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Economic growth remains "key challenge"

The Swiss economy is heavily dependent on international trade Keystone

The Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, says reinforcing economic growth remains its central challenge.

This content was published on April 25, 2005 - 12:50

At its annual press conference on Monday, the federation argued strongly for further economic reforms, and threw its weight behind the federal government’s ongoing cost-cutting programme.

The trade federation, which represents the interests of Swiss business both at home and abroad, also declared its strong support for the government’s new foreign trade strategy.

Economiesuisse called on Swiss negotiators to push for a rapid liberalisation of global trade within the framework of the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO), and also indicated its support for moves to conclude a bilateral trade agreement with the United States.

Chairman Ueli Forster told a news conference in Zurich: "Switzerland needs a reinforcement of economic growth – that is currently the primary challenge facing our country."

He added: "Growth is based on [increased] supply [of goods and services], and that can only come either from an increase in the amount of work done or from increased productivity."

Forster supported the economic growth plan announced by the federal government last year, and warned that policies aimed at boosting supply and demand were "complementary" and should not be played off against each other.

Forster also argued strongly for federal budget "discipline" to be maintained in the face of calls for additional spending on projects ranging from social transfer payments (i.e. welfare payments) to federal investment programmes (i.e. railways).

Active foreign trade

Deputy chairman Patrick Odier stressed the importance of international trade in goods and services for the "small, open" Swiss economy.

He pointed out that Swiss businesses employ more than 1.8 million workers abroad, and that every second Swiss franc is earned outside Switzerland (export sales).

Odier said economiesuisse supported the government’s strategy of concentrating on improving access to foreign markets and on strengthening the international legal framework for trade and investment.

He said the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting, due to take place in Hong Kong in December, was of crucial importance for the breaking down of continuing barriers to international trade.

Odier called on Swiss delegates to the talks to "defend with determination" the goal of further rapid liberalisation.

In parallel, he called for the maintenance and development of individual bilateral trade agreements with foreign trade partners, in order to "avoid discrimination" for Switzerland (which is not a member of the European Union).

Blocking process

Economiesuisse director Rudolf Ramsauer criticised what he described as the "blocking policies" of "conservative elements on both the Right and Left", which he said was aimed at "torpedoeing all attempts at reform".

Ramsauer said such policies were evident in the campaign against the Schengen/Dublin accords and the extension of an existing agreement on the free movement of persons with the EU, as well as moves to prevent Sunday shopping and the promotion of genetic-engineering techniques in agriculture.

He also strongly criticised attempts to use profits from the Swiss National Bank to support the compulsory old-age pension scheme and to increase spending on child support, saying their supporters had "lost all touch with economic reality".

swissinfo

Key Facts

Economiesuisse represents the interests of Swiss companies at home and abroad.
Domestically, it considers boosting economic growth as the primary challenge facing both business and politics.
On the international arena, it supports the government’s new foreign trade strategy and calls for rapid progess on liberalising trade.

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