POLICY REVIEW: Switzerland/Liechtenstein
15 and 17 December 2004
Concluding remarks by the Chairperson
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The second joint review of Switzerland and Liechtenstein has been
informative, open and thought-provoking. The two delegations, led by
Ambassadors Wasescha and Frick, have been highly cooperative in their
participation. We have greatly benefited from the perceptive remarks
made by Ambassador Ujal Singh Bhatia, our discussant, and the active
involvement of many Members.
Members commended Switzerland and Liechtenstein on their reforms, through both unilateral and regional initiatives, while maintaining the WTO as the foundation of their external trade policies. Members also appreciated Switzerland's technical co-operation efforts in favour of developing and acceding countries. The two economies experienced differing trends in growth since their last Trade Policy Review (TPR), with employment in Liechtenstein growing rapidly, and Switzerland slowly recovering from a prolonged period of economic stagnation. Liechtenstein has greatly benefited from its membership of the European Economic Area; Switzerland, too, has been taking steps to further integrate many policy areas with the European Communities (EC). In this respect, Members enquired about progress in the two sets of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EC, particularly in harmonizing their regulations on goods, services and movement of persons. Concerns were expressed about potentially discriminatory aspects of such regional integration for other WTO Members.
Members noted that Switzerland and Liechtenstein's tariff structure is complex. Their common tariff consists entirely of specific duties. Members enquired about plans to move to ad valorem duties and to reduce tariffs unilaterally, as well as about valuation of goods for internal taxation purposes. Members commended them for maintaining a generally low level of protection on non-agricultural products. While some Members shared the countries' agricultural policy vision, others emphasized the contrast between their openness in non-agricultural trade and their high level of protection for many agricultural and food products. Concerns were raised about broad agricultural policy prospects and specific measures, including export subsidies, direct payments, and tariff quotas and their administration through, inter alia, the "prise en charge" system. Several Members look forward to progress in Switzerland's agricultural reform. Delegations also asked when Switzerland would provide its long overdue notifications on domestic support and export subsidies.
Several questions were asked about Switzerland's technical and sanitary/phytosanitary regulations, including labelling schemes, regulations on genetically modified organisms, and environmental measures; and about intellectual property legislation, notably on geographical indications. Members commended both countries for not having taken any trade-remedial actions. Members welcomed the ongoing efforts made to increase domestic competition, including the significant reinforcement of Switzerland's Law on Cartels, and called for greater competition in areas still under monopoly. The importance of services to the two economies was noted, and questions were asked about policy developments in telecommunications, tourism, electricity and gas, construction, and financial services, including the issues of bank secrecy, countering money laundering and tax evasion.
Members appreciated the responses provided by the two delegations, and looked forward to receiving written answers on outstanding questions.
This Review has given Members the opportunity to gain a much better understanding of the policy developments in Liechtenstein and Switzerland since 2000. The wide interest shown by Members is reflected in the depth of the interventions, the large number of advance written questions, and the comprehensive written replies. The importance of further reform in the two economies on an MFN basis, both externally and internally, and of greater liberalization particularly in agriculture, has been emphasized repeatedly. I should like to thank the two delegations for their willing and cooperative presence in this meeting, and Members for their active participation.