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Swissmem makes up with business federation

(Keystone)

A crisis that threatened to pull apart the Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, appears to have been averted after a key member withdrew its threat to quit.

Swissmem, which represents the engineering industry, said on Friday that it would remain part of the influential lobbying body provided promised reforms are carried out.

In May, Swissmem said it would leave economiesuisse by the end of this year following a row over the amount of money it pays as a member, coupled with a perceived lack of representation.

Swissmem was particularly aggrieved that its views as a prominent member were being ignored in favour of financial and pharmaceutical industry interests.

Economiesuisse was forced to promise a number of reforms which included cost-cutting measures and an improved system of communication among members.

"The reform work is already underway and it is in the interests of all members that they are completed in the course of 2007," Swissmem said in a statement.

"At the successful conclusion of this strategy process economiesuisse and Swissmem intend to resume their permanent relationship."

Swissmem added that it is "convinced" about the importance of having the business lobby group that represents the interests of Switzerland's main industries in its dealings with the government.

Reforms

New economiesuisse president Gerold Bührer, who id due to be formally elected on Monday, will be charged with finally healing the rift between members.

Speaking to swissinfo earlier this month, Bührer said the organisation needed to be solid "like the granite at the Gotthard".

Swissmem president Johann Schneider-Ammann told swissinfo that the priority was not to get a discount on membership fees.

"We want to see foremost a reform of strategy, secondly of structures and finally of financial aspects, such as who is going to pay what," he said.

"I am really confident that we can shape a new concept that will be better for all parties, including Swissmem. But we are not there yet and we need time for this process to reach completion."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen with agencies

economiesuisse

The Swiss Business Federation – economiesuisse - is the largest umbrella organisation representing the Swiss economy. It has the support of more ...

In brief

The dispute between economiesuisse and certain members erupted this spring.

It centred on membership costs and policy statements that had been recently released by economiesuisse.

The main points of contention were economiesuisse's continued support of a parallel imports ban and its official position on the open market. These views were seen as favouring the interests of the powerful finance and pharmaceutical industries to the detriment of other members.

Several other members also threatened to leave or were highly critical of the organisation. Another key member, the Swiss Master Builders' Association, said it would not renew membership but it was later persuaded to stay.

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Key facts

The Swiss Business Federation was created through the merger in 2000 of the Swiss Trade and Industry Association and the economic promotion organisation.
Since its founding it has attracted more than 30 new members, including Microsoft, IBM and the SWX Swiss Exchange.
economiesuisse had a budget this year of SFr15 million ($12.24 million). Swissmem is reported to pay SFr3.75 million as a member, but this may be reduced as a result of reforms.

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