Swiss Must Knock Down Trade Barriers, Says Report

SWITZERLAND – Half of Swiss farm receipts come from farm support measures and major trade barrier reductions should be rolled out to address this.
calendar icon 2 April 2015
clock icon 3 minute read

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) paper has proposed ways to increase the competitiveness of Swiss farming by adapting regulations to boost the industry’s strong elements.

The report said agriculture has a “minor and declining” role in the Swiss economy.

Swiss politicians are urged to reduce trade barriers and limit direct payments to farmers as part of a broad policy to instil competitiveness in Swiss agriculture.

Greater market-orientation would help achieve this and, in turn, reduce the burden of farming on the tax payer’s pocket.

This said, the OECD acknowledges the progress made in reforming agricultural policy. This is evidenced in the 20 per cent reduction in the amount of public transfers from consumers and tax payers from 70 per cent in the 1990’s to 2011-13.

Speaking at a presentation in Bern recently, Frank van Tongeren of the OECD said: “Switzerland has taken strong steps to reform its farm policies, but it needs to maintain momentum through further reductions to border protection and additional revisions to its system of direct payments to farmers.”

“The reform process must be designed to reconcile the potentially conflicting objectives of current Swiss agricultural policy.”

Swiss agricultural policy is based on four guiding principles;

  1. Food security
  2. Sustainability of agricultural production
  3. Taking care of the landscape
  4. Maintaining rural areas

In a press release, the OECD said the farm support in Switzerland is one of the highest in OECD countries.

But, there is reason to be positive about the future. “The positive experience with opening the Swiss cheese market to EU competition since 2007 and the elimination of milk quotas in 2009 show that the farm sector is capable of adapting to market opening,” said the OECD.

“Further aligning Swiss and EU agricultural prices would lead to gains for consumers that exceed the losses to farmers and taxpayers.”

Michael Priestley

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