Swiss takes more views on China's rights record

Swiss takes more views on China's rights record

Switzerland: Ongoing negotiations to renew its free trade agreement with China have slowed due to the Swiss assuming more critical views of Beijing's human rights record, according to the Swiss media.

In 2013 when Switzerland and China signed a free trade agreement, it was the first in continental Europe.

In the latest negotiations, Switzerland has tried to add sustainability features to the agreement and to extend tariff reductions to more Swiss products.

Beijing has not shown interest in the discussions.

So far it has not been possible to agree on a common list of topics that should be explored in greater depth, according to Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

According to those with knowledge about the negotiations, Switzerland has become more critical of China's human rights record.

A Swiss parliamentary move last week passed by the National Council's Legal Affairs Committee denounced forced labor of Uyghurs in northwest China, describing it as a real problem. Many in the west, along with rights groups, have accused the Chinese of detaining and torturing Uyghurs and other minorities in camps.

Beijing has denied such accusations, claiming the camps are vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.

However, caution was suggested by Jean-Philippe Kohl, the industry association Swissmem, who told the media that Switzerland should pursue quiet diplomacy on China's human rights record.

If we point the finger of rebuke at China, nothing will change, except that relations will eventually break down, he said.