Structuring negotiations and creating framework conditions
The Special Foreign Economic Services Division of the Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate is the federal government’s centre of excellence for the international movement of goods, non-tariff measures, trade in services, international investments and multinational enterprises, as well as international economic law. It represents the interests of Switzerland as a business location in these fields and is responsible for the early recognition of new developments. In order to obtain access to markets abroad and establishing an economic order in Switzerland conducive to competition, it participates in shaping international conditions. It is responsible for the negotiation of international agreements to safeguard the interests of the Swiss economy in various negotiations (e.g. in the context of the WTO and EFTA, with the EU, and on free trade and other bilateral trade agreements). It also represents Switzerland’s technical fields in the relevant international organisations (WTO, OECD, EFTA, UNCTAD, etc.). The Special Foreign Economic Services Division also ensures that the outcome of negotiations is transposed into Swiss law and monitors the conformity of domestic regulations with Switzerland’s international obligations providing the appropriate support where necessary.
International Economic Law
Our tasks as SECO’s centre of excellence for matters of international economic law include the negotiation of international economic agreements and representing Switzerland in international organisations. The focus being on competition law, corporate governance, as well as on institutional provisions, protective trade policy measures and the resolution of disputes. We represent Switzerland in the OECD and UNCTAD specialist committees. In cooperation with the specialised services, we ensure the coherence of the agreements in terms of rules on trade, services, investment and other rules within and between the various agreements concluded by Switzerland.
International Movement of Goods
Our section is the point of contact for autonomous, bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral matters regarding international trade in goods. With regard to the movement of goods we, along with the section responsible for non-tariff measures, form the centre of excellence for issues relating to market access for agricultural and industrial goods in Switzerland and abroad. One of our central fields of activity involves shaping general policies on customs, customs tariffs and rules of origin, including conducting negotiations on international agreements in particular with the EU (amongst others the 1972 free trade agreements including Protocol 2 for processed agricultural products, negotiations on agriculture, food safety and health) and free trade agreements with non-EU countries. Our aim is to lower customs duties and fees, and to simplify procedures at the border. We are also responsible (in collaboration with the Senior Customs Directorate and the Federal Department for Agriculture) for the implementation of the federal act on the import and export of goods made from agricultural products (so-called “Schoggi Act”).
We are working towards achieving internationally harmonised or compatible product regulations and the mutual recognition of tests, certifications, conformity evaluations, inspections and approvals. Our aim is to provide Swiss businesses with access to foreign markets that is as unrestricted possible and to give Switzerland a competitive edge as a location for business through the international recognition or harmonisation of regulations and standards. We are responsible for the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and negotiate agreements on mutual recognition with the EU. We negotiate agreements on mutual recognition (including negotiations with the EU on agriculture, food safety and health as well as on REACH). We are also responsible for the implementation of the Federal Act on Technical Barriers to Trade and the formulation of the principles of Swiss policy on the elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade.
Our task is to improve access to the markets and to eliminate discrimination in trading in services. Within the framework of the GATS/WTO agreement on services and free trade agreements, we endeavour to safeguard and improve market access for Swiss service providers and to ensure the non-discriminatory treatment on foreign markets. We pursue these aims in the various services sectors such as the financial sector, telecommunications, retail and wholesale, corporate services, freelance occupations, transport and logistics, tourism, construction, audiovisual services, postal and courier services, education and healthcare services and in the area of e-commerce. In addition, we handle issues relating to national legislation in the services sector, in particular, with the aim of ensuring compatibility with Switzerland’s international obligations and European legal standards.
International Investment and Multinational Enterprises
We are responsible for international rules and agreements on international investments, including Switzerland’s roughly 120 bilateral agreements on the promotion and protection of investments and the investment provisions in free trade agreements. We represent Switzerland in the specialist committees of international organisations (namely the OECD and UNCTAD). We also work towards improving the conditions for international investments and the contribution made by multinational enterprises to sustainable development. This includes helping to shape basic principles for responsible actions on the part of international companies (Corporate Responsibility), amongst other things within the framework of the OECD guidelines on what constitutes responsible behaviour on the part of business. We also focus on fighting bribery in international business transactions. We represent Switzerland in the relevant OECD committee where we aim, among other things, to prevent distortions to competition on international markets resulting from corruption.