UK-Switzerland seal mutual qualifications deal

Britain and Switzerland have entered into an agreement to recognise each other's professional qualifications in sectors such as legal services, architecture and accounting.

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The agreement, which will come into force at the end of next year when existing arrangements dating back to the UK's membership of the EU expire, was signed by Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin just a month after the two nations opened talks over a comprehensive free-trade agreement. 

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Transferable qualifications

It will mean that qualified professionals will not have to fully re-qualify to work in the other's nation, potentially boosting Anglo-Swiss trade."Proving you have the right qualifications is key to winning contracts in regulated sectors such as law, architecture and audit," said the Department for Business and Trade in London."Under the agreement, UK-qualified professionals in regulated sectors who wish to have their qualifications recognised in Switzerland will have a certain and transparent system to do so; and vice versa."The department said the agreement includes a bespoke route regarding recognition for certain legal professionals, allowing lawyers to qualify in the other country after registration and a three-year practise period.Ms Badenoch said: “Following the start of free trade deal talks last month, this agreement will hopefully ensure UK companies compete for more contracts in Switzerland in the future, boosting UK services exports, and encouraging new Swiss investment into the UK.”A department spokesman added that the deal also safeguards the autonomy of UK regulators to independently set and maintain standards and decide who is fit to practise professionally.

'Significant step forward' for UK-Swiss services

Services are particularly important to both countries, with the sector contributing more than 70 per cent of GDP in each of them. Services trade between the two nations was worth £24 billion last year.Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: "Switzerland is the third largest UK legal services export market in Europe, so this deal will benefit not only our members but also the wider economy."Legal services facilitate all international business transactions and provide crucial support to UK and multinational firms wanting to export. The sector consistently generates a trade surplus with net exports of UK legal services standing at £5.4 billion in 2021."Henriette Gjaerde, trade and customs specialist at the Institute of Export and International Trade, welcomed the agreement, saying it represented "a significant step forward" for the economies of both countries."Switzerland and the UK are global leaders in the service sector," she said. "By mutually recognising professional qualifications, skilled workers in both countries will have unrestricted access to both markets, boosting economic development and innovation."Switzerland is the UK's seventh largest services trading partner, highlighting the significance of this agreement. It is also the foundation of the future UK-Switzerland free trade agreement, which aims to strengthen regulatory collaboration and competitiveness. Ultimately, this agreement will help make it easier for professionals to do business in each market."The institute added that the recognition agreement followed deals reached by the Architects Registration Board and its counterparts in New Zealand, Australia and the US earlier this year.

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