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Swiss medtech feels first effects of failed talks with EU

An employee of Swiss company Gomina uses a laser to weld oscillating surgical bone saw blades in 2018 © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss medical technology companies have had to stop some exports to the European Union. They are among the first victims of the Swiss government’s decision last month to end talks with the EU on a framework agreement.

This content was published on June 6, 2021 - 17:42
Keystone-SDA/NZZamS/ts

The shock news came on June 3. “Our partner and agent, who is responsible for the legal aspects of our products in the EU, informed me that he would no longer be allowed to import a large part of the range,” Rudolf Eggen, head of MPS Precimed in Biel, told the NZZ am SonntagExternal link.

The products in question are high-precision bone drills and milling machines used in the implantation of artificial joints.

A week earlier the Swiss government, citing “substantial differences”, unilaterally ended seven years of efforts between Switzerland and the EU to craft an overarching treaty to replace the more than 120 bilateral deals which have regulated relations for the past decades.

Overnight, Eggen, who employs 45 staff, lost about a third of his business, worth several million francs.

The problem is that Brussels withdrew the validity of all existing certificates issued by the Swiss certification body SQS with immediate effect. So medical products certified by the SQS under the old law may no longer be sold on the EU market – even though they have been used for years. Some 65 companies are affected, according to the NZZ am Sonntag.

“The livelihood of these companies is threatened,” said Daniel Delfosse from industry association Swiss MedtechExternal link.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, medical technology manufacturers were responsible for 5% of Switzerland’s total exports in 2019, with exports worth CHF12 billion ($13.3 billion). Of those exports, 46% went to the EU.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs says “intensive negotiations at various levels” are underway with Brussels to find a solution.

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