According to Thomas Wellauer, Chairman of ICC Switzerland and Group COO of Swiss Re, the “Self-Determination Initiative” (SDI) weakens Swiss companies abroad.
An acceptance would be fatal for the Swiss export industry.
Thomas Wellauer, according to SDI supporters, the survival of Swiss democracy is at stake on 25 November. Would you agree?
No. Direct democracy is firmly anchored in Switzerland, nobody questions that. The Swiss people can already vote today on all important foreign policy decisions. The Swiss People’s Party (PP) is concealing what is really at stake in this radical proposal: The success of Switzerland as an export nation. As the Swiss National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, we want to ensure that our companies continue to enjoy good conditions for their activities abroad.
Why do you see this framework in danger?
The fact that Swiss companies are so successful on the world market is primarily due to our outstanding products and services. But we also need a reliable legal basis for our activities in other countries. This consists of a dense network of international legal agreements for free trade, investment protection, the protection of intellectual property, etc. With the SDI, we risk weakening this network massively.
The initiators stress that self-determination also strengthens the business location.
The SDI is ignoring the framework. We amend our Federal Constitution several times a year by the means of referenda. Until today, Switzerland is using common sense to seek pragmatic solutions if there is a contradiction in certain aspects. However, the SDI stipulates that the contract must then be renegotiated and, if necessary, terminated. In extreme cases, we would even have to disregard contracts before they are terminated. Putting this to practice, we are signaling that commitments we have made are of little importance to us. Our partners take such signals very seriously.
But other countries also disregard international law.
That may be true - but Switzerland is neither a great power nor a rogue state. Our companies have every interest in ensuring relations with other states run smoothly. For example, we depend on other states not undermining arbitrarily investment protection by discriminatory legislative changes. However, if in case of doubt Switzerland itself no longer wants to comply with its obligations, it cannot demand this kind of protection of its companies of other countries either. In that way we also endanger the investments of our companies. But that is only one side of the problem...
What's the other one?
Today, Switzerland enjoys an excellent reputation as a contractual partner because we stand by our obligations. This makes it possible to conclude advantageous agreements with many countries. Contrary to our European neighbors, we also have a free trade agreement with China. Accepting the SDI, we would place all agreements under a permanent reservation and our reputation would quickly be ruined. And then it will be much more difficult to conclude further agreements.