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The renewal of the Switzerland-China free trade agreement on “ice” due to human rights issues

Switzerland’s efforts to renew its free trade agreement with China have stalled as Bern becomes more critical of the human rights situation in China, Swiss newspapers reported on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Switzerland and China signed a free trade agreement in 2013, Beijing’s first such agreement with a continental European economy. The move was described as a mutually beneficial pact aimed at boosting trade between the two economies.

Switzerland is seeking to update the agreement to extend tariff reductions to more Swiss products and to extend the agreement to include sustainability features. However, Beijing is not committed to such an agreement, the newspapers reported.

“So far we have not been able to agree on a common list of issues that need to be explored in more depth,” the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) told SonntagsBlick.

NZZ am Sonntag, entitled “The Chinese impasse”, said that Switzerland has become more critical of human rights in China.

A Swiss parliamentary initiative recently voted on by the National Council’s Legal Affairs Committee denounced Uighur forced labor in northwest China as a “real problem”.

Western states and rights groups have accused Xinjiang authorities of holding and torturing Uighurs and other minorities in camps. Beijing denies the allegations and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.

Jean-Philippe Kohl, head of economic policy at the Swissmem industrial association, told NZZ am Sonntag that Switzerland should pursue silent diplomacy on China’s human rights.

“If we, as a small economy, constantly point the finger at China, nothing will change, except that relations will eventually collapse,” he told the newspaper.

Source: Capital

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