ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland and the European Union have struck a deal to remove technical barriers to trade in some industrial goods, unblocking a dossier that had been frozen in a row over Swiss efforts to curb immigration from its biggest trading partner.
Parliament last year skirted a clash with the EU by adopting a local preference system for jobseekers, stopping short of the immigration quotas voters had demanded in a 2014 referendum but which would violate accords on the free movement of people.
The Bern government last month fleshed out the plan in a way that ensures free movement for EU citizens.
On Friday the partners brought up to date an accord that provides mutual recognition of standards, easing cross-border trade. The 2002 pact covers more than a quarter of all Swiss exports to the EU and more than a third of imports from the EU.
The latest changes cover products such as lifts, communications devices and explosives that no longer have to be certified on both sides of the border, the government said in a statement.
Despite the new sign of goodwill, Swiss-EU ties face a series of challenges.
Several political and economic issues remain open in neutral Switzerland’s talks on future ties with the EU, the Bern government said last month, linking progress in negotiations to whether it continues to pay into the EU budget.
The EU wants a comprehensive treaty to replace the patchwork of more than 100 bilateral accords that now govern ties, but mainstream Swiss parties are getting cold feet about the idea ahead of Britain’s divorce talks with the EU.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Richard Balmforth)