ACCRA, Ghana and Switzerland have agreed to expand co-operation and explore opportunities to boost bilateral trade, including undertaking joint projects aimed at increasing cocoa production in Ghana and enhancing value addition to the commodity, improving the competitiveness of Ghanaian enterprises and diversifying Ghana’s economy.

This was announced by the Heads of State of the two countries at a joint media conference Wednesday following talks between visiting Swiss Confederation President Doris Leuthard and her host, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at Flagstaff House here.

Their meeting culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between both sides to improve trade in the gold and cocoa sectors and investments in agriculture and pharmaceuticals. They also discussed co-operation in the areas of foreign affairs, United Nations reforms, finance and security.

President Akufo-Addo told the media the two countries expressed the need to deepen bilateral relations, improve trade beyond gold and cocoa, which over a number of decades had constituted the backbone of trading relations. Ghana, he added, was determined to pursue systematic programmes aimed at adding value to the country’s cocoa beans.

“Ghana, under my presidency, will no longer be mere producer and exporter of cocoa beans. We will process more and more of our cocoa here in our country. There can be no future prosperity for our people in the short, medium or long term if we continue to maintain economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials.” he said.

“We intend to add value to our raw materials resources, industrialise and enhance agricultural productivity. This is the only way we can put Ghana at the high end of the value chain in the global market space and create jobs for the teaming masses of Ghanaians.”

President Akufo-Addo also disclosed that that he and his Swiss counterpart discussed and agreed on the need for Ghana to become a member of the Human Rights Appeal Caucus and that Switzeralnd would support the candidature of Ghanaian jurist Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu for for election to the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the ICC elections to be held in the 16th Session of the Assembly of State Parties from Dec 4 to 14, 2017.

President Leuthard said Ghana was a reliable trade partner to Switzerland and expressed her country’s readiness to further deepen relations. She said Switzerland had identified Ghana’s agricultural sector as a viable area of investment.

She announced a new Swiss co-operation strategy for Ghana which involves 80 million US dollars in support for the enhanced competitiveness of Ghanaian enterprises and the diversification of the country’s economy.

Ghana is currently Switzerland’s largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, a position previously held by South Africa.

Trade between both countries amounted to some two billion dollars last year, largely from the export of gold and cocoa to Switzerland, and the import of chemical and pharmaceutical products, as well as light machinery and military equipment from Switzerland.