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Swiss National Council Waves Through FTA With China

by Ulrika Lomas, Lowtax.net, Brussels
12 December, 2013

The Swiss National Council has adopted the free trade agreement (FTA) between Switzerland and China by 130 votes to 56.

Given that the bilateral accord represents a major opportunity for the Confederation and for the Swiss economy, lawmakers finally swept aside human rights concerns, refusing to return the treaty to the Federal Council for renegotiation, as advocated by the Socialist Party (SP) and by the Green Party.

Proponents of the treaty argued that the free trade agreement with China offers numerous commercial advantages for Switzerland, noting that the provisions will improve access to Swiss goods and services for the large and rapidly expanding Chinese market, while at the same time strengthening intellectual protection.

In contrast, opponents of the accord invoked ethical and environmental reasons for rejecting the text. Others made clear the significant advances that China has made "in the right direction" over the course of the last few years, insisting that a generation ago such an agreement would simply have been unthinkable, and maintaining that ultimately trade agreements are not the right instruments with which to impose human rights and environmental standards on China.

China is the main importer of Swiss industrial goods in Asia, and the third main importer of Swiss products internationally, behind the European Union and the US. In 2012, Switzerland exported CHF7.8bn (USD8.8bn) worth of goods to China, while Chinese imports reached CHF10.3bn. According to Swiss Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann, this growth is expected to continue in the years to come.

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