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Interview: Johann Schneider-Ammann

Jul. 9, 2014

Switzerland is considered one of the world's most stable economies. But even so, the country is not immune to the uncertainties facing Europe. NHK WORLD's Kyoko Fujita sat down with Johann Schneider-Ammann, the Swiss Minister of Economy, during his visit to Japan and asked him about the challenges facing his nation and the rest of Europe.

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Johann Schneider-Ammann

Swiss Economy Minister

How do you rate Switzerland's economic situation and the risks Europe faces ?

The Swiss economy is actually doing reasonably well with a GDP growth of about 2% in a not very easy European environment, and that's quite remarkable. Switzerland is doing well in saying that we now have an unemployment rate of about 3%, or in other words we are almost full employed. As far as the European environment is concerned, the economic situations in European countries are very, very different. The European Central Bank is offering the necessary liquidity, to offer the time to attack the structural problems which the European countries and the European Union face. I guess that the Europeans need to solve the structural problems earlier than later to reduce any risk.Principally, we do not fear a rise of inflation over the next 1 to 3 years. And that has something to do with the policy of the European Central Bank, which follows some sort of Abenomics, meaning quantitative and qualitative easing.

What should the Europeans do?

I used to be an entrepreneur for most of my life before becoming a member of the Swiss government. And I'm thinking with my entrepreneurial soul, let's speak about the ways to motivate entrepreneurs to invest. As long as the labor markets in key European countries are so tight, in my understanding, there is no chance of finding a significant way out of the unemployment problem. Europe needs to, foremost, liberalize the labor laws.

How do you think the EU's economic situation will affect Switzerland?

We depend for about 3 quarters of our exports on the European Union. And we depend for 2 thirds of our imports on the European Union. That's why we are here. We want to increase our trade volume with Japan. We are very much interested in creating the best relationships with the Far East like China, like South Korea, and naturally once again with Japan. In other words, we know that we depend heavily on the European neighborhood, and because we know that, and because we know that the European neighborhood is not in the best conditions, we try hard to expand our activities to the whole globe.Over the last couple of years, we spoke about the locomotive of the global economy being located in the Far East Pacific region. The region where the activities progress the best, and that's why the whole world is interested in doing business with your country and the countries in this Far East, Asia-Pacific region.

Switzerland and Japan celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. What kind of relationship do you wish to build with Japan in the future?

We set up some 5 years ago a free trade and partnership agreement. Based on that, trade relations improved and became stronger and stronger. I'm accompanied on my mission to Japan by representatives from the banking, insurance, machine and pharmaceutical industries, as well as from the watch industry. These are 5 specific business segments that try hard to perform even better in the Japanese market. And we should speak about services. Services means banking, insurance, and solar industry, and Switzerland is very much interested in doing business with economic partners in this particular new technology environment.

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