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Couchepin promises government support for e-commerce

Switzerland's economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, who is co-chairing the two day conference on e-commerce

(Keystone)

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, says Switzerland will do all it can to support innovative entrepreneurs prepared to take risks.

He was addressing a meeting in Zurich attended by representatives of companies at the cutting edge of e-commerce. The two-day event is the first organised by the Swiss-United States Joint Economic Commission, launched in Davos earlier this year.

"The Swiss government is taking specific steps to encourage business activity in the field of new technologies," he said. In particular, he referred to a new federal law on venture capital companies, which came in to force last month and is aimed at making it easier to raise venture capital.

Couchepin said that the New Economy had not reinvented basic economic rules which called for good business practice and old-fashioned business acumen.

"Future success in e-commerce will depend on two things - on the ability of business to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the new technologies...and on government's ability to create the best possible framework conditions," he said.

Couchepin said there were a number of areas where government action was still needed, citing in particular telecommunications.

"Competition in the telecommunications market needs further strengthening. Prices must be brought down, local loops must be unbundled and price fixing must be prevented. Bringing down prices is particularly important," he said.

He repeated that more specialists in information and communications technologies needed to be trained, and even more needed to be trained to teach those subjects.

"Other areas to which the government is devoting considerable attention include data protection, consumer protection, the protection of intellectual property and ways of dealing with illegal content on the Internet," he said.

Earlier, the US ambassador, Richard Fredericks, said the real story behind the conference was what it said about US-Swiss relations.

"Our cultures share a lightning-swift eye for opportunity and new sources of prosperity," he said.

"It is natural that our two governments in the context of the Joint Economic Commission should join with our two private sectors in holding this conference from which new business opportunities, jobs and educational possibilities will flow," he added.

swissinfo

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