Trade Policy Review – Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Opening statement by the Norwegian delegation
Geneva 15 December 2008
Like others we would also like to warmly welcome the Swiss delegation and Liechtenstein’s delegation to this third review of their trade policy.
I would like to express our appreciation to Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the WTO Secretariat for the interesting and comprehensive reports that form the basis for this review.
I would also like to thank Faizel Ismail (South Africa) for his insightful contribution as our discussant.
Last but not least I thank my good friends and colleagues, Marie-Gabrielle and Norbert, for their comprehensive introductory remarks.
As Switzerland’s and Liechtenstein’s reports confirms, their governments remain deeply committed to a strong multilateral trading system. Norway recognizes and appreciates the active participation of Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the WTO.
As evidenced in the reports, both Switzerland and Liechtenstein have open economies, with low tariffs and generally few restrictions on trade in goods and services, as well as on foreign investment. Both countries refrain from applying anti-dumping and countervailing measures – indeed they have never done so. They have also not imposed any safeguard measures since the previous TPR.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein attach importance to non-trade concerns in agriculture. These are concerns that are understood and appreciated by Norway.
Both Switzerland and Liechtenstein remain among the wealthiest countries in the world and have enjoyed steady economic growth in the period under review.
Switzerland, Liechtenstein and all countries with open economies will be challenged by the global economic slowdown. The financial crisis at the heart of the current turmoil has brought the issue of financial market supervision to the forefront. In the light of this, we are pleased to note the establishment, as from 1 January next year, of a unified and independent financial market supervisory authority in Switzerland.
We also note that positive legislative projects have been realized in order to strengthen and modernize the financial centre in Liechtenstein.
It is indeed a great pleasure to take part in the TPR of Switzerland and Liechtenstein. We count both countries among our closest partners.
Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland constitute, together with Iceland, the European Free Trade Association. We enjoy a long-standing partnership and continue to cooperate very closely to develop free trade relations with an increasing number of partners in our immediate neighbourhood as well as further afield. Our relations are such that we often talk about ourselves as members of the EFTA family.
Liechtenstein and Norway are also partners in the development of the Agreement on the European Economic Area which effectively extends the internal market of the European Union to the three EFTA states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
As yet another example of the many arrangements that bring us together, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Switzerland’s participation in the Schengen Agreement, effective as from last week.
As far as the DDA is concerned, Norway has close cooperation with Switzerland and Liechtenstein in a number of areas. Agriculture is one – where we cooperate very closely and where our positions are well known. Nama is another, where our ambitions and priorities correspond closely. In all three countries, services is one of the most important sectors for foreign earnings. This is reflected in in our positions and priorities in the DDA negotiations. Let me also highlight trade and environment, where both Switzerland and Norway have supported the establishment of a list of environmental goods for which trade would be facilitated.
I would like express appreciation to Switzerland for its preparedness to let its representatives in Geneva take on leadership tasks in our organisation. My thanks go to Luzius in particular for accepting the NAMA Chairmanship at a very challenging point in time. I would also like to thank Switzerland for the expeditious and generous way in which it dealt with the WTOs desire to upgrade and extend our current building facilities. The agreement on the long-term housing needs of the WTO provides the foundation for a thorough upgrading of the working conditions for both Members and Secretariat staff.
I suspect that only about a week ago, many in this room were hoping that this TPR would be postponed. We were hoping instead for a ministerial meeting that would give us Agriculture and NAMA modalities for Christmas. That was not to be this time around. An important challenge now is to avoid a proliferation of trade-restrictive measures by WTO Members. It is highly appreciated that Switzerland and Liechtenstein, like Norway, are firmly committed not to use protectionist measures to cope with the current crisis.
I am confident that this review will be interesting and useful not only for Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but also for all other participants.