Two Swiss non-governmental organisations have accused the government of being “obstinate” in not taking effective action to regulate the commodities sector, after it announced that “real progress” had been made on the issue.
The cabinet approved on Wednesday a status report for the implementation of recommendations made in March 2013, to regulate the commodities industry. It referred to stricter rules that were issued in the area of derivatives trading and anti-money laundering. The government’s interest “to promote transparency with regard to payments made by commodity companies to governments” and its support of the Extractive Industries Transparency Inititative (EITI) were also included.
The organisations Swissaid and the Berne Declaration demanded that more rigorous regulations be introduced in the sector, particularly through the introduction of a law allowing for greater transparency in payments made to governments in commodities transactions.
In June, parliament adopted the Financial Market Infrastructure Act on over-the-counter derivatives trading, to align Swiss regulations to those in the United States and Europe, but which traders agree applies more to countries with mercantile exchanges, which is not the case in Switzerland.
The EITI initiative brings together representatives of governments, the extractive industry and civil society, to enforce greater transparency by demanding that payments to governments where oil, gas and minerals are extracted be disclosed.
The NGOs protested that the Swiss government is “focused exclusively on voluntary initiatives by firms, in spite of continuing problems, which have been recognised by the federal council itself.”
They said that “the first, very small step, taken has been celebrated like a great success.”
A government press release said “challenges” remain on the matter of regulation. “It is thus still a matter of maintaining the competitiveness of Swiss companies and taking action to address the risks associated with their activities in terms of human rights, environmental and social standards, corruption and reputation.”
According to the Swiss National Bank, commodities trading accounts for 3.9% of the country’s GDP.
swissinfo.ch and agencies