Tenth anniversary of trade treaty celebrated

Tenth anniversary of trade treaty celebrated

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – About 40 representatives of Switzerland and Japan have commemorated the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Agreement on Free Trade and Economic Partnership between Switzerland and Japan (FTEPA) in September 2009. At that time, Switzerland considered the FTEPA with Japan as the most crucial agreement it had concluded since the free trade agreement with the European Union in 1972. The Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Zurich, the business federation EconomieSuisse and the Swiss-Japanese Parliamentary Group, organized the event in the Swiss capital Bern.

Tenth anniversary of trade treaty celebrated

Commemoration gathering for the 10th anniversary of the Switzerland-Japan FTEPA in Bern, Switzerland

Pioneering trade treaty

“While we were swimming in the wake of other European countries in the 19th century, we are now pioneers!”, Luzius Wasescha, the then Swiss chief negotiator, announced after the conclusion of the negotiations. The FTEPA was also a premiere for Japan. For the first time, the government in Tokyo concluded a free trade agreement with a European country. Previous treaties were only with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The results of these ten years are impressive. Since September 2009, Swiss exports to Japan have increased by 12 percent, while Japanese exports to Switzerland went up by 22 percent. Excluding trade in gold and jewelry, the bilateral trade volume reached its highest level in 2018, breaking the 11 billion Swiss francs barrier for the first time.

Again excluding the significant gold and jewelry sector, Switzerland mainly imports cars, machinery, and electronic equipment from Japan. Swiss exports predominantly consist of pharmaceutical and chemical products as well as watches. Preferential trade in agricultural products also developed positively.

“These numbers are encouraging and demonstrate that the FTEPA adds value to our economies,” Ms. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, Director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), said in her speech at the commemoration.

Tenth anniversary of trade treaty celebrated

Ms. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, SECO Director, speaks at the event

Big tariff savings

Studies indicate that the Swiss exporters have realized annual customs savings of approximately 20 million Swiss francs per year. At the same time, the Japanese exporters saved about 10 million francs per year. Exporters on both sides reach about two-thirds of the total possible savings the agreement brings.

“Compared to other free trade agreements, this means a rather good use of the tariff preferences,” Ms. Ineichen-Fleisch stated. She had chaired the first joint committee of the FTEPA with Japan and was therefore very familiar with the details.

Tenth anniversary of trade treaty celebrated

Mr. Katsuya Ikkatai, chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of Japan in Switzerland, gives his speech at the commemoration event

Modernization needed

After this positive summary of the last decade, the state secretary turned her attention to the presence and future. “Looking at the most recent free trade agreements concluded by Japan and Switzerland, I think it is fair to assess that our agreement is not entirely up to today’s standards any longer,” judged the Swiss official.

In particular, she referred to the entry into force of the trade agreement between the European Union and Japan in February. In comparison with this treaty, the SECO analysis would show that Swiss and Japanese economic operators in specific sectors such as the food industry could be at a disadvantage. The state secretary expressed her regret that Japan has not yet accepted the Swiss proposal from the last Joint Committee Meeting in November 2018 to modernize the agreement. She also pointed out that Switzerland would be prepared to open up markets further for Japanese agricultural products and others.

“I have never heard such clear words from the Swiss side regarding the renewal of the FTEPA,” commented Dominique Ursprung, Managing Director of the Swiss–Japanese Chamber of Commerce. In his speech at the event, the chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Japan in Switzerland, Mr. Katsuya Ikkatai, did not address the question of modernizing the agreement, though. Now Japan’s new ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Kojiro Shiraishi, to be accredited in September, is expected to take up this task.

Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ; Pictures: © SJCC/Zurich



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