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Competitive worries Minister considers calls to soften arms export rules

guns on display

The arms industry says jobs are threatened under Switzerland's tight export rules.

(Keystone)

Swiss Economic Affairs Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann says his ministry will take up requests from the arms industry to soften rules on weapons exports, according to Swiss public television SRF.  

The industry wants longer export licences plus a lifting of the current ban on exporting to countries involved in internal armed conflict. 

It complains that tough licensing rules put it at a disadvantage compared with European competitors, that arms exports have fallen, and that jobs are at risk. 

Last autumn, the industry put its concerns before the Security Policy Commission of the Senate. 

Josef Dittli, president of this commission, confirmed that it had this week heard the three ministries involved – economic, defence and external affairs – and that "based on the discussions we had with the political leaders of the three departments, we found that they were prepared to act to initiate an amendment of the regulations”. 

Schneider-Ammann said all the departments involved “take the concerns of industry seriously”. He said they would now examine the need for action and that his department would then submit a corresponding proposal to the Federal Council (cabinet) to amend the War Material Ordinanceexternal link

This has drawn criticism notably from the Group for a Switzerland Without an Armyexternal link. "Switzerland is a neutral country. If we start exporting to civil war countries, as the arms industry wants, this is a violation of neutrality and highly questionable from a security point of view," says its secretary Lewin Lempert. 

+ The Federal Council already relaxed the arms export rules some years ago 

SRF says there is a good chance that a further softening of the rules could get a majority in parliament. It also says that the new foreign minister Ignazio Cassis could be more arms-friendly than his predecessor Didier Burkhalter.

SRF/jc

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