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EFTA - Mexico signing ceremony

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE / Berne, le 28.11.2000

EFTA - Mexico signing ceremony

EFTA - Mexico signing ceremony

Statement by Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin

Minister of Economic Affairs, Switzerland

Mexico City

28th november 2000

Only the pronounced text is valid

Mr. President, dear friends - this is not just a figure of speech, I
really do feel that I am among friends, not least my old friend
Herminio Blanco.

Many thanks are due here today. First, thank you to you, Mr.
President, for hosting this event in this great city of Mexico. Thank
you also to Mexico's negotiating team. Thank you to the EFTA States'
negotiators and the EFTA secretariat: I must say that EFTA is a highly
efficient organisation. Mexico and EFTA's joint performance has been
truly remarkable. Three-and-a-half months to conclude an agreement of
over one thousand pages must be a record !

The signature of a free trade agreement between Mexico and the EFTA
States - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and my own country,
Switzerland - is a historic occasion in more ways that one.

First, it is EFTA's first transatlantic free trade agreement and, more
generally, its first agreement beyond the Euro-Mediterranean region.
As such, it is the first step along a new road for EFTA. I have just
come from Santiago, and I am very glad to say that President Lagos
expressed a strong will to conclude a free trade agreement between
EFTA and Chile as soon as possible. We will start negotiations in
Geneva next week.

I hope that this road will also very soon lead us to Canada, then to
South Africa, to Singapore and other countries in the Far East, and
later to regional groupings such as Mercosur and the Gulf Co-operation

Second, the agreement were are signing here today is thoroughly
modern, very much suited to our times and the challenges of
globalisation. For the first time, an EFTA free trade agreement
provides for liberalisation in the field of services, as well as in
trade in goods. In today's world of new technologies, services and
investment have become at least as important as trade in goods. Rules
on investment, intellectual property rights, public procurement and
competition will also contribute significantly to improved business
conditions between Mexico and the EFTA States.

Let us not forget that an agreement such as the one were are signing
here today is not an end in itself. The real objective is free trade
world-wide, eventually. But neither is free trade an end in itself. It
is what it brings that we are after. The agreement we are signing will
fully release the great economic potential between Mexico and the EFTA
States. In the end, it will create more opportunities and more wealth,
it will foster social stability and individual freedom, and it will
further increase the quality of our already excellent relations
through deeper and more frequent human contacts.

Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to pay my
respects to the quality of your leadership. It is very much thanks to
you and your administration that Mexico is well prepared to face the
future, both in socio-economic terms, and in a spirit of democracy.

One last word. It is ironic that the current paralysis of work at the
WTO due to the failure to launch a new round at Seattle has
contributed to making regional free trade agreements more attractive.
Regional agreements are not in contradiction with multilateral
liberalisation in the framework of the WTO. Indeed, they are
explicitly allowed by GATT Article 24. But the logical conclusion is
that developed countries are once again successfully securing their
interests, while poor countries are being left out. Such is the
victory of those who sabotage WTO work on behalf of the poor.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Switzerland, in close
co-operation with its EFTA partners, calls for an early resumption of
WTO talks on a new round, based on a comprehensive agenda and a
single-undertaking approach.

Thank you.

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