The Swiss customs office has agreed to forge closer links with counterparts in the United States as both countries flirt with the idea of reigniting free trade agreement (FTA) talks.
The Federal Department of Financeexternal link has signed a “legally non-binding” memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Homeland Securityexternal link to allow customs officials to deepen contacts and enhance cooperation, it was announced on Monday.
“This memorandum of understanding provides a cooperation in customs matters with the main objective of facilitating trade while ensuring security between the two countries. It is agreed in the text that the parties provide mutual assistance in terms of capacity building in various areas,” read a statementexternal link.
“The implementation of this memorandum of understanding also provides a good opportunity to exchange views with the United States on some of the main topics dealt with by the World Customs Organisation, as well as on the standards that it is trying to develop in a harmonised way.”
Switzerland has been courting the US with the aim of kick-starting FTA negotiations that were attempted in 2006 but failed to reach agreement primarily over Switzerland’s stance on agriculture.
Swiss President Ueli Maurer last week visited the White House where the FTA was on the agenda of discussions with US President Donald Trump.
Maurer said that while no agreement has been made to start negotiations, he got the impression that the US wanted to reach an FTA with Switzerland before finalising such a deal with the European Union.
“I sensed that that was what they wanted. I don’t think Mr Trump is concerned about details. But he is positive and I assume that his negotiators will notice that as well,” Maurer said.