Federal Council Parmelin in discussion with the Swiss export industry: In the name of energy

The Swiss export economy has generally developed well in recent quarters. However, the outlook is considerably clouded. There are many reasons for this: a recession in Europe cannot be ruled out, and inflation, the strong Swiss franc, persistent supply bottlenecks, deadlocked European politics and rising energy costs are increasingly weighing on the export economy. This was clearly expressed at the seventh round table discussion with federal councilor Guy Parmelin and business representatives. Furthermore, the Swiss export industry has shown sector-specific perspectives. A possible postponement of the entry into force of the industrial tariffs by one year to 1 January 2025 was clearly rejected.

Problem children’s lack of energy – involving the economy is important

At the meeting, the participants were briefed on the step-by-step plan in the event of an energy shortage. After all, the security of energy supply is not guaranteed in the coming winter. A modular approach is currently being developed by the Federal Council. The involvement of the export industry becomes very important. Participants also emphasized the devastating effects of any supply disruptions. Concrete savings measures in the consumption of gas and electricity are now all the more important – also from the companies’ side. But here there is a need for good means of action, as has been emphasized several times by business representatives.

Central importance of free trade

With regard to free trade agreements, the representatives of the business world were pleased with the increased efforts of the Confederation Council to enter into new free trade agreements and revise existing ones. According to State Secretary Helen Budliger, the focus here is on new agreements with strategically important partners such as Mercosur and India, but also with smaller countries such as Kosovo and Moldova. Existing agreements with China, Japan and Mexico must be updated as soon as possible. These agreements are a prerequisite for greater diversification of Switzerland’s foreign trade relations. But Switzerland needs more political leeway. Restrictions – especially through parliamentary demands – would be counterproductive.

As the application of the complex rules of such agreements poses major challenges for SMEs in particular, targeted measures for wider application will also be necessary.

Export promotion measures in international competition

The Swiss export promotion, whose next framework credit is due from 2024, was also discussed. Above all, it must be remembered that competing exporting nations use comprehensive packages of measures to directly support their companies. Chambers of commerce, Switzerland Global Enterprise and also the insurance companies of export risks will be particularly challenged here. For the Swiss export risk insurance SERV, it must be emphasized that a completion rate of 20 percent is now sufficient to insure exports from Switzerland.

For a regulated relationship between economic relations with the EU

The blocked European policy was also addressed directly by the participants. Here, solutions are needed for a regulated relationship with the most important business partner. The damage already caused by the company’s location will soon be compounded as Switzerland was not associated with the Horizon Europe research programme. This development is unfavorable for the local research and innovation location.

Never before have a pandemic, inflation, a strong franc, war, supply bottlenecks, shortage of skilled labor, rapidly rising energy prices and declining security of energy supply manifested themselves within the same period of the last few decades. The Swiss export industry has therefore rarely been as dependent on the improvement in general conditions as it is now. The faster and stronger an improvement can be achieved, the better Swiss companies will be able to steer through the turbulent times.

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