labour protection. Li said tariffs for agricultural products, precision instruments and industrial goods will be cut soon under the agreement. China and Switzerland also agreed to deepen cooperation in financial regulation, macroeconomic policymaking and capital market development.
“This has huge meaning for global free trade,” Li said in Switzerland, explaining that it sends the world “a strong signal about the fight against trade and investment protectionism, as well as the liberalisation and facilitation of trade”.
During his Swiss visit, Li underlined that the Swiss FTA was the first with one of the globe’s 20 leading economies.
China signed its first European FTA last month with non-EU Iceland, and Beijing has pressed the EU for a similar accord.
Tibetan protests calling for human rights protection
During the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in the Swiss capital Bern, the Tibetan community hold a rally but only out of sight of the Federal Square .About 200 members of the Tibetan community in Switzerland demonstrated welcoming the free trade agreement between Switzerland and China, however calling for concrete measures to protect human rights.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) hopes that Switzerland would talk about the human rights situation in China with the Chinese guest. Hundreds of thousands were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, AI said in a letter to Swiss President Ueli Maurer.
The repression in the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet was still large. Even peaceful demonstrations were prohibited. In addition, more people would be executed than in any other country in the world. AI hopes that Switzerland would pledge China “to start the necessary reforms” to ensure “the fundamental rights of Chinese citizens.”Source: Swiss media coverage and personal impressions during my actual stay in Switzerland Related articles:
- China and Switzerland going strong after 60 years (chinadailymail.com)
- Switzerland sees free-trade pact with China in July (xe.com)
- China, Switzerland sign off on preliminary free trade deal (jewishterrorism.com)
- China-Swiss free-trade deal sealed (bbc.co.uk)
- Switzerland sees free-trade pact with China in July (uk.reuters.com)
- Bilateraler Dialog mit Finanzbranche (NZZ, in German)
- China, Switzerland sign MOU on concluding FTA talks (Xinhua)
- ‘Landmark’ Sino-Swiss pact signed (asianewsnet.net)
- Chinese premier’s Swiss tour fruitful, influential (Xinhua)
- China in first Swiss free-trade deal (oddonion.com)
- Tibetan exiles berate Chinese rights record (thelocal.ch)