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Saturday, January 14, 2017, 09:58

Beijing, Bern push for open economy

By Fu Jing in Bern and An Baijie in Beijing

Beijing, Bern push for open economy

President Xi Jinping and his Swiss counterpart, Doris Leuthard, have both expressed strong political will to advocate an open economy and oppose protectionism, shortly before Xi's arrival in Switzerland.

Xi published a signed article on Friday in Neue Zuercher Zeitung, a leading Swiss daily newspaper, in which he spoke highly of Switzerland's support for internationalization of the renminbi, its participation in the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and mutual visa exemption for diplomatic passport holders.

"We may actively explore the possibility of upgrading the Free Trade Agreement and set a good example of promoting a free and open international trade and investment system," Xi said in the article.

China will continue to be a huge market supporting world economic growth, a hot destination for foreign investment and a contributor to the well-being of people around the world, Xi wrote.

Leuthard, the Swiss Confederation president, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily on Thursday that Xi shares her philosophy that openness and inclusiveness are necessary to bring win-win results for the countries.

"Only openness and an open economy can have better results, and nowadays we cannot avoid going global," Leuthard said in Bern, the Swiss capital.

"We fight against protectionism, and President Xi shares the same values and philosophy."

Leuthard revealed that during Xi's stay in Switzerland from January 15 to 18, the two countries will send strong signals to drum up global cooperation and fight closed-door policies.

Xi is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos and visit other international organizations after the state visit.

"I think many countries are on our side, and they know cooperation is much better than isolationism and protectionism," Leuthard said.

She also said that both countries will announce an upgrade to their free trade agreement, which took effect in July 2014 and helped waive the majority of tariffs in two-way trade.

We fight against protectionism, and President Xi shares the same values and philosophy

Doris Leuthard, Swiss President

Leuthard said both sides have decided to reduce or eliminate more tariffs to facilitate trade flow.

She also noted challenges in the global financial market and the economy of Switzerland, the seventh-largest financial market in the world.

She added that she was "keen to learn" Xi's views on the challenges.

She also said both sides will deepen cooperation in the energy sector after already having reached agreements dealing with environmental problems.

"I know pollution is quite severe in China and that's also why we want to share our experiences and technologies in expanding cooperation in energy and environment," she said.

Noting that some urban regions of China still rely on coal burning for heating, she said affordable replacements and technologies already exist. "It is not about cost but adapting to changes," she said.

Both sides will also proclaim 2017 as the year of Sino-Swiss tourism promotion, and the Swiss president said that due to China's rising middle class, more tourists will stay in Switzerland longer.

"We are pleased that many Chinese people buy Swiss watches during their stay here as well," she said.

Leuthard, who visited China in August, took over from Johann N. Schneider-Ammann as Swiss president on Jan 1.

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