Swiss National Bank president upbeat

Jean-Pierre Roth says Switzerland anticipated plans to fight the financing of terrorism Keystone Archive

Jean-Pierre Roth, president of the Swiss National Bank, is pleased with the outcome of the international financiers' meetings in Ottawa.

This content was published on November 18, 2001 minutes

Roth, speaking on Sunday after a meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in the Canadian capital, said the results were positive. He said the plan agreed on by the G20 group of rich and poor nations on Saturday to fight the financing of terrorism went in the same direction as Swiss initiatives.

"Switzerland reacted early to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism," said Roth. "Our system that makes each financial intermediary know his clients has worked."

According to the central bank president, the multilateral cooperation plan aimed at blocking terrorist access to banking systems does not concern Switzerland primarily. It is aimed rather at countries that are still not up to speed on the issue.

The American Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, confirmed this to Roth during a conversation. O'Neill apparently praised Switzerland's efforts in the fight against terrorist finance.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the G20, proposed in Ottawa to supply experts and technical support to other countries. Any measures would however have to be coordinated by the IMF.

Banking secrecy

Roth said there had been no discussion about Switzerland's banking secrecy during official talks or during bilateral meetings.

The central bank president said other talks had focused on the state of the world economy. The IMF recommended industrialised nations continue pursue a stable monetary policy, a recommendation Roth refused to officially comment on.

Roth also refused to state whether another drop in interest rates was in the offing. He did say however that the Swiss National Bank has reacted in the past faster than other nations to lower its rates.

The central bank president also refused to comment on the apparent contradiction between the Swiss authorities' financial aid to civil aviation and the IMF recommendation to keep public finances stable.

"Switzerland's public finances are healthy," he said, "and there is a mechanism to stop the authorities from spending too much."

More development aid

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, pleaded for development aid to be increased for central Asian countries.

In its constituency at the IMF and World Bank, Switzerland represents a number of former Soviet central Asian republics, which are feeling the effects of the war in Afghanistan.

Couchepin also said that Switzerland wanted to scale down to a large degree the customs duties and fees which hindered exports of agricultural products from the poorest countries to Switzerland.

He added that they could not be totally eliminated because Swiss agriculture had to be taken into consideration. However, he said the trend would be "towards zero".

Couchepin replaced the Swiss finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, in Ottawa because Villiger was needed in Bern for the debate in parliament on the financing of Switzerland's new airline.

swissinfo with agencies

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