Tamil Nadu

Free Trade Agreement with Switzerland by the year-end

( From left) Swiss Honorary Consul R Muthu, SICCI vice president Jawahar Vadivelu and Consul -General of Switzerland in Bangalore Rolf Frei ,at an interactive session in Chennai on Monday. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan  

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Switzerland is likely to be concluded by the year-end, Rolf Frei, Consul General of Switzerland in Bangalore, said here on Monday.

Addressing an interactive meeting hosted by the Southern India Chamber of Commerce (SICCI), Mr. Frei said the respective Ministries on both sides had committed to completing the process by the end of the year.

“Being an open economy, we will be aiming for the most liberal market access both ways in the trading of goods and services,” Mr. Frei said.

The FTA could act as a spur for bilateral trade that now has a size of about 3.5 billion Swiss francs.

The revised bilateral double taxation avoidance treaty is also likely to come into effect later this year, the Consul General said.

However, while the revised treaty would allow the Indian government to seek details of secret Swiss bank accounts of its citizens in cases of suspected tax evasion or fraud, the disclosures would be in accordance with due procedures, especially the widely referenced guidelines of the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD), he said.

Mr. Frei said Switzerland would soon have its third full-fledged diplomatic office in India with a Consulate General offering a full range of services in Bangalore. The Consulate General in Bangalore when it starts full-fledged operations by the end of the year would take a load off the Consulate in Mumbai.

Together, the Embassy in Delhi and the Consulate in Mumbai are issuing about 90,000 business and tourist visas annually with the season peaking in the April-August period. In recent months, there has been a 30 per cent spike in visa demand, Mr. Frei said.

A key feature of the Bangalore Consulate would be the Swissnex (the Swiss Knowledge Network) that would facilitate networking institutions engaged in science and technology research and higher education.

According to Mr. Frei, the Swiss Consular setting for India is near-ideal with an Embassy with diplomatic functions in Delhi, the Swiss Business Hub (SBH) in the financial capital of Mumbai and now a Consulate General office in Bangalore for S&T, education and research.

The SBH would also have an arm in Bangalore, he added.

Switzerland is keen to bring a high-profile trade delegation to Tamil Nadu, Mr. Frei said. He identified as key sectors for collaboration, verticals such as infrastructure, clean technologies, life sciences, food processing, retail, ICT services, automotive, machining and precision engineering.

Mr. Frei invited the trade and investor community to “go global via Switzerland” as the Swiss advantage included being a strategic location in the neighbourhood of three of the Big Four EU markets (Germany, France and Italy), a logistical hub that allowed 90 per cent of EU markets to be reached in a single day, the highly skilled and internationally oriented labour force and a stable political system.

Jawahar Vadivelu, SICCI vice-president, R. Muthu, Swiss Honorary Consul and S. Raghavan, SICCI secretary also participated.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 12:59:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/free-trade-agreement-with-switzerland-by-the-yearend/article2314249.ece

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