Energy at the center of discussions between Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin and representatives of the Swiss export industry

The development of Swiss export companies has been generally positive in recent quarters, but the outlook has deteriorated considerably. There are many reasons for this: a recession in Europe cannot be ruled out and inflation, the strong Swiss franc, disruptions and shortages, the European policy lock-up and rising energy costs are increasingly weighing on the export industry. This became clear during the seventh round table with Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin and economic representatives. The Swiss export industry also presented the prospects for some sectors and, in this context, clearly refused to allow the entry into force of the law on customs duties on industrial products to be postponed for one year, to 1 January 2025.

Energy shortage – a fight to be fought with the help of the economy

During the meeting, the participants were informed about the step-by-step plan in the event of a power outage, as security of supply is not guaranteed for next winter. Currently, the Federal Council is developing a modular approach to this matter, in which it will be essential to involve the exporting industries. Participants also insisted on the devastating effects of insufficient or interrupted supplies. Therefore, it becomes even more important to take concrete measures to reduce gas and electricity consumption – also in companies. However, as representatives of the economy have repeatedly pointed out, this requires good instruments.

Central importance of free trade

With regard to free trade agreements, economic representatives welcomed the Federal Council’s increased efforts to sign new free trade agreements and revise others. According to Secretary of State Helen Budliger, the focus is on new agreements with strategically important partners like Mercosur and India, but also with smaller countries like Kosovo and Moldova. Existing agreements with China, Japan and Mexico will be updated soon. They are essential if our country wants to further diversify its external economic relations. However, Switzerland needs more political leeway. Limitations, including through parliamentary provisions, would be counterproductive.

Since the implementation of the complex rules of this type of agreement poses great challenges for SMEs in particular, specific measures for wider application will also be needed.

Measures to promote exports in the face of international competition

The promotion of Swiss exports, whose next credit framework is scheduled for 2024, was also discussed. It should be noted here, in particular, that competing exporting nations are taking extensive steps to directly support their companies. Chambers of Commerce, Swiss Global Enterprise and export risk insurers will be particularly in demand in this context. Regarding the Swiss export risk insurance (ASRE), it is worth mentioning that a manufacturing grade of 20% is already enough to guarantee exports from Switzerland.

For a regulated framework for economic relations with the EU

Participants also directly addressed the blockage of European policy, where solutions are needed for a regulated framework with the main economic partner. The damage already done to the economic location will only get worse, as Switzerland has not been associated with the Horizon Europe research program. This development penalizes the Swiss center for research and innovation.

Never before in recent decades has there been such a coincidence of pandemic, inflation, strong Swiss franc, war, shortages, lack of qualified personnel, rising energy prices and weakening the security of energy supply. Today, the Swiss export economy depends, as rarely before, on better structural conditions. The faster and stronger this improvement takes place, the better Swiss companies will be able to weather this turbulent period.

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