Brussels, 4 November 2008
EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel and Swiss Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, today launched negotiations aiming at full liberalisation of trade in agriculture between the EU and Switzerland. Given their geographical proximity and the volume of bilateral trade, both parties are obvious partners for fully liberalised trade exchanges. The upcoming negotiations are a logical continuation of the liberalization process, which has been ongoing since the 1972 Agreement and which is enshrined, as far as agriculture is concerned, in the 1999 bilateral Agriculture Agreement.
Launching the negotiations, Mariann Fischer Boel said: "The EU and Switzerland are neighbours and have much in common; we have made a lot of progress over the years in freeing up bilateral trade, but now we want to take this process to its logical conclusion. I welcome the willingness on the Swiss side to launch these talks and I look forward to working closely with Doris Leuthard. Both sides have much to gain from this process."
In addition to ending tariffs between the two parties, upcoming talks with Switzerland will also go beyond tariff issues. In fact, negotiations on non-tariff issues, such as food and feed safety will constitute a separate element in the total context of these talks.. This part of the negotiation will start at a later stage. The negotiations will fall under the responsibility of the services of Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.
In order to reach a level playing field and for Switzerland to best benefit from access to the EU market, the adoption of the "Acquis" should be an essential part of the agreement which will be put in place.
The Commission believes that the planned liberalisation will facilitate trade exchanges to the benefit of both parties and contribute to the improvement of economic conditions in Europe.
EU - Switzerland trade in agriculture
In 2007, total EU agro-food exports to Switzerland amounted to € 4.7 billion, whereas the corresponding value of EU import from Switzerland was € 2.7 billion. Switzerland is the EU's 3rd biggest trade partner in the sector. 70% of Swiss agricultural exports go to the EU market while 7% of the EU's agro-food exports go to Switzerland.