Switzerland to join Belt and Road Initiative

29 Apr 2019

agreementSwitzerland and China are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation with third markets under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) today on Monday, Swiss President Ueli Maurer revealed at a state visit in Beijing – the Global Times reports.

Maurer described the move as one which will boost bilateral relations, develop the economy, create jobs and connect people.

Switzerland has followed in Italy’s footsteps, having shown a strong interest in joining the BRI over some time.

Switzerland, according Ralph Pöhner, chief economist at Swiss business paper Handelszeitung, is a country that has a lot of economic potential for China.

"The Chinese are looking for leading technology and for modern economies and forms of organization. Switzerland has a lot to offer here, certainly more than other rich European countries. Switzerland is also the first and so far the only country in continental Europe to have a free-trade agreement with China," Pöhner told swissinfo.ch.

Maurer said, "BRI is the world's biggest investment program of this century. We all know that it’s necessary to make such investment to drive our economic development," adding that the BRI will serve all of mankind as opposed to solely one country and will benefit generations to come.

Maurer is set to sign several agreements related to the finance and insurance industries.

Maurer complimented innovation in China, adding: “We also have the intention to work with the Chinese side in the innovation field.”

Maurer said that there were five key principles required for the development for BRI in Switzerland, being private capital for the infrastructure development, sustainability efforts, social responsibility and green environment issues, and lastly, transparency.

According to Herbert Scheidt, President of Swiss Banking Association, the BRI could enhance cooperative ties for Chinese and Swiss banks and insurance companies.

"For Switzerland, our domestic market is limited. Therefore, we have to keep opening up to integrate into the world market. We are also willing to share our experience as a financial centre to China,” Scheidt said.

As State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), told the Global Times, one of the main focuses should be that BRI projects follow international standards and are sustainable.

Even though the US has expressed distrust in the BRI, Mauer emphasised that as an independent country, Switzerland has the ability to make its own informed decisions.