On 23-24 June, I was delighted to lead a delegation of TheCityUK’s Switzerland Market Advisory Group (SwissMAG) to Zurich and Bern for a series of high level meetings with our industry and government counterparts.
Switzerland and the UK are host to two of the largest financial centres in the world, and the two largest in Europe. Our financial and professional services industries have a long history of close collaboration, mutual trust and respect. Indeed, TheCityUK has a close partnership with economiesuisse and it was a real pleasure to reconnect with our colleagues and counterparts in-person on this visit.
Our joint event in Zurich was an opportunity to hear from senior UK and Suisse government representatives about ongoing government negotiations on a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) in services and upcoming talks on a new free trade agreement (FTA). Our delegation and our Swiss counterparts were able to reiterate the shared industry desire for an ambitious new model of financial and professional services partnership, and to offer our support to government to help drive further progress by the end of the year.
Indeed, the message we conveyed to both UK and Swiss governments was clear. We continue to believe that the UK-Swiss MRA has the potential to be a new, world leading approach to financial services cooperation, based on the mutual recognition of outcomes and regulatory principles, rather than on harmonisation, alignment or deference. We remain ambitious for the scope of MRA and for the timetable for its completion by the end of year. The signals from government are promising and we remain hopeful that with the right focus and momentum, this ambitious agenda can be achieved.
Our discussions also highlighted, however, that an MRA in financial services is only part of the picture. Both the UK and Swiss governments have launched consultations to begin negotiations on a new, wider Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which industry welcomes. It is clear to industry, that the MRA and FTA are intertwined, and that in order to reap the benefits of a new MRA we must also secure an ambitious FTA which delivers on the wider aspects of the trading relationship, including on data, digital trade, legal, professional services, mobility and tax. That more than 80% of financial services trade is now undertaken digitally, highlights the importance of having broader and clear legal provisions on digital trade and data in place. Indeed, there is a concern that in some parts of government these two agreements are seen as separate issues to be tackled successively, rather than part of a complex jigsaw that needs to be addressed holistically and strategically. We urge both governments to match the ambition and speed of the MRA process, in order to achieve an FTA agreement as soon as possible.
Of course, the UK-Swiss relationship in financial and professional services is more than these formal government negotiations and agreements. The two countries have a long record of supporting research and innovation and there is now an opportunity to take this to the next level. As two financial services economies, there is huge scope for collaboration in developing new financial technologies that support the green transition, tackle financial crime and promote financial inclusion in marginalised groups. TheCityUK met with Innosuisse to discuss such issues and we will be working with economiesuisse and UK industry to take forward these exciting opportunities.
This ambitious agenda is possible due to the close collaboration between industry in and between industry and government in both countries. I would like to thank the British Embassy team for hosting us in Bern and for their ongoing support. We will continue to work with colleagues in HMT, DIT and the Embassy to get the best deals possible for our industries.