Swiss chem trade group opposes popular vote on state treaties

30 November 2011 19:42  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Switzerland’s chemical industry is opposed to a legislative initiative that would subject the country’s international treaties, including free-trade deals, to popular referendums, a trade group said on Wednesday.

Zurich-based scienceindustries fears that the initiative would, if successful, overburden Switzerland’s system of direct democracy and severely restrict the ability of the country’s government to act, said the group’s spokesman, Marcel Sennhauser.

The trade group, which represents some 250 Switzerland-based chemicals and pharmaceuticals producers, is pressing Switzerland’s government to further extend its bilateral free-trade deals, especially with India and China.

If such treaties became the subject of a referendum, resulting delays and hindrances would lead to competitive disadvantages for Swiss-based chemicals and pharmaceuticals producers, Sennhauser said.

“I don’t hope that this initiative will become a fact, and I am confident it will not happen,” he said when asked about the likelihood of the initiative’s success.

“But in Switzerland’s direct democracy, the final decision will rest with the voters,” he said.

Also, the initiative has the backing of Switzerland’s largest political party, the conservative Swiss People’s Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei, or SVP), he said.

Sennhauser noted that in 1992, Switzerland’s voters rejected the country’s participation in the European economic area when that issue was brought to a referendum.

Under Swiss direct democracy, all domestic and foreign issues can become the subject of a referendum, he added.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, scienceindustries also reiterated its concerns about the high value of the Swiss franc, which prompted a number of chemicals and pharmaceuticals firms to look at plans to shift some of their production abroad.

Major firms with chemical or pharmaceutical production in Switzerland include Novartis, Roche, Clariant, Huntsman, EMS-Chemie, Lonza, Sika and Syngenta.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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