Trade Barriers Would Spell `Alarm' for Switzerland, Maurer Says

  • Swiss finance minister speaks at conference in Rueschlikon
  • As small, open economy Switzerland relies on foreign trade

A rise in protectionist trade measures could make life difficult for export-oriented Switzerland, Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said.

Maurer was responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, which has raised the specter of an increase in tariffs and trade barriers with wide-ranging economic effects the world over.

“If Trump continues as it’s been announced, we’re potentially at the beginning of a new era for trade,” he told the Zurich Economic Impulse conference in Rueschlikon, Switzerland on Wednesday. “I don’t think the global economy will collapse as a result of this new development. But it’s an alarm sign for the Swiss economy.”

Switzerland relies on exports of pharmaceuticals and other high valued-added goods. Companies, particularly in the manufacturing sector, have seen profit margins shrink in recent years due to the strength of the franc, which makes Swiss products more expensive abroad.

Maurer was on hand in Baden-Baden, Germany, earlier this month, where finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies set aside a pledge to avoid protectionism and signed up to a fudged statement on trade instead, in response to the Trump administration’s call to rethink the global order for commerce.

“I’m personally curious what we get from the new U.S. administration in the next few months,” Maurer said.

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