Switzerland is closely integrated into international value chains and, as an exporting nation, highly depends on access to foreign markets. In relation to free trade agreements, Switzerland is facing new challenges. Swiss companies risk suffering discrimination towards major trading partners such as the EU and the US if these conclude inter-regional agreements to which Switzerland is not party. At the same time, protectionist practices as well as criticism of trade liberalisation and globalisation are increasing. Meanwhile, digitalisation is progressing, facilitating internationalisation of trade flows and bringing about new products and services.
The Report’s feature topic focuses on recent opportunities and challenges to foreign economic policy, and on the economic conditions required to keep Swiss companies competitive in a rapidly changing environment and enable them to participate in new markets resulting from globalisation and digitalisation. For Switzerland, having few natural resources, digitalisation in fact presents particular opportunities.
As in previous years, the Federal Council sought in 2016 to maintain and develop the bilateral agreements with the EU, and to further expand the network of Swiss free trade agreements. Concerning new business models, the Report shows that regulations will have to be adapted to take account of new technologies, for example in the financial sector. In addition, education policy is to be aligned to new challenges and corresponding infrastructure is required. On the international level, Switzerland is taking due account of the above mentioned global developments, e.g. by participating in interdisciplinary studies and projects on digitalisation in the OECD and by lowering customs duties on information technology products under the plurilateral WTO-agreement «ITA II».
In addition to the feature topic, the Report presents an overview of the key events and activities in the field of foreign economic policy during the year under review.
An English summary of the Report is available on the internet.
Address for enquiries:
Ambassador Christian Etter, Delegate of the Swiss Government for Trade
Agreements, Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate, State Secretariat for
Affairs SECO, tel. +41 (0)58 464 08 62
Roger Gschwend, Head of International Economic Law, Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate, SECO, tel. +41 (0)58 465 39 75