• Switzerland's news in English

Swiss parties call for more protectionism

30 Sep 2011, 12:41

Published: 30 Sep 2011 13:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Sep 2011 12:41 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Swiss entrepreneurs and politicians called on Thursday for the government to implement protectionist measures favouring national companies over foreign suppliers in the awarding of public contracts.

Companies in Switzerland are currently struggling to secure public contracts: because of the strong franc they are struggling to compete on price with foreign companies, Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) is currently investigating how Swiss firms could be given an advantage in public procurement without breaching international regulations. 

Finance Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has previously indicated that he would welcome changes to the country's public bidding system.

Michaela Stöckli, the director of industry association Swissrail, described how Switzerland was behaving with excessive rigidity in its approach to bids for tender.

“When it comes to procurement, Switzerland is more European than Europe,” she said.

“Unlike our neighbouring countries, the authorities would never define criteria that could benefit Swiss companies.”

In an unpublished study, Swissrail said it found that there is a considerable room for manoeuvre that could be used by authorities to favour highly qualified Swiss companies, while still complying with World Trade Organisation (WTO) principles.

Stöckli said it could for example be stipulated that a contractor be required to be present on-site: “That would benefit the Swiss company,” she said.

The protectionist proposal gained support from left and right in parliament on Thursday ahead of the upcoming national elections.

Hermann Bürgi, Swiss People’s Party councillor from Thurgau, said he was annoyed that the government was pumping half a million francs ($554,505) into unemployment insurance, while continuing to award major contracts abroad.

Social Democrat (SP) national councillor Edith Graf-Litscher said the government must “provide for more flexibility in the application of international guidelines”.

Faced with exchange rate parity, Swiss firms did not have a chance being awarded contracts, she said.

Liberal party (FDP) national councillor Werner Messmer demanded that Switzerland set a threshold capping the number of foreign suppliers allowed to bid for public contracts.

Since Switzerland signed onto the WTO agreement in 1996 and the bilateral treaty with the EU in 2002, foreign contractors cannot be disadvantaged over national companies.

Economist Reiner Eichenberger from Freiburg University told the newspaper that any talk of protectionist measures was cause for alarm.

“When Switzerland wants to protect public procurement, there will be costs,” he said, believing hidden subsidies for local businesses would force the state to pay more for infrastructure and buildings.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

‘Scary clown’ craze hits streets of Zurich
Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP

Police in Zurich have warned so-called ‘scary clowns’ that they could face charges, following a number of incidents in the city.

VIDEO: driver chases runaway car on Swiss motorway
Image: Neuchâtel police

Shocking footage shows the moment a man dodged lorries to chase after his runaway car on a Swiss motorway.

Saas-Fee crowdfunds low-cost season ski pass
Saas-Fee is hoping to attract 99,999 season pass holders. Photo: Denis Emery/Photo-genic.ch

Skiers could get their hands on a whole season pass for just 222 francs ($223) in the Swiss resort of Saas Fee this winter – if enough people want one.

Swiss billionaire fined for dodging import tax
Urs Schwarzenbach owns the luxury Dolder Grand hotel in Zurich. Photo: Wilhem Rosenkranz

Urs Schwarzenbach faces a $4 million fine for failing to properly declare some 200 artworks imported into Switzerland.

Muslim woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf.

Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
jobs available