ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland said on Wednesday it will ease the import of medical technology products from the European Union in an effort to avoid shortages of essential supplies during a treaty row.
An accord with Switzerland's biggest trading partner on mutual recognition of industrial standards that helps such products flow across borders is set to expire on May 26 and talks to extend it have run aground.
Bern and Brussels are wrangle over a stalled treaty, which Switzerland has declined to embrace since 2018 until open points are clarified on state aid, EU citizens' access to Swiss social benefits, and unilateral Swiss rules protecting high wages.
The Swiss government's cabinet said in a statement it has now agreed to create transition periods before manufacturers from the EU would have to appoint authorised representatives in Switzerland and label products with this information.
"The measures are intended to help ensure that Switzerland can continue to be supplied with safe and efficient medical devices in an orderly manner," it added.
The amendments maintain the equivalence of Swiss provisions to those of the EU, which means the mutual-recognition deal can be updated later. The amendment will enter into force on May 26.
Nearly half of Swiss exports of medical devices, used in surgical procedures and joint replacements, go to the EU, while Switzerland imports more than $3 billion worth of such items every year from the EU.
Medical products also include bandages, hearing aids, thermometers and devices that measure blood pressure.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alexander Smith)