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Ministers are eager to slash red tape and bureaucracy hindering firms looking to do business with Switzerland.
With the two countries dubbed as “service superpowers”, officials say the UK is keen to negotiate an “ambitious, unprecedented free trade agreement” that will increase opportunities for the sector.
Britain and Switzerland currently have a trade deal that was rolled over from when the UK was a part of the EU, with many businesses benefitting from tariff-free trade on most goods.
However, made to suit the bloc as a whole, the trade deal failed to cover the service sector that is so vital to Britain’s economy.
The UK is the world’s second-largest exporter of services, with a value of £266.8billion.
Britain and Switzerland already do more than £17billion in trade per year in services.
The Department for International Trade is launching an eight-week consultation with businesses for them to give their input on what they want from a new trade deal.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “A new enhanced trade agreement with Switzerland is a huge opportunity to liberalise trade with our 10th largest trading partner and unlock new opportunities for our world-leading services sector.
“As two services superpowers, we have a huge opportunity to negotiate a modern, ambitious, unprecedented deal that will boost both our economies and show the world what is possible between two like-minded and innovative nations who are firmly within Europe but outside of the EU.”
Work towards a new agreement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted his Swiss counterpart, Ignazio Cassis, for talks in Downing Street this morning.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister hosted President Ignazio Cassis at Downing Street this morning to sign a new joint statement between the UK and Switzerland.
“Discussing the two countries’ strong ties, the leaders agreed that the UK and Switzerland were science, trade and financial superpowers together, and pledged to accelerate work across all sectors.
“The pair also agreed to work towards in-depth negotiations on an ambitious and enhanced Free Trade Agreement, and agreed to explore ways to simplify entry requirements between the two countries.”
Ministers are keen to boost trading relations in industries of the future such as digital trade, innovative services, and green growth.
Officials say the deal will help support trade in industries including finance, legal services, consultancy, the tech sector, and the creative industries.
Britain is keen to use its freedom from the EU to take a leading role in setting new rules and standards for digital trade in the 21st century.
As well as the digital sector set to be a central part of talks between the UK and Switzerland, ministers are also holding discussions with a number of other countries.
In February a groundbreaking digital trade deal was struck with Singapore to help set international standards for modern trade rules.
The agreement provided reassurances on intellectual property rights and helped improve cross-border data flows.
More to follow…
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