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Switzerland sweetens trade deal as top officials travel for EFTA talks

Outlook India | 21 February 2023

Switzerland sweetens trade deal as top officials travel for EFTA talks

by PTI

Switzerland has offered to make some concessions as it seeks to put talks on the India-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) trade deal on the fast track, hoping to seal it this year as the two countries celebrate 75 years of their friendship treaty.

The European Free Trade Association is a free trade area between four countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland — and the trade deal negotiations have lingered on for over 15 years.

Helene Budliger, the State Secretary in the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs and Niklaus Samuel Gugger, the Indian-origin member of the Swiss Parliament, are travelling to India for meetings with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, their second meeting in three weeks to push for an early conclusion of the negotiations on the trade deal.

Officials said there are three sticking points in the trade talks – migration issues, intellectual property rights and healthcare.

Top representatives of Novartis and Roche, leading Swiss companies are also travelling with Budliger.

"Switzerland, as part of EFTA, is keen to conclude a long-term free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with success and this is my top priority. There is a great potential in the economic relationship with India and EFTA countries, in particular Switzerland," Budliger told a delegation of visiting Indian journalists here.

"It is a negotiation. It will be difficult to talk about concessions. Just to say I have the mandate to push forward with these negotiations," she said.

"I do hope we can better our offer very soon," Budliger said, hoping that the negotiations will be more dynamic soon.

"With minister Goyal, we have given us a timeframe because we are currently celebrating 75 years of the friendship treaty. So the timeframe we have given is this year. And hopefully, we will reach the finishing line, Budliger said.

"Our wish would be a comprehensive trade deal so it is a win-win negotiation. The other side must also be willing to go for a comprehensive trade bill. But that for us would be our ideal outcome," Budliger said.

Budliger assumed office six months back and met Goyal on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Indonesia last year.

The two leaders had agreed to put the FTA negotiations on the fast track. The Swiss President is also scheduled to visit India in August this year.

 source: Outlook India