China, Switzerland to hold FTA talks next year: state media

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China and Switzerland are expected to start negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) next year, state media reported Monday, citing the Swiss president.

The two nations signed a memorandum of understanding last week to close a feasibility study on the pact, which started in November last year, the Financial News said.

Swiss President Doris Leuthard, who ended a six-day working visit to China on Sunday, said formal talks on the agreement were expected to begin at the beginning of 2011, the report said.

Leuthard said all areas had been covered in the feasibility study.

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the country had "enormous demand" for Swiss products relating to environmental protection, energy conservation and emissions reduction, according to a statement on the ministry's website.

Chen did not give a specific time for the start of talks, saying only he hoped they would begin "as soon as possible".

China is Switzerland's second-largest trade partner in Asia while Switzerland is a key capital and technology exporter to China, the newspaper said.

Bilateral trade jumped 127 percent on-year in the first half of 2010, and Swiss investment in China increased 25 percent last year to 300 million dollars despite the global downturn, according to Chinese official data.

© 2010 AFP

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