On 26 April 2019, the second edition of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be inaugurated in Beijing. Many heads of state and government have decided to attend this major event to advance the new Silk Roads. Among them is Swiss President Ueli Maurer. Arrived in Beijing earlier this week, Maures is staying seven days in China to meet key Chinese leaders and sign a memorandum of understanding formalizing Switzerland’s participation in the “Belt and Road initiative”.
Switzerland and China maintain excellent relations, and have been bound by a free trade agreement since 2013, and this agreement must be further upgraded in the coming years. Switzerland is also one of the few European countries to have a trade surplus with China.
Unlike some of its European neighbors, Bern is very friendly to Chinese investors, so Switzerland is one of the main destinations for Chinese investment in Europe with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The Chinese company ChemChina‘s acquisition of Syngenta in 2017, in the chemicals sector, for $ 43 billion, is the largest investment made by a Chinese company abroad ever.
Switzerland and the access to Europe
Although not part of the European Union, Switzerland is at the heart of the European continent, and participates in many European integration programs including the Ten-T connectivity corridors. Switzerland is a major hub in Europe, between the ports of the North Sea and those of the Mediterranean. Switzerland’s participation in the BRI may strengthen the position of some Italian ports such as Genoa or La Spezia in the “Belt and Road” initiative
However, we regret once again the lack of coordination of European states in their response to the Chinese project.
Some developed infrastructure
Switzerland stands out strongly from other European states, particularly Italy, about the reasons for joining the BRI, as it does not prioritize attracting Chinese investors to its own infrastructure. Switzerland has put in place some ambitious policies to support rail freight transportation in order to avoid road congestion, and therefore does not seek to develop new rail infrastructure with the help of China. But the Swiss experience could be replicated in other BRI states.
Cooperation with third countries
The agreement to be signed by Ueli Maurer encourages the development of cooperation between China and Switzerland in third countries, especially in Central Asia. The construction of the new Silk Roads requires the participation and know-how of different companies. Switzerland has a very strong experience in terms of infrastructure and can therefore hope to get markets for its companies on major projects in regions along BRI’s new economic corridors.
Like Luxembourg, Switzerland has a very important network of banking institutions with experience in conducting international projectc, that can contribute to BRI’s success.
Switzerland’s participation in the BRI is quite interesting, as Bern emphasizes its willingness to cooperate with Beijing on projects in other countries. Switzerland does not just want to be a destination for the BRI in Europe but to actively participate in the realization of the Silk Roads around the world.