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OSEC updates image and widens role

OSEC's CEO, Balz Hösly, says his organisation still has a vital role to play Keystone Archive

The organisation that has been at the forefront of Switzerland's export promotion for more than 70 years has just re-launched itself with a new name and an updated policy.

Under it new CEO, Balz Hösly, OSEC – Swiss Export And Trade has evolved into OSEC – Business Network Switzerland and aims to take on a much wider role in the future.

OSEC was founded in 1927 as the country’s official body for the promotion of foreign trade. Switzerland has now evolved into one of the world’s leading export nations and its companies rely heavily on export markets. Exports of goods and services amount to almost SFr16,000 per head of population.

The watchmaking industry sells 95 per cent of its products abroad. Chemicals and pharmaceuticals export 85 per cent of their production while the figure for engineering is 75 per cent.

OSEC appears to have been successful until now in promoting trade but Hösly says it had to change with the times.

“The old OSEC concentrated entirely on export promotion,” he told swissinfo. “Nowadays, a small or medium-sized business isn’t going to consider whether to export or not, a company boss is always thinking of how to internationalise his business.”

Hösly adds that this could be through traditional exporting, e-commerce, the purchase of a foreign company or the establishment of strategic partnerships.

“The opportunities are endless,” he says. “And we can use OSEC’s leverage to achieve much more than export promotion.”

This new concentration on small and medium-sized businesses is no accident and reflects the reality of the modern Swiss economy.

OSEC aims to rely on a series of networks and hubs to help Swiss businesses maximise their earnings.

“Our international network consists of business hubs in our most important foreign markets,” says Hösly. “A hub is basically a one-stop shop for a company to get all the information it needs on this market.”

By 2003, OSEC intends to have all the major markets covered.

As well as helping Swiss firms expand abroad, OSEC also helps foreign companies contact potential partners in Switzerland.

But in this new high-tech world where communication is so easy is a middle-man really necessary? “You could leave it to individual companies but I think the risk and cost of companies failing is far more expensive than what the government invests in OSEC,” Hösly says.

The amount of Swiss investment abroad has increased fourfold in the last decade. The number of people employed abroad by Swiss companies has almost doubled.

With its new and wider focus, OSEC intends to help Swiss business do even better in the next decade.

by Michael Hollingdale.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR