Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer has warned the G20 countries of the risks represented by cryptocurrencies when it comes to financing terrorism and money-laundering. In an interview given to swissinfo.ch, he also called for trade openness and explained Switzerland's success in terms of competitiveness.
Ueli Maurer was in Buenos Aires to participate in the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governorsexternal link of G20 countries. The event was dominated by debates on sustainable growth, open markets, protectionism, and the digital economy.
swissinfo.ch: Do Swiss citizens share in the government's policy of promoting large-scale trade openness, notably with the US, China, Mercosur,external link the Middle East, and the EU?
Ueli Maurer: Switzerland in general and its citizens are very open to international trade. We want even more international trade, because Switzerland lives by selling to the whole world. What Switzerland does not do – and what Swiss citizens don't want either – is a union or an association at the political level. That's why Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, and why it will not be in the foreseeable future.
Experience shows that we are one of the most competitive countries in the world, because we are competing in an open environment without protections. That's why we must strive for excellence in our products.
swissinfo.ch: Where are we in the draft agreement between the European Free Trade Association, of which Switzerland is a part, and Mercosur?
U. M. : We're advancing. Our farmers are very cautious, as everywhere, but I think that we will find solutions that they could accept. There are no major drawbacks, and the next delegation will come to negotiate. From it side, Argentina must ensure that it is competitive when the borders open, which will be a challenge for it.
Our goal is to quickly advance in the negotiations, to be able to bring them to fruition in the coming months.
swissinfo.ch: If the US has Silicon Valley, does Switzerland have "Crypto Valley"?
U. M. : Currently, we receive on average three requests per week from start-ups that want to establish themselves in this region of canton Zug. That's why we call it the "Crypto Valley".
swissinfo.ch: Will Switzerland bet on cryptocurrencies? This is a legitimate question since there are doubts about their security and their possible misuse for money laundering.
U. M. : We do not think that cryptocurrencies will become the means of payment in the short-term. Concerning security, the delicate phase is when it is necessary to change an official currency to a cryptocurrency. But we have this phase under control. To give you a figure, in Switzerland today there are approximately 1,000 different bitcoins and we don't think they can reach a sufficient volume to compete with official currencies.
But all these problems should be the object of discussions at the international level, to find uniform solutions.