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Couchepin cautions against complacency over economy

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has warned that Switzerland should not rest on its laurels because the economy is in a healthy situation.

Addressing the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry in Colombier, he said that the country still had to continue making structural changes.

"The liberalisation movement, which has started well in the telecommunications sector, is going to intensify and it will begin in the electricity and postal services sectors," he said.

"We should continue agricultural reform, encourage structural changes in tourism and pursue an effective regional policy," he added.

Couchepin said that positive elements in the economy had to be strengthened because it had to be realised that in five to ten years' time, there would be another recession.

"We must take advantage of the positive economic climate to continue necessary reforms. We have to continue efforts to reduce public debt, improve the tax system and consolidate the social system," he said.

Commenting on gaining market access, Couchepin said the policy was based on three pillars:
· the multilateral approach within the framework of the World Trade Organisation
· the bilateral approach within the European Free Trade Association
· relations with the European Union.

Couchepin said the first priority with the EU was to activate the seven bilateral agreements approved by the Swiss in a nationwide vote in May.

"The goal is to put these accords into practice as rapidly as possible. We are still aiming for January 1, 2001," he said.

He added that Switzerland's second priority was to continue bilateral talks with the EU on a number of other dossiers, including agricultural products, services, and participation in programmes of the environment, training, media and statistics.

swissinfo with agencies

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