This Year Marks the 70th Anniversary of the establishment for the bilateral relationship between China and Switzerland. Had an interview with President of the Swiss National Council Isabelle Moret (Moret).
Moret visited China in January during which she discussed a range of topics with Chinese leaders and visited some Swiss Enterprises based in China.
Host: During the Second Belt & Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019, Switzerland and China signed an MOU. For Switzerland, what does BRI mean? What challenges or opportunities will it offer or present to Switzerland? What roles can Switzerland play in BRI?
Moret: The BRI entails the big potential of major economic development through its path. Switzerland being an exporting economy, the BRI offers Swiss companies opportunities for potential cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, financial and professional services, advanced manufacturing, transport and logistics.
Sustainability is a key challenge for BRI. Switzerland can play a positive role by sharing its expertise in topics as sustainable finance and in the dissemination of the highest possible standards.
In this regard, the MOU signed by Switzerland and China during the Second Belt & Road Forum for International Cooperation in April 2019 foresees the creation of a joint capacity building platform.
Host: What are your observations of the business environment in China? As the world’s second-largest economy, China’s consumption upgrade is a hot topic. What unique opportunities might benefit Swiss companies?
Moret: Among the 108 export destinations, China has been selected by Swiss small- and medium-sized enterprises once again as the most attracted export market in the Swiss export ranking in 2019.
The continuous improvement of the living standards of the Chinese people proves that China is one of the best swimmers in the world economic ocean.
The dynamic quality upgrade of the Chinese industrial production, higher salaries and higher purchasing power of the rising middle class in China need high-tech solutions for an ageing population.
The green development in China or strong demand for premium products in Chinese e-commerce creates excellent business opportunities for Swiss companies with highly innovative Swiss premium products.
Host: Against the backdrop of the booming global cross-border e-commerce industry, plus China’s further reform and opening-up, what measures will Switzerland take to develop the economy and benefit our peoples?
Moret: Due to its growth and impact, e-commerce raises questions on topics as product safety regulation, custom handling and taxes.
By using the available electronic tools and data, solutions are available to align the interests of all stakeholders. Switzerland is cooperating with China both at the bilateral level and at the World Customs Organisation to address those questions.
Host: In Zhihu community, China’s version of Quora, there is a widespread saying that China is a “pulverizer/terminator of developed countries,” or in other words, China’s development will take away the advantages of developed countries. What are your perspectives to this? Does Switzerland have such concerns?
Moret: Switzerland is pleased with China’s tremendous development achievements. As China continues with reform and opening-up, Switzerland is willing to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China in various fields.
The Swiss Federal Parliament will play an active role in promoting the development of bilateral relations and enhancing the mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples.
The development of China and its internal market is good news for the world’s economy, as it should provide opportunities for increased trade. By saying this, I am recalling the importance of a rules-based international trade system with the WTO at its core.
Switzerland’s economic strength comes from its innovation capacity. When you understand and do this right, it is not a zero-sum game. If China becomes stronger, it means more cooperation and more business opportunities.
Host: In which areas do you think Switzerland and China can further strengthen their cooperation in the future?
Moret: In addition of the fields I have mentioned before, there will be increased cooperation in sectors of environment and sustainable development.
Switzerland has increased cooperation with China in environment protection. For example, the (Swiss) embassy has worked on projects aiming at tackling air pollution and lowering carbon emission in China from 2010 to 2015, the results of which were taken into accounts by China’s air pollution legislation. A new round of clean air projects will be launched this year.
Host: What impressed you most during your China visit?
Moret: I am deeply impressed by the bilateral relations between Switzerland and China that have been consolidated in the past 70 years and all remarkable achievements. I was impressed by the close and supporting friendship between China and Switzerland.
Our bilateral relationship between Switzerland and China “began in the era of horse-drawn carriages and telegraphs and has now entered a new era of Internet and innovation.”
Host: We understand you discussed over human rights with Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. How do you see the Western media reports on the human rights situation in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region?
Moret: With Chinese leaders, we have talked about circumstances in Xinjiang, and we have talked very frankly. As I said, we have long friendship and only old friends can talk about what they have in their hearts.
A Chinese proverb says “Don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see with your own eyes.”
Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, invited me to visit Xinjiang. And we have decided to discuss the possibility of the follow-up visit. This visit could be a good part of our human rights dialogues since 1991, between China and Switzerland. We regularly discuss human rights.
Switzerland leads more than 30 bilateral dialogues with China, among which human rights is one of the topics.
China has been Switzerland’s main economic partner in Asia since 2010, and its third main trading partner overall after the EU and the US. In 2013, a bilateral free trade agreement was signed in Beijing, which went effective on July 1, 2014.