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During a working visit to Beijing in February 2012, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and China's Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian agreed to expand cooperation between their two ministries. Based on their talks, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was drawn up and signed on 28 June 2012 during Minister Zhou's working visit to Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Council had approved the MoU in its session of 27 June 2012.
Intensifying policy dialogue
The main focus of the agreement is cooperation on air pollution control, water protection, waste management, nature protection and green production and consumption. It will promote dialogue on policy and facilitate an exchange of know-how and information on both legislation and technologies in those fields. The MoU also provides for the option of involving industry, universities and other actors in the cooperation activities.
Established cooperation on water management and natural disasters
The agreement creates a framework for bilateral cooperation between Switzerland and China on these areas of environmental policy and complements the cooperation between the two countries that has existed for some years. Thus, Switzerland and China are already engaged in an intensive exchange of ideas and experience on water management and dealing with natural disasters. This cooperation is based on a formal agreement that was concluded in April 2009 between the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications and the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources.
Switzerland also works closely with China in other environment-related areas. The bodies involved are the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the State Secretariat for Education and Research. Switzerland and China are also currently negotiating a free trade agreement.