BERN, Switzerland: Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang met Swiss President Doris Leuthard here on Tuesday and both sides voiced their opposition against trade protectionism amid the ongoing global financial crisis.
Li, who arrived in Switzerland on Monday for a four-day visit, said the creation of a free trade area between the two countries is under discussion and serves as a concrete action for both sides to combat trade protectionism.
"Both sides should push the feasibility study on a free trade area forward, and be well prepared to start negotiations in 2010," Li said.
The creation of the free trade area is of great significance to bilateral ties and will be conducive to further promotion of bilateral trade and investment cooperation, the Chinese leader said.
He noted that the year 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, saying Switzerland was one of the earliest West European countries that recognized the People's Republic of China.
Bilateral ties have been developing in an all-round way since the two sides established diplomatic relations 60 years ago, Li said.
He said China attaches great importance to its ties with Switzerland and is ready to join hands with the European country to seek a long-term, healthy and stable development of bilateral ties.
"We should stick to the principle of sincerity, mutual trust and friendly consultation, and seek common ground while reserving differences, in order to cement the political basis of bilateral ties," Li said.
or her part, Leuthard said Switzerland opposes any form of trade protectionism and expects more Chinese companies to invest in the country, as well as more cooperation between the two countries in such fields as technology and finance.
Switzerland treats the Switzerland-China ties from a long-term perspective and highly values its cooperation with China, she said.
She hoped that both sides could step up efforts on the feasibility study on a free trade area so as to draw a good result to open a new chapter of bilateral economic and trade ties.
Leuthard said she will visit China this year and attend the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.
The Swiss leader also reaffirmed that her country will firmly stick to the one-China policy.
During his stay, Li will also address the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Thursday and hold talks with WEF President Klaus Shwab.(China Daily)