A Swiss business delegation to Algiers, led by Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, has laid the groundwork for participation in Algeria's rail upgrading.
Algeria plans to invest SFr66 billion ($50.1 billion) in infrastructure over the coming years, a large portion of this on its railway network and rolling stock.
Deiss, along with the Algerian transport minister Mohamed Maghlaoui, opened an Algerian-Swiss Rail Day on Saturday.
The event was organised by SwissRail, the umbrella organisation of the Swiss railway industry.
The two-day visit, which ended on Saturday, comes a year after Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika signed a bilateral treaty on economic ties in Bern, designed to boost confidence among potential Swiss investors.
"When I was first in Algeria in 1999, great insecurity reigned after the long years of terror. I am glad that this country is now opening up to private enterprise," said Deiss.
The chief executive of the Swiss Federal Railways, Benedikt Weibel, and the president of the Swiss Business Federation, Ueli Forster, accompanied the Swiss delegation.
Another member of the delegation, Peter Spuhler, head of the train company Stadler Rail, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that his firm had put in a proposal to the city of Algiers to sell 64 trains in a deal worth SFr500 million.
Deiss held talks with the country's minister for commerce, El-Hachemi Djaaboub, and its minister for participation and promotion of investments, Abdelhamid Temmar.
Deiss made it clear that general conditions in Algeria needed to be improved before Swiss firms could invest in the country in a substantial way.
The Swiss minister also discussed efforts to strike a bilateral deal between the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and Algeria.
Switzerland and the other Efta members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway agreed in Geneva last week to try to accelerate the process.
Last year Swiss exports to Algeria rose by 37 per cent to reach SFr190 million. Imports to Switzerland – primarily oil and other energy products – climbed by just under a third to SFr168 million.
On Wednesday the Arab-Swiss Chamber of Commerce is due to host a major seminar in Geneva to promote investment in Algeria.
The event will focus on investment opportunities and take stock of the political and economic climate in the country.
swissinfo with agencies
Last year Switzerland's exports to Algeria were worth SFr190 million, an increase of 37 per cent on 2003.
The main Swiss exports are machinery, chemical products and pharmaceuticals.
Imports from Algeria reached SFr168 million in 2004, an increase of 31 per cent on the previous year.
The increase was partly attributable to the rise in oil prices. Switzerland imports almost exclusively crude oil, natural gas and petrol products from Algeria.
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