Trump hands Swiss president surprise White House invite

Swiss President Ueli Maurer will travel to Washington to meet with Donald Trump on Thursday after receiving a surprise invitation.

Trump hands Swiss president surprise White House invite
Trump cancelled his January meeting with the Swiss president after he decided not to attend the WEF in Davos. Photo: AFP

The meeting between Trump and Mauer, who is Switzerland’s finance minister and current holder of the rotating Swiss presidency, was announced by the White House press office on Wednesday.

Maurer and Trump are set to discuss the Swiss–US partnership and issues including “Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations”, the office said in a tweet.

This is likely a reference to arrangements between Switzerland and the US which sees Switzerland representing US interests in Iran and will also see the European country representing US interests in crisis-hit Venezuela, after Washington withdrew all its diplomatic personnel in March.

But the Swiss finance minister will no doubt be eager to push ahead with talks on a possible Swiss–US free trade agreement.

Maurer was hoping to meet Trump during the World Economic Forum is Davos in January but the US president pulled out of that trip because of the US government shutdown.

Before that cancelled meeting, Maurer had noted that the US is, alongside the EU, Switzerland's most important trading partner.

The partnership between the two countries should now be made concrete within the framework of a free trade agreement, Maurer told Zurich regional television station Tele Züri at the time.

The idea of a free trade agreement between Switzerland and the US has been on the cards since at least early 2018 when the then Swiss president, Alain Berset, met with Trump at that year’s Davos event.

In April this year, Swiss economy minister Guy Parmelin met with US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer with two agreeing to launch expert studies into a free trade agreement.

Among the stumbling blocks to any agreement is the agriculture issue, according to Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger. There are concerns that the US could force Switzerland to green light genetically modified products, which would be problematic for the Alpine country.

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