外文标题：China, Switzerland sign free trade agreement
BEIJING: China and Switzerland today signed a free trade agreement (FTA) — Beijing's first in continental Europe — in a deal that comes against a backdrop of trade tensions between the Asian giant and the European Union (EU).
Chinese commerce minister Gao Hucheng and Swiss economy minister Johann Schneider-Ammann inked the accord in a ceremony at the commerce ministry in Beijing before officials and reporters.
Afterwards, they clinked glasses of champagne in celebration of the agreement, which aims to increase the USD 26.3 billion in bilateral trade they recorded in 2012.
China in April signed its first FTA with a European country — non-EU member Iceland — but Saturday's deal marks the first with an economy in mainland Europe.
Switzerland ranked as the world's 19th-largest economy in 2012, according to the World Bank. China is the world's second-biggest.
"This free trade agreement has an important significance for the relationship between the two countries," Schneider-Ammann told AFP after today's signing ceremony.
He noted that China is the world's single biggest developing market with potential for a growing middle-class.
Fiercely independent Switzerland is not a member of the EU and even waited decades to join the United Nations.
Nonetheless, it is an economic heavyweight known for high-value luxury goods such as its world famous watches and as a financial centre.
Switzerland mainly sells watches, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, as well as machinery to China, which ships mostly textiles and machinery back to Switzerland.
Unlike most western countries, Switzerland enjoys a huge trade surplus with China to the tune of USD 22.8 billion last year.
Switzerland and China had signed a preliminary FTA agreement in May during a visit to the landlocked European nation by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Schneider-Ammann said the deal is also important for hedging risks.
"We get a chance to spread out the risk of the Swiss economy a little bit over the borders of our European neighbourhood," he said. "It has a great importance."
The EU economy has experienced serious turmoil over the past several years in the wake of the global financial crisis and due to sovereign debt instability that engulfed Greece and other member states including Spain, Italy and Portugal.
The 28-member bloc and China have jousted over mutual claims of unfair trade practices in sectors including Chinese solar panels and European wine, leading to worries that the dispute could spiral out of control.
COLORFULBANDHA (Milkyway Galaxy)
good to see asia making such agreements with west.
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There goes the Swiss economy! Kiss your local economy goodbye! Get ready to wear cheap Chinese watches!!!
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So Switzerland becomes the first dumping ground of cheap low quality products in the EU zone! US owes trillions in debt to China due to the free trade policy. Hope other EU countries will not follow the suite. Looks like the Swiss minister fell for the champagne without understanding what is mixed in it!!
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colinyujotang (Canada) replies to ekdesi
Dude, China and the States has no such free trade agreement, where did you get your info? You are telling me the Americans can't do better to pitch sales to the Chinese when smaller countries like Germany and Switzerland can(Both enjoy trade surpluses with China).
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Syed Rashid Mustafa (Unknown)
China can't be trusted, beware of dragon.
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Shankar Menon (Bahrain)
Swiss will enjoy the taste of substandard chinese produt
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China to Swiss: high-tech, low-tech, everything in-between. India to Swiss: 2G, CWG, Coalgate and Airgate black money
Billion $ Massage (Mumbai)
What is the need for any pact at all, Chini bhail Any trade with China always mean a oneway free flooding of contraband Chinese goods into the other country until all their foreign exchange is stolen. Then it is time to look at the next victim.
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Brown American (USA)
Very smart move by both the countries. Switzerland will have access to China market which could be the destination of luxury items and for depositing funds in Swiss banks. I must commend the Swiss for striking this deal.