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Swiss leaders upbeat after talks in US on tax and trade

Obstacles to implementation of a revised double-taxation agreement between Switzerland and the United States may soon be removed, according to Swiss president and finance minister Ueli Maurer.

Maurer was speaking after a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday in Washington, where he is attending the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

The double taxation agreement, designed to meet international standards on the exchange of bank data, has been blocked for ten years by one US Senator, Rand Paul of the Republican Party, but he is now apparently being more flexible.

Maurer said he hoped progress could be made quickly, even though adjustments will need to be made following US tax reforms. He said the agreement would also need to be re-submitted to the Swiss parliament because of the amount of time that had lapsed from when it was first approved.

Also in Washington is economics minister Guy Parmelin, who met with his US counterpart Robert Lightizer to discuss kick-starting negotiations on a free trade deal between the two countries. Previous attempts collapsed in 2006, mainly due to opposition from the Swiss agricultural sector.

Maurer said that the atmosphere at meetings of global finance leaders was more optimistic than last year, despite uncertainties that could have a negative effect on the global economy. These include the debt burden of certain countries, trade tensions between the US and China, tensions between the US and Russia, and Brexit.

Swiss National Bank director Thomas Jordan, also in Washington for the meetings, stressed that it was vital for the US and China to resolve their trade standoff if the IMF’s latest prediction of 3.3% growth for the world economy in 2019 was to be met.