U.S. President Donald Trump is keen to advance talks with Switzerland on a free trade deal, Swiss President Ueli Maurer told reporters in Washington after the first visit by a Swiss president to the Oval Office.
Maurerdescribed the meeting with Trump as constructive and said the U.S. presidentwas "positive" about work on a free trade deal, but wanted to get it done "morequickly than with the EU (European Union)." Specific details were notdiscussed, he said.
"Hethinks we should accelerate the issue," Maurer told reporters after themeeting.
The UnitedStates and the European Union are working to launch trade negotiations but theprocess has taken longer than expected.
Switzerland,the seventh largest foreign investor in the United States with $309 billion, iskeen to expand economic ties with the United States, said Maurer, who is alsofinance minister.
BilateralSwiss-U.S. trade in goods and services totaled $122 billion in 2017, accordingto data from the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
Maurer andTrump had been due to meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland inJanuary, but Trump canceled his attendance due to a U.S. government shutdown.
"The fact that Switzerland – a Swiss president– was invited to the White House for the first time confirms that we have goodrelations … and that there is a desire to deepen them," Maurer said. "Thatwas an important step which I am convinced will be followed by others."
He said thetwo leaders also discussed Iran, where Switzerland provides protective andconsular services for some 100 U.S. citizens and 12,000 people with both U.S.and Iranian citizenship, but declined to give further details.
The WhiteHouse earlier said Trump discussed crises in the Middle East and Venezuela inthe meeting with Maurer, expressing gratitude for Switzerland's role infacilitating diplomatic relations on behalf of the United States.
Switzerlandis ready to play a similar role in Venezuela, but is waiting for approval byCaracas, Maurer said.
Also on theagenda, Maurer said, were China and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which the U.S.Commerce Department on Thursday formally placed on its "Entity List" – a movethat bans the Chinese telecom giant from buying components from U.S. companieswithout U.S. government approval.
Maurer, whomet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in April, said his country hadchosen a different path in dealing with China than Washington, preferring toadvocate for its values directly with Beijing.
He said Switzerland had banned all foreign companies from providing services or hardware for its critical infrastructure, but Huawei was present in the private commercial market.