China and Switzerland should deepen bilateral cooperation in sustainable development to bring out innovative and creative solutions to global concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, business and government leaders said at a forum in Beijing on Friday.
They made the remarks at a panel discussion of the sixth Sino-Swiss Economic Forum, which also marks the 70th anniversary of Sino-Swiss relations. The conference, organized by the embassy of Switzerland and Swiss Chamber of Commerce in China, centered on sustainability and the role of technology in achieving sustainable goals.
In the welcome speech, Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch stressed strong bilateral economic relations despite the pandemic.
"We continue to implement our bilateral Free Trade Agreement, and each year brings additional tariff reductions for imports into China. At the same time, discussions toward enhancing the FTA, including in the area of tariffs, are ongoing."
To achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the benefit of all, she said that the two countries should not only depend on more sustainable technologies, but also "on a broader research and innovation landscape".
Bernardino Regazzoni, Swiss ambassador to China, said companies in Switzerland and China have been working towards a more sustainable future.
Hailing the thriving economic ties of the two countries, he also called for more "smart and sustainable" cooperation in both public and private sectors by using a strategic innovative partnership, enhancing FTA and carrying on bilateral dialogues, especially when all nations have common challenges right now.
While this year's pandemic has cast over the world a shadow of uncertainty, it also prompts business observers to reflect on how to achieve more sustainable development.
"COVID-19 is a severe wake-up call for mankind. We realized that it is so important to respect nature. Globalization will take a new turn now," said Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank based in Beijing.
"It is time to turn to sustainable concrete practices if we want to reach targets, such as the 2060 Chinese carbon neutrality goal," he said during a panel discussing at the forum.
Echoing Wang's comments, Rashid Qureshi, chairman and CEO of Nestlé GCR, noticed that the pandemic changes consumer behaviors as they are now "more aware of the necessity to protect the environment", which direct companies into more sustainable business models.
He said sustainability cannot be finished by one country but through partnership; that's why better cooperation between Switzerland and China counts.
The Sino-Swiss Economic Forum started in 2010 and is a biennial event that is the biggest economic forum between Switzerland and China. Friday's event, attended by more than 300 business and government leaders, marked the closing ceremony for this year's forum, which saw a series of seminars in October.
Switzerland and China signed a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement in 2013, the first FTA China had with a continental European country.