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Deiss leads first-of-kind delegation to Mexico

The Swiss are looking for good deals in Mexico Keystone

The Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, is leading a delegation of top business people to Mexico this week – the first-ever such visit by a Swiss head of state.

This content was published on November 9, 2004 - 10:25

The trip comes at a time when Mexico is seeking to open its economy to foreign trade and investment.

Donald Johnston, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said last week that Mexico’s economic opening represented a “beacon of hope” for developing countries.

Deiss, who is also economics minister, is to meet the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, and other government officials for talks about both economic and political relations.

Mexico is important to Switzerland both in its own right and as a key member of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) – along with the United States and Canada.

Deiss is being accompanied by a major trade delegation, headed by Ueli Forster, president of Swiss business federation, economiesuisse.

The delegation also includes the heads of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry and Swissmem, the umbrella organisation of the Swiss machine industry.

Individual companies represented at senior management level include Nestlé (food), Novartis (pharma), Clariant (chemicals), UBS (banking), ABB and Alstom Switzerland (electrical engineering), SGS (inspections) and Holcim (cement).

Trading up

Mexico is the world’s tenth largest economy, and Switzerland’s second-largest trading partner in Latin America (after Brazil).

Swiss figures show exports to Mexico totalled SFr914 million in 2003 (nearly one per cent of total exports), while imports from Mexico totalled SFr219 million.

However, Mexican figures for exports to Switzerland are nearly four times higher – largely because many Mexican-origin goods are processed in the Netherlands before being exported to Switzerland in their final form.

Swiss direct investment in Mexico totalled SFr4.2 billion in 2002, or about one per cent of the worldwide total.

There are some 350 companies active in Mexico with Swiss capital funding, primarily in the services, manufacturing and trade sectors.

The Swiss foreign ministry describes bilateral relations as “very good”, while the economics ministry says relations have improved steadily every year for the past 15 years.

Bilateral relations

Fox, who visited Switzerland in May, was elected president in 2000, ending the 70-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

The liberalisation of the Mexican market began in 1994 with the signing of the NAFTA free trade agreement with the US and Canada.

In 2002, Mexico signed a second free-trade agreement with the European Union, in a bid to avoid over-reliance on the US.

It has also signed bilateral accords with Switzerland, including an agreement on dual taxation (in 1994) and on protection of investments (in 1995).

A free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was concluded in 2000, and supplemented by a bilateral agricultural accord with Switzerland.

swissinfo, Chris Lewis

Key facts

Mexico is the world’s tenth largest economy and Switzerland’s second-largest Latin American trade partner.
It is important to Switzerland both in its own right and as a key member of the NAFTA free trade association.
There are 350 companies active in Mexico with Swiss capital funding, primarily in services, manufacturing and trade.

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In brief

Swiss president and economics minister Deiss is accompanying a trade delegation to Mexico.

The visit – the first by a Swiss head of state – includes a meeting with Mexican president Fox.

The delegation is led by economiesuisse president Forster, and includes Nestlé, Novartis, Clariant, UBS, ABB, Alstom Switzerland, SGS and Holcim.

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