The implications of American protectionism, safe sex for professionals in Switzerland, the possible creation of a sovereign wealth fund: here are the stories making the headlines in Swiss papers this weekend.
After a week in which the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and was frosty towards the UN Human Rights Councilexternal link, newspaper Le Temps turns the attention to American participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.
Donald Trump has never made a secret of his disdain for the body, the paper reports, labelling it a “disaster” during the election campaign. Now that he is moving ahead in office with his protectionist agenda, the spectre of a US departure from the body is looming.
The paper focusses on the recent shuttle-diplomacy of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, who met US officials in Paris and Washington in the past week to try to reinforce the importance of open trade rules. “We need the willingness of all our members to cooperate”, a “dismayed” Azevêdo is quoted as saying.
Will the Europeans come to the WTO’s rescue? Not so sure, says Le Temps. Though the European Union stands firmly behind the principles of an open trading system, it is currently “blowing hot and cold” about the WTO and “supports US calls to reappraise the workings of the organization”.
Taking the risk
Sex workers in Switzerland know about safe sex, yet many skip condoms for the sake of business. This is according to a study by the University of Lausanne that surveyed nearly 600 sex workers, reported by regional Sunday newspapers Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and Ostschweiz am Sonntag.
It seems that over 90% percent of those interviewed said they knew that a condom could minimize the risk of transmitting HIV. Yet, for various reasons, they don’t always use one.
For example, 34% said they would have unprotected sex if the customer paid more; nearly 23% said they would do so if the customer simply didn’t want to wear a condom. Another 21.5% said they would skip the condom if they trusted the customer.
More than 30% also said that over the past year, a client had deliberately removed the condom – without their consent – during sex. They said it was equally common for a condom to slide off or tear within that timeframe.
The study was commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Healthexternal link within the framework for monitoring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in Switzerland.
Spreading the wealth
Should Switzerland set up a state fund similar to Norway’s? This week, the Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee will submit a preliminary draft to parliament, report regional Sunday newspapers Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and Ostschweiz am Sonntag.
According to a proposal by UBS bank economist Daniel Kalt, such a government fund could be made from profits resulting from the sale of the Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) holdings in the medium or distant future. This would not disturb the SNB’s balance sheet. At the end of April 2017, SNB foreign exchange reserves amounted to CHF696.2 billion ($718 bilion).
The newspapers quote Suzanne Leutenegger, the socialist president of the Committee, as saying that “the fortune of the SNB belongs to the people. Like Norway, we should create a transparent sovereign fund and invest the money in a way that benefits the Swiss economy.”
The SNB and its directors are against the idea, and reject the comparisons with Norway and Singapore, which they say have established their sovereign funds in very different circumstances.