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WEF19 Switzerland will not over-regulate fintech sector, says president

swiss president ueli maurer

Swiss President Ueli Maurer in Davos on Wednesday.

(© KEYSTONE / LAURENT GILLIERON)

Swiss politicians and leaders from the tech sector reaffirmed in Davos on Wednesday their liberal strategy towards the regulation of new technologies in the fintech sector.

Swiss rules for innovations like blockchain will continue to target “processes, not technologies”, said Switzerland’s current president, Ueli Maurer, at a roundtable event at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Wednesday.

This means that new technologies themselves are not regulated, Maurer said, but rather the impacts which they cause are overseen by existing legislation, made to be flexible enough to accommodate innovation.

Contrasting this approach with the sometimes-heavy-handed regulations of other countries, Maurer said that it was necessary to take risks to stay on top in the digital world, and to maintain Switzerland’s strong economic position in decades to come.

+ Read our in-depth coverage of the fintech scene in Switzerlandexternal link

The small size of Switzerland – which continues to be listed near the top of competitiveness and business rankings – allows it to be supple in adapting to digital progress, he said.

Regular dialogue between politicians and leaders from the financial sector – particularly the burgeoning fintech scene – also helps the authorities know what is needed to foster innovation.

Other members of the panel included Jörg Gasser, the state secretary for international finance, Credit Suisse president Urs Rohrer, and Swiss National Bank head Thomas Jordan; it was organised by digitalswitzerlandexternal link, an umbrella group founded in 2015 to try and promote the country’s development as a digital leader.

Brazil-Switzerland

Also on Wednesday in Davos, Maurer met with newly-inaugurated Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for talks that focused mainly on a potential trade deal between the European Free Trade Area (of which Switzerland is one of four members) and Mercosur, the trading block representing much of Latin America.

Maurer, who was accompanied by economics and foreign affairs ministers, Guy Parmelin and Iganzio Cassis, said after the meeting that discussions "will surely continue" on the issue, but did not mention any time frame.

Bolsonaro, who has come under some criticism since his inauguration due to (among other things) an alleged scepticism towards environmental issues, is undertaking his first visit abroad since becoming head of state. 

A handful of demonstrators staged a symbolic action on Wednesday morning in Davos demanding that Maurer raise the issue of climate change with the Brazilian president; Maurer confirmed that the topic was discussed, without giving further details. 

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