There’s the Amazon and then there’s Amazon. Both have made headlines this past week that matter for Swiss multinationals.
Last week, the Swiss government signed a free trade deal with the Mercosur economic region that has created a storm among left-wing parties, who argue that the government is prioritizing commercial interestsexternal link above the environment as fires rage in the Amazon rainforest.
Swiss economics minister Guy Parmelin defended the dealexternal link saying that the country will have more leverage to stop deforestation. The Swiss engineering sector is pleased that around 95% of Swiss exports to the Mercosur region will be exempt from tariffs. But farmers are not entirely convinced. Parmelin’s response: there’s a huge market for Swiss cheese.
The other Amazon was also in the line of fire in the past few days. Just when you thought the list of complaints against the online retail giant couldn’t get any longer, a ProPublica investigation revealed that the company is skirting liability for accidentsexternal link involving the drivers who deliver its billions of packages a year.
What does this have to do with Switzerland? Online retail is still in its infancyexternal link, though growing, in the Alpine country compared to the situation in countries like China and the US where Amazon boxes can be seen on nearly every other doorstep in some places. But, it raises, yet again, the question of whether control amounts to responsibility - something that is at the heart of discussions around Switzerland’s Responsible Business Initiativeexternal link.
ProPublica says “Even as Amazon argues that it bears no legal responsibility for the human toll, it maintains a tight grip on how the delivery drivers do their jobs.” Sound familiar?
What are your thoughts on who bears responsibility and what this means? Send me a message: firstname.lastname@example.org
And in other news:
Mysterious gold is raising more red flags for Switzerland’s gold refineries. Reuters reported last week that the American bank JPMorgan had discovered more than a thousand contraband gold barsexternal link in its safes over the last two years – many carrying the stamp of major Swiss refiners such as Metalor and Valcambi. Everyday people may not be up in arms about this, but there is reason to worry.
As my colleague reportedexternal link, refineries may be developing fancy techniques to prevent counterfeits, but they still know very little about the origin of the gold and the conditions where it is sourced.
Nestlé found itself in hot water this past week for its sponsorship of a study on breastmilk substitutes in India. The top medical research institute in India was not amused, calling it a violation of Indian lawexternal link and the international code on marketing of infant formula. Nestlé said that the study was for scientific purposes and not meant to promote its products or alternatives to breastmilk. But where do you draw the line?
Japan Tobacco International is cutting 250 jobs in Geneva. It’s unclear what the reasons are for shipping a quarter of its staffexternal link in Geneva to other parts of the world. Other companies, including Coty cosmetics, are also reportedly slimming down operationsexternal link in the area. The reason? To “remain competitive” according to Le Temps. Some in Geneva are wondering if the canton is simply a nice place for businesses to visit for a few years, but not a place to settle downexternal link.
What’s coming up? Let’s hope it’s not a recession but there are many signs that Switzerland is heading towards an economic rut. We’ll be keeping a close eye on what that means for multinationals and others; check out our Bloomberg feedexternal link for the latest updates.
Keep in touch,
Jessica (email@example.com, Twitter @JPluess)