K negotiators are hoping to strike an enhanced trade deal with Switzerland as the two “services superpowers” seek to expand their existing agreement.
An eight-week consultation on a new UK-Swiss free trade agreement – which ministers hope will be broadened to include the UK’s vital services sector – has been launched after prime minister Boris Johnson hosted his counterpart president Ignazio Cassis.
The government is seeking views from UK businesses and the public about the potential agreement.
At present, the two nations have bilateral trade worth £35 billion annually. While many UK businesses benefit from tariff-free trade on most goods, roughly half of the yearly trade is in services, which are not tariff-free.
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.”
The UK was the second-largest exporter of services globally in 2020, with exports worth £266.8 billion, Switzerland was the 12th largest, with £89.6 billion.
The talks were welcomed by business trade bodies, with TheCityUK saying there was a ”great deal to gain” from a new trade deal including services.
CBI President Lord Bilimoria said it was “an opportunity to increase cooperation on issues ranging from customs, reducing complexity in short-term mobility and building cooperation on innovation through our world-class research institutions,”
4.6% – equivalent to £1.6 billion – of goods exported from London were destined for Switzerland in 2020, compared to 1.8% for the UK as a whole. London imported 1.8% of its goods from Switzerland, relative to 1.2% for the entire UK.