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Free trade agreements: Successful Swiss strategy

Bern, 14.01.2009 - On 14 January 2009, the Federal Council adopted the Foreign Economic Policy Report 2008. The core elements include the WTO Doha Round, negotiations on free trade agreements, the consolidation of cooperation with the EU and the impact of the financial crisis. The focus chapter is dedicated to the question of natural resources in foreign economic strategy.

Continuation of Doha Round
Switzerland has sought to advance the Doha Round negotiations on several levels. Despite intensive efforts and an informal ministerial conference lasting several days in July 2008, the breakthrough strived for was not achieved. Progress remains uncertain. The WTO and the existing body of rules remain in effect and continue to determine Switzerland’s economic relations with many different states.

Relations with the EU
In the year under review the existing agreements were consolidated and initial discussions were held in new fields. The entry into force of the Schengen/Dublin agreements on 12 December 2008 was particularly important. Further decisive themes in the year under review will remain relevant in 2009: 

  • Negotiations on an amicable application of the EU’s 24-hour rule are well advanced and are expected to be concluded in spring 2009.
  • The Federal Council will explore the possibility, in respect of the implementation of the EU’s new Chemicals Regulation (REACH), for closer cooperation in the field of chemicals and to avoid new barriers to trade.
  • The dialogue regarding cantonal tax provisions for certain forms of company will be continued.
  • The popular vote on the continuation of the agreement on the freedom of movement of persons and its extension to include the two new EU Member States Bulgaria and Romania in February 2009 represents a fundamental decision for or against the bilateral approach due to the legal coupling of this question with the other agreements in the first series of bilateral agreements.

Free trade agreements
The worldwide trend towards the conclusion of free trade agreements is reinforced by the stalling of the Doha Round. In the reporting year, Switzerland in association with its EFTA partners signed agreements with Canada and Colombia. Negotiations with the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council and with Peru have been concluded in substance. On a bilateral level general agreement on the content of an agreement was reached with Japan – Switzerland’s fourth most important trading partner after the EU, the USA and China (with Hong Kong). Within the framework of EFTA, Switzerland took up negotiations with Algeria and India and is considering doing so in the current year with Russia, Serbia, Albania and Ukraine. Clarifications with China on the commencement of negotiations on a bilateral agreement continued.

International financial system
The financial crisis has highlighted the global interconnection of the financial system and its impact in the event of a crisis on the international economy. In addition to governments the international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Forum also play a key role in overcoming the crisis.

Natural resources in foreign economic strategy
The focus chapter is dedicated to the topic of natural resources in foreign economic strategy. The integration of natural resources in the foreign economic policy strategy is particularly important for Switzerland as it has few raw materials and is heavily affected by the scarcity and increase in price of natural resources. However, given that various countries rich in raw materials primarily claim them for themselves, there are limits to the implementation of these efforts.
The focus chapter and the executive summary of the report are also published online in English.

Address for enquiries:

Christian Etter, Head, Specialised Foreign Economic Services, SECO, Tel. 031 324 08 62; christian.etter@seco.admin.ch

Hanspeter Tschäni, SECO, Head, International Economic Law, Tel. 031 324 08 69; hanspeter.tschaeni@seco.admin.ch


Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research
Internet: http://www.wbf.admin.ch