Meridian 5: Forging Stronger U.S.-Switzerland Economic Relations

On March 9, 2021 the Meridian Corporate Council partnered with ServiceNow to host a virtual conversation with H.E. Jacques Pitteloud, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA, 08) for a discussion on their vision for the future of the U.S.- Switzerland economic partnership.  Moderated by T.H. Mark Gilbert, Former U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Ambassador Pitteloud and Congressman Beyer agreed over a lively discussion that rebuilding multilateralism is a critical step towards forming a prosperous economic future.

Below are the top takeaways from the conversation:

DEMOCRACY IS UNDER THREAT

Switzerland continues to champion freedom of expression as a core democratic principal that should be protected. Ambassador Pitteloud of Switzerland provided recent social media attacks as evidence that the world will experience a significant threat from totalitarian influence in the next two decades. Switzerland is not a traditional ally of the United States as they are not a member of NATO; however, Ambassador Pitteloud affirmed that Switzerland remains friends with the United States on shared values of free markets, free speech, and cultivating a level playing field. Ambassador Pitteloud warned that the United States and Switzerland are not immune to the allure of authoritarianism, and he urged democratic societies globally to unite and uphold shared democratic values.

REFORMING THE TRANSATLANIC RELATIONSHIP

The U.S. and Switzerland economic relationship remains important as Swiss companies create more jobs for Americans than any other country in the world.  While the countries do not have a traditional alliance, they coordinate on numerous shared goals and Ambassador Pitteloud seemed encouraged by the Biden Administration’s renewed appetite for engaging with multilateral organizations. Revisiting and reforming older policy frameworks and applying pressure within multilateral organizations is integral to the future of the U.S.-European relations. Both Rep. Beyer and Ambassador Pitteloud emphasized that updating multilateral agreements is the only way to remain competitive in the changing global economy.

CREATING HARMONIZATION IN TECH REGULATIONS

The harmonization of data privacy laws across jurisdictions to ensure a level playing field and provide seamless data transfers for companies remains a priority for Rep. Beyer, a strong proponent of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He acknowledged he would approve a bilateral trade deal with Switzerland to ensure the harmonization of privacy rules. As data privacy talk continues in Europe, Switzerland, who remains outside the EU, still must abide by many of the laws put forth by the EU including data privacy. Ambassador Pitteloud expressed his dismay when the EU struck down the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield and recognized the debate on data protection requires an immediate solution.

STRENGTHENING THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN SYSTEM

COVID-19 exposed significant vulnerability in the global supply chain.  Rep. Beyer expressed the need for an adjustment to the United States’ production system to secure the country in the future. He revealed that vaccines were nearly ready for production in April 2020; however, the disruption in the supply chain significantly slowed down the distribution process.  He stressed that the United States should begin to form purchase agreements with countries, such as Switzerland, to prepare emergency materials and avoid depletion of the national stockpile.

FUELING THE GREEN ECONOMY THROUGH INFRASTRUCTURE

Switzerland and the United States are free-market economies and wherein there is mutual cooperation and coordination between U.S. and Swiss companies. Ambassador Pitteloud expressed Switzerland is eager to engage with energy companies in the United States and be a primary implementer in President Biden’s Build Back Better strategy. Recently, Stadler Rail, a Swiss train manufacturing company, partnered with Salt Lake City Community College to provide classes and paid on-the-job training so that Utah can incorporate railways into their economy. Rep. Beyer also encouraged willingness to use market forces to promote a green economy, such as incorporating Swiss technology and carbon energy, into a summer infrastructure bill that is being developed in the House.

Project summary

Meridian 5: Forging Stronger U.S.-Switzerland Economic Relations | March 2021
Number of Attendees: 41
Regions: Europe and Eurasia
Countries: Switzerland
Impact Areas: Business and Trade
Program Areas: Diplomacy
Partners: Private Sector