EU-Switzerland Agreement: "The breakdown of negotiations is a setback for bilateral relations"

François Baur/ economiesuisse

Since 2009, François Baur has headed the Brussels office of Switzerland's largest business association, economiesuisse, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2020. In this interview, he talks about how closely Switzerland and the European Union are intertwined economically and how economiesuisse is dealing with the breakdown of negotiations on the EU-Switzerland framework agreement.

How important are close ties with the European Union for the Swiss economy?

Economic relations between Switzerland and the EU are very close. Switzerland exports around 50 percent of its goods and services to the EU27 and obtains around 67 percent of its imports from the latter. The exchange is particularly intensive with the border regions: Trade with its neighbours Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria alone exceeds Switzerland's trade with its third most important trading partner, China, by 25 percent.

This is possible not least because Switzerland has fully adopted EU legislation in the area of harmonized products through the Agreement on dismantling technical barriers to trade and has so far been able to participate in the European single market without additional administrative hurdles when exchanging industrial products and components.

What is economiesuisse's assessment of the breakdown in negotiations on the EU-Switzerland framework agreement?

The breakdown of negotiations is a setback for bilateral relations. The EU no longer wants to adapt the existing agreements to legal developments in the EU - even though they have not been terminated and are still in force. This will make it more difficult for Swiss companies to participate in the EU's internal market. The same applies to the participation of EU companies in the Swiss domestic market. This is already the case today for medical devices.

What expectations does economiesuisse now have of the negotiators?

We expect both the EU and the Swiss Federal Council to sit down at the negotiating table again as soon as possible and work out pragmatic solutions for further cooperation in the interests of both sides. The ending of negotiations does not change the goal of stabilizing and, if possible, expanding bilateral relations. For companies in Switzerland and the EU, it is important that both sides adhere to the bilateral agreements and do not undermine them unilaterally.

What is your vision for relations between Switzerland and the EU in 2030?

We are sticking to a vision in which there are as far as possible no barriers to trade in services and goods between Switzerland and the EU, as well as that the free movement of persons continues to be guaranteed. We have also worked out a stable framework for Switzerland's participation in EU programs until 2030. We are convinced that the bilateral agreements have proven their value as a foundation for mutual relations. They are important for Europe's international competitiveness.