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Swiss name new chief negotiator for stalled EU treaty

ZURICH, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Switzerland swapped out its chief negotiator with the European Union on Wednesday as a stalled bilateral treaty with its biggest trade partner hangs in the balance.

The government named Livia Leu, now the ambassador to France, to replace Roberto Balzaretti, who had led negotiations that produced a draft treaty in 2018 that has still not been ratified amid Swiss concerns over sovereignty.

“In the weeks to come, (the cabinet) will set out Switzerland’s position and launch discussions with the EU on how to resolve the remaining issues,” the government said in a statement.

The Swiss government has struggled to forge domestic consensus on the new treaty even though it easily won a referendum last month against domestic eurosceptics seeking to strengthen curbs on immigration from the bloc.

Controversy over state aid, EU citizens’ access to Swiss welfare benefits and unilateral Swiss rules designed to protect high wages from competition by cross-border workers on temporary assignments have proved thorny for the Swiss side.

The EU is loath to give Switzerland any concessions that Britain could seize on in separate EU negotiations over relations in the wake of Brexit. (Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by Emma Thomasson)