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Swiss president eyes infrastructre, energy and trade cooperation

Doris Leuthard advocates EFTA-Mercosur deal and praises Macri reforms

Swiss President Doris Leuthard took advantage of her official trip to Buenos Aires this week to advocate greater cooperation with Argentina in areas such as infrastructure investment, trade and multilateral cooperation at a time of rising spreading “nationalism and protectionism.”

As the first president of the Swiss Confederation to travel to Argentina in an official capacity, Leuthard urged that areas such as major infrastructure works, energy, anti-corruption and the Mercosur-EFTA trade talks were fertile for increased cooperation with Buenos Aires. In that respect, Leuthard advocated for quick progress on the negotiations, arguing that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA, comprised of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) is relatively nimble and pragmatic in comparison to the European Union. Argentina, as temporary chair of the Mercosur, has been leading the discussions with both the EU and EFTA since January. To that effect, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra was in Brussels yesterday to meet with EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, announcing progress in those negotiations.

On a bilateral level, Argentina in 2016 ran a trade surplus with Switzerland of US$626.9 million.

Leuthard’s visit included a working meeting with President Mauricio Macri, an Argentine-Swiss business forum and an address hosted by the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI) at the Alvear Hotel.

At the CARI event, Leuthard had kind words for the Macri administration, saying that “Argentina has in recent months introduced reforms to return to stable growth, strengthen legal certainty and tackle poverty, unemployment and corruption. For that you have my utmost respect.”

Investment opportunities

Macri had earlier told Leuthard that he greatly appreciated “this visit with a delegation of businesses from your country that are so important, many of which are already present in Argentina, and which have overcome the various crises and are now protagonists of this new stage.” Switzerland is the sixth-largest investor in Argentina, and the Macri administration is seeking greater investment in the future. Leuthard said that Argentina lacks investments in “infrastructure and energy” and that Switzerland could contribute in the training of several professional areas, like it did in diverse programs carried out with China and India. “From my end, I can say we have a very fluent approach with the government and the private sector,” expressed Leuthard at the business forum. The Agua Negra tunnel between Chile and Argentina was cited by Leuthard at the CARI event as one of potential future cooperation in light of the Swiss experience acquired after the completion of the Gotthard Base Tunnel — the longest rail tunnel in the world.

Argentina is also host to the largest Swiss community in Latin America, with some 16,000 Swiss citizens in the country, and Argentina is the third-largest destination for Swiss exporters and investors in Latin America.

Herald staff with Télam

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