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Foreign trade policy and the financial and economic crisis

Bern, 13.01.2010 - Last year, the Federal Council's foreign economic policy focused primarily on overcoming the financial and economic crisis. Switzerland stepped up its drive to counter financial and commercial protectionism while seeking to further improve the domestic market environment and conditions for the export economy. This emerged from the 2009 Foreign Economic Policy Report, which also addressed various aspects of sustainability in some detail. The Federal Council approved the report on 13 January 2010.

The main future topic of the Foreign Economic Policy Report explains how the Federal Council, in shaping its foreign economic policy and thereby improving the operating conditions for the Swiss economy, is also promoting environmental responsibility and social solidarity. Switzerland sent out a clear signal to this effect when it suspended export-risk guarantees for the Ilisu dam project in Turkey. In the field of international rules, the Federal Council is working to strengthen international environmental and social agreements, to promote cooperation and coherence between the relevant international organizations and conventions, and to encourage voluntary measures in the private sector.

The report also shows how the Federal Council's foreign economic policy contributed to global efforts to overcome the financial and economic crisis at the level of multilateral organizations, European policy, and bilateral relations with nations outside Europe.

At the WTO, Switzerland continued to work for the liberalization of trade and against burgeoning protectionism. In the Doha Round negotiations, however, no progress was made except at expert level. But the seventh regular WTO Ministerial Conference in early December resolved to conduct a situation appraisal of the negotiation round in the first quarter of 2010, and this sent out an important signal.

Relations with the EU
The referendum of 8 February 2009, which accepted the continuation of the agreement on the free movement of persons and its extension to Romania and Bulgaria, was particularly important for relations with the EU. The signing of the agreement on customs exemptions and customs security and the initialling of the treaty on Switzerland's participation in the EU's «Youth in Action» and «Lifelong Learning» programmes were also of considerable importance.
Negotiations in the fields of food and product safety, agriculture, healthcare and electricity were continued, and so was the exploration of possible cooperation in the field of chemicals (REACH).

Free trade agreements
The bilateral Economic Partnership and Free Trade Agreement with Japan, one of Switzerland's four most important trading partners, come into force on 1 September. The Free Trade Agreement between EFTA and Canada also came into force during the year under review. China and Switzerland agreed to conduct a feasibility study for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. Switzerland ratified an agreement between EFTA and Colombia, and EFTA also signed agreements with Serbia, Albania and members of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). An agreement with Peru is expected to be signed in the near future. This will bring the total number of free trade agreements between Switzerland and partners outside the EU and EFTA to 23. EFTA negotiations are under way with Algeria, India and the Ukraine, and further negotiations will commence this year with Hong Kong and other countries, possibly including Indonesia and Russia. EFTA is working on a feasibility study with Vietnam.

The international financial system
In addition to national support measures, concerted action by central banks and agreements at international level played a crucial role in combating the financial crisis. Switzerland took an active part in the contributions of the IMF and the Financial Stability Board. The IMF country report on Switzerland found that its response to the financial crisis had been appropriate and well thought out. In the field of taxation, however, Switzerland came under increasing international pressure - in the OECD and elsewhere. Double-taxation agreements with numerous countries were adapted in line with the decision by the Federal Council to conform in future to the OECD information-exchange standard.

The main future topic and the overview of the report are published on the Internet in German, French, Italian and English.

Address for enquiries:

Ambassador Christian Etter, Federal Council Delegate for Trade Agreements, SECO, tel. +41 (0)31 324 08 62; christian.etter@seco.admin.ch

Minister Hanspeter Tschäni, Head of the Department of International Commercial Law, SECO, tel. +41 (0)31 324 08 69; hanspeter.tschaeni@seco.admin.ch


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