Since 2010, China has been Switzerland`s largest trading partner in Asia and the world`s third largest trading partner after the EU and the United States. A bilateral free trade agreement was signed in Beijing in 2013 and came into force on 1 July 2014. In May 2013, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, on an official visit to the Alpine nation, signed the first free trade agreement between the two countries, worth more than 26 billion euros. Switzerland`s direct exports to China were $22.8 billion under the agreement, which was heralded as a “real milestone” by then-Federal President Ueli Maurer. Switzerland has a positive trade balance with China and both countries should benefit from export guarantees, intellectual property protection and financial cooperation between their largest banks. [5] Switzerland was thus the first country in continental Europe[6] and the largest economy to conclude a free trade agreement with China. [7] In parallel with the free trade agreement, China and Switzerland concluded a labour and employment cooperation agreement, in which they pledged, among other things, to effectively implement their respective labour rights. In 2007, Switzerland and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding to intensify high-level political consultations and deepen all aspects of bilateral relations. In addition to regular official contacts between Beijing and Bern, projects are being implemented in partnership with various Swiss cantons and municipalities.

At the civil society level, close and regular exchanges have been established by various experts, academic institutions and arts groups. China and Switzerland signed a free trade agreement (CSFTA) in 2013 after only two years of negotiations. The agreement came into force on July 1, 2014. The speed with which the CSFTA was signed reflects political support for the agreement in both countries. Switzerland, a neutral nation, one of the countries least affected by China`s security, has sought to gain access to the Chinese market and establish its presence before the EU. China saw Switzerland as a gateway to Europe and saw the trade deal as an important test that could weaken the EU`s traditional reluctance to negotiate with China. Total merchandise exports from China to Switzerland have also slowed since the agreement came into force, from an average annual growth rate of 7.8% between 2010 and 2013 to 3.8% in 2014-18. However, the slowdown in exports to Switzerland is less marked than the general slowdown in Chinese exports: from an average annual growth rate of 16.8% in 2010-13 to 2.7% in 2014-18. [1] The free trade agreement applies to China`s customs territory and the territory of Switzerland. As far as trade in goods is concerned, the free trade agreement also applies to the Principality of Liechtenstein because of the customs union between Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Under EFTA, Switzerland signed a free trade agreement with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (which is a separate customs territory) in 2011. Switzerland`s exports to China are dominated by jewellery, which accounted for 60% of the total in 2018 and is highly volatile.