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EU outsiders Swiss, Britain meet on trade ties
[ZURICH] Switzerland's president gave a British official tips on negotiating trade deals when they met in Berne on Wednesday to discuss bilateral ties following Britain's vote to quit the European Union.
Johann Schneider-Ammann, who is also Swiss economy minister, "gave an insight into Switzerland's experience of negotiating free trade agreements at bilateral and multilateral level with different trade partners", his ministry said after the meeting with Mark Price, the British minister of state for trade policy.
Switzerland is not an EU member but Swiss-EU commercial ties are governed by a series of bilateral accords that give Switzerland enhanced access to the EU common market in return for free movement of citizens, now at risk from Swiss efforts to curb immigration.
Britain faces years of such negotiations once it triggers its exit from the 28-member bloc as voters demanded.
At Wednesday's meeting, Mr Schneider-Ammann and Mr Price pledged to pursue a common goal of maintaining and strengthening ties between the partners.
"The bilateral dialogue should be intensified in the coming months," a statement said, adding a task force led by the Swiss foreign ministry would make suggestions in filling gaps left by the Brexit vote.
In 2015 the United Kingdom was Switzerland's third-largest trading partner with goods exports worth 13 billion Swiss francs and imports of 31 billion.
Around 34,000 Swiss nationals live in the UK and 41,000 British nationals live in Switzerland.