The hastily convened meeting lasted just 45 minutes, but Maurer – the current holder of Switzerland’s rotating presidency as well as the country’s finance minister – came out full of positive messages.
He said he had had a “good discussion” with Trump and described the US leader as “uncomplicated” and “direct”.
“I think you could get along with him,” Maurer said.
For the US media the conversation between the Swiss president was largely of interest in the context of rising tensions with Iran. Switzerland has represented US interests in Iran since 1980 and CNN reported that Trump was meeting with Maurer to try and open up a line of communication with the Iranian regime.
Swiss President Ueli Maurer was mocked by Swiss media for spelling mistakes in his entry in the White House guest book (see above).
But after the encounter in the Oval Office an upbeat Maurer told the media: “Those who think I am only here because of Iran have got it wrong”.
Pivoting to the subject of most interest to people in Switzerland, Maurer said Trump had been receptive to the idea of a Swiss–US free trade agreement. Any such agreement would be a big shot in the arm for Swiss business. Swiss exports to the US were worth 36.3 billion Swiss francs (€32.3 billion) in 2017, second only to Germany.
But in comments to Swiss public broadcaster SRF, the Swiss finance minister warned discussions on a possible free trade agreement were still at the preliminary stage.
He said the motivation and the will to deepen economic ties was there and that “it all could go faster than previously thought” but stressed that the results of any upcoming talks on the details were likely to be at least a year off.