The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has spoken of the importance of Switzerland’s trade relations with Turkey on the final day of her visit.
Addressing business leaders in Istanbul on Thursday, she said trade between the two countries could only benefit from Turkey’s closer ties with the European Union. But she warned that Turkish membership of the EU could hamper bilateral relations with Switzerland.
Swiss exports to Turkey increased by 17 per cent last year to SFr1.9 billion ($1.60 billion), Calmy-Rey said, while Turkish exports to Switzerland grew by 19 per cent to SFr500 million.
The foreign minister said she hoped the conclusion of a dual taxation agreement with Ankara would be a positive signal to Swiss investors.
The volume of Swiss investments was SFr1.1 billion at the end of 2003, SFr84 million more than at the end of 2002. Switzerland is currently the seventh-biggest investor in the country.
Between 2003 and 2004, 42 Swiss firms opened up branches in Turkey. Novartis, Nestlé, ABB, Ciba and Roche are among the big names with a presence in the country.
Calmy-Rey said that Switzerland would benefit economically from future Turkish membership of the EU, as it would gain access to an even bigger market. But political relations could suffer if Turkey concentrated on developing ties with the EU.
"Switzerland’s room for bilateral relations with other countries decreases as the EU expands," she said. "That is why it is important to work on our relations."
"My visit is a clear signal that Switzerland wants to strengthen and develop its ties with Turkey," she said.
The foreign minister pointed out that Switzerland had a different approach to the EU from Turkey, and was concentrating on concluding bilateral agreements with the European body.
If Turkey joined the EU, these agreements would have to be altered and the accord on the free movement of people extended to include Ankara.
Switzerland’s intended accession to the Schengen group of countries would have an impact on Turkey, Calmy-Rey said, as Turks would be able to visit Switzerland on an EU visa and vice versa.
Calmy-Rey has spent three days in Turkey, holding talks with political leaders and travelling to the Kurdish southeast.
In her talks she addressed the issues of minority and women’s rights, and the massacre of Armenians in Turkey early last century. The two countries agreed to disagree over whether the 1915 killings constituted a genocide.
swissinfo with agencies
In 2004, Swiss exports to Turkey were worth SFr1.9 billion, 17% more than in 2003.
At the end of 2003, the volume of Swiss investments was SFr1.1 billion, up SFr84 million on the previous year.
Between mid-2003 and mid-2004, 42 new Swiss companies opened up in Turkey.
Among the established firms are Novartis, Nestlé, ABB, Ciba, Roche, Givaudan and Syngenta.
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