Sino-Swiss trade talks stalled over rights issues, newspaper reports say

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Sunday, May 29, 2022 10:40 p.m. GMT

GENEVA, May 29 – Switzerland’s efforts to renew its free trade agreement with China have stalled as Bern takes a more critical view of Beijing’s human rights record, reported today. Swiss newspapers today.

Switzerland and China signed a free trade agreement in 2013, Beijing’s first such deal with a mainland European economy. The move has been called a mutually beneficial pact aimed at helping to increase trade between the two economies.

Switzerland has attempted to update the agreement to extend tariff reductions to more Swiss products and to expand the agreement to include sustainability elements. However, Beijing is not committing, according to the newspapers.

“So far, it has not been possible to agree on a common list of topics that should be explored in greater depth,” the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said in a statement. to SonntagsBlick newspaper.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of working hours on Sunday.

NZZ am Sonntag, under the title “The Chinese Impasse”, said Switzerland had become more critical of China’s human rights record.

A Swiss parliamentary initiative recently adopted by the National Council’s legal affairs committee denounced the forced labor of Uyghurs in northwest China as “a real problem”.

Western states and rights groups accuse Xinjiang authorities of detaining and torturing Uyghurs and other minorities in camps. Beijing denies the charges and describes the camps as vocational training centers to fight religious extremism.

Jean-Philippe Kohl, head of economic policy at business association Swissmem, told NZZ am Sonntag that Switzerland should pursue quiet diplomacy over China’s human rights record.

“If we, as a small economy, constantly point fingers at China, nothing will change except that the relationship will eventually break down,” he told the newspaper. —Reuters

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