Proactively representing Switzerland’s interests
The task of the Swiss Permanent Mission at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is to monitor and help shape the work of the economic international organisations in Geneva. In addition to the WTO and EFTA these include the bodies of the United Nations (UN) that deal with economic matters such as e.g. the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) and the International Trade Centre of the UNCTAD and the WTO (ITC).
Through its presence in the WTO and EFTA the Swiss Permanent Mission “proactively” represents the country’s priorities and interests in the field of international and economic relations. In coordination with the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO and other departments, within the WTO the Swiss Permanent Mission is involved in a round of Doha negotiations that not only broadens access to the markets but also improves existing regulations and creates new ones where necessary. It also increases the cohesion between the multilateral trading systems and other policy areas such as the environment, finance and development.
The World Trade Organisation WTO
The WTO is the key international organisation for defining and monitoring the rules on trade and the only international institution to define the standards for international trading between nations on a global level. The WTO treaty negotiated and ratified by the members provides the basis for the organisation. The aim of this treaty is to promote the economic development of all member states through rules which ensure that global trading in goods and services is able to operate as freely as possible, unhindered and without any discrimination. Another aim is to ensure appropriate protection for intellectual property rights. The WTO’s primary tasks are to manage existing trade agreements, monitor their implementation within international law, provide a framework for conducting negotiations on these treaties, mediating in trade disputes as well as offering technical assistance and training for developing countries. The WTO works in close cooperation with other international organisations to make it more cohesive. Last but not least, the Secretariat of the WTO organises a biannual Confer-ence of Ministers which represents the organisation’s supreme body for all member states.
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation that promotes free trade between its members. Since 1995 these have been Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The organisation is entrusted with three main tasks: to monitor the EFTA Treaty, the EEA (which includes Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein and integrates these three EFTA states within the EU single market) as well as to negotiate and maintain free trade agreements with non-treaty countries. The EFTA has concluded an important network of free trade agreements with its four member states. To-date 25 of the 28 Swiss free trade agreements have been negotiated with non-EU partners within the framework of the EFTA.