It is unfair that whilst Chinese investors can buy Swiss companies the reverse is not possible, says economics minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who is currently on a visit to China.
In an interview with the “Schweiz am Wochenende” newspaper, he reiterated his view that this must be rectified. For infrastructure like electricity supply and telecommunications, the government should be able to intervene “if a company is threatened by a foreign takeover”, he told the newspaper. He said this should apply to American as well as Chinese takeover attempts.
Switzerland is calling for reciprocity on this issue, the minister said, so that Swiss companies would also have the possibility to acquire Chinese firms.
Schneider-Ammann did not tell the paper how he was tackling this issue with Chinese authorities.
At the heart of his visit ending Sunday is a wide-ranging 2014 free trade agreement between Switzerland and China, which covers goods, services and capital flows. “We are going to see if we can remove some more barriers in this agreement,” the minister said, because Swiss exports to China “with the exception of gold have been growing by 8% per year”. This is despite a strong Swiss franc and a slowdown in Chinese economic growth.
China is Switzerland’s third biggest export market after the European Union and the United States, accounting for CHF 37 billion (USD 38 billion) in 2017. Switzerland exports mainly pharmaceuticals, machinery and watches, while Chinese exports to Switzerland are mainly machines, electronics and textiles. China is also the biggest investment market in Asia for Swiss companies.