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As in most other countries, international investments are a key factor for economic growth and prosperity in Switzerland. Swiss-based companies have traditionally exported capital to other countries, particularly in the form of direct investment. With foreign direct investment (FDI) levels at CHF 809 billion (2008), Switzerland is the world's sixth largest exporter of capital. At the same time, Switzerland has successfully positioned itself as a location for capital investment from abroad (2008: CHF 467 billion).
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is responsible for negotiating international law disciplines on investment, particularly bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements (BIT). These agreements seek to protect Swiss foreign direct investments from recipient country's government acts in breach of international law. In the context of investment chapters in free trade agreements, SECO negotiates disciplines for market access of (direct) investments so as to ensure that international law provisions apply to all economic activities carried out by Swiss companies in the recipient country, i.e. that no restrictions are placed on the right of establishment and that discriminatory practices are avoided. SECO represents Switzerland in the bodies of international institutions dealing with investment policy and investment law (e.g. WTO, OECD, UNCTAD, etc.). It is also actively involved in the formulation of Swiss investment policy (e.g. the handling of sovereign wealth funds in Switzerland).
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