The Swiss ambassador to Germany, Thomas Borer, has declared that the Swiss need to ditch their traditionally discreet approach to doing business.This content was published on March 15, 2002 - 20:07
Speaking at the world's largest fair - the annual CeBIT technology and communications exhibition in the city of Hannover - Borer said that discretion had served Switzerland well over centuries.
However, today's international competition, which he described as "a real shark pool", called for a greater emphasis on what he described as "continuous learning".
Borer told a reception for 600 guests that this was a key element for sustaining economic success. Knowledge was the only factor not subject to the law of diminishing returns, he said.
Although Switzerland spent more on education per student than any other country in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Borer said the Swiss had to ensure they did not rest on their laurels.
"Otherwise, we will be in the same position as the window cleaner on the 40th floor of the Empire State Building, when he took one step back to admire his work," he said.
"As a captain of industry once pointed out, we have enough smart people, but too few quick learners. Our country does not want to become a knowledge warehouse, but a fitness centre for learning," he added.
Pointing out the advantages of Switzerland as a partner, Borer said there would soon be many more opportunities for international entrepreneurs to do business with Switzerland.
In particular, he cited the advantages of the bilateral agreements with the European Union, which come into force shortly.
They would remove or ease important barriers to trade and open up public procurement markets. Researchers could participate more easily in European and Swiss research programmes, he said.
Borer also pointed out that within a few years, there would be free movement of labour. That meant that companies in Switzerland could employ European experts more easily, whereas companies in the EU could find it easier to hire Swiss staff.
The reception was part of the traditional Swiss Day at CeBIT and was organised under the motto "Switzerland - Bridging the last mile".
"We Swiss want you as our partners. We do not only want to bridge the last mile, but we want to go the extra mile to get your business," he said.
"Last miles do not only exist in telecommunications, but also in business in general, in politics, in culture, basically in every area of life," he added.
Borer explained that the Swiss produce one of the highest GDPs per capita among industrialised nations, with every Swiss producing goods and services worth more than SFr59,650 ($36,000).
"Some visitors ask themselves why the Swiss are continuing to work hard instead of having a good time ... Count on us. This month the Swiss people massively turned down a proposal to reduce weekly working hours to 36 hours."
Success before work?
"We know that success comes before work only in the dictionary," he said.
Borer added that to keep up this strong economic performance in a globalised economy, it was companies' daily duty to become faster, more efficient and more competitive.
"Bridging last miles is a never-ending task," he said.
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