Swiss minister pessimistic on swift EU treaty

Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin said the EU would weaken itself if it no longer cooperated with Switzerland on research. (AFP/File)
Updated 01 September 2019

Swiss minister pessimistic on swift EU treaty

  • The Swiss retaliated by banning EU venues from hosting Swiss stock trading

ZURICH: Switzerland is unlikely to strike a deal with the EU this year over a stalled partnership treaty, its economy minister said, extending an impasse that has hurt bilateral ties and disrupted cross-border share trading.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged Bern to wrap up the accord before his term ends on Oct. 31, when German politician Ursula von der Leyen is set to replace him.

The Swiss government has also said it would like to clinch a deal by then if three final points can be clarified.

Economy Minister Guy Parmelin, however, told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that he was pessimistic, given that representatives of Swiss labor, employers and cantons had been unable to find common ground Switzerland could use in the talks. “We want a good solution that can win majority support, and that is not the case at the moment,” said Parmelin, a member of the right-wing and euroskeptic Swiss People’s Party.

“I don’t think we can wrap up this year. Our agenda and that of the EU allow a conclusion only next year at the earliest,” he said, citing Swiss elections in October, the creation of a new European Commission team and a Swiss referendum due next year on abolishing free movement of EU citizens.

Brussels blocked EU-based investors from trading on Swiss exchanges from July 1 as the row escalated over the treaty under which non-member Switzerland would routinely adopt the EU single market rules. The Swiss retaliated by banning EU venues from hosting Swiss stock trading.

In Bern, resistance to the treaty — negotiated over 4-1/2 years and Switzerland’s top foreign policy issue — encompasses the normally pro-Europe center-left to the anti-EU far right, which both see the pact infringing on Swiss sovereignty.

Failure to secure a treaty deal with its biggest trading partner means Switzerland gets no new access to the single market, its crucial export outlet. The partners have 120 bilateral economic accords that would stay in place but erode over time when they are not updated. Research cooperation could also stop.

“I think the EU would weaken itself if it no longer cooperated with Switzerland on research,” Parmelin said. “We are then forced to seek alternatives, perhaps along with Britain, if the EU remains dogmatic.”

Parmelin played down a Swiss media report that he would urge post-Brexit Britain to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which groups together Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

He said some Swiss politicians liked the idea but the Swiss Cabinet had not discussed it.

“I have not heard that this is needed by Britain. If Britons want that, we will review it, but I believe it would be risky,” he said.

“Given its size, Britain would dominate the rest of EFTA.”


Oil up on slowing pace of coronavirus, Venezuela sanctions

Updated 20 February 2020

Oil up on slowing pace of coronavirus, Venezuela sanctions

  • Financial analysts say epidemic is likely to deal a ‘short-term blow’ to global economy

LONDON: Benchmark Brent oil prices rose for a seventh consecutive day after demand worries eased with a slowing of new coronavirus cases in China and supply was curtailed by a US move to cut more Venezuelan crude from the market.

Brent was up 71 cents at $58.46 a barrel at 1510 GMT. The global benchmark has risen nearly 10 percent since falling last week to its lowest this year. US oil was up 53 cents at $52.58 a barrel.

“Those in doubt of the economic impact from the virus should take heed from Apple’s surprise sales warning ... Put simply, this is the surest sign yet of the coronavirus fallout on the global economy,” said PVM analysts in a note.

S&P Global Ratings said it expected coronavirus would deliver a “short-term blow” to economic growth in China in the first quarter, echoing findings by the International Energy Agency.

Official data showed new cases in China fell for a second straight day, although the World Health Organization said there was not enough data to know if the epidemic was being contained.

The oil market price structure is also showing signs that prompt demand for oil is picking up, as the front-month Brent futures market is moving deeper into backwardation, when near-term prices are higher than later-dated prices.

This week, oil prices were also buoyed by a US decision to blacklist a trading subsidiary of Russia’s Rosneft, which President Donald Trump’s administration said provided a financial lifeline to Venezuela’s government.

Hopes that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers would deepen supply cuts also supported prices.

The grouping, known as OPEC+, has been withholding supply to support prices and meets next month to decide a response to the downturn in demand resulting from the coronavirus epidemic.

But in the US, which is not party to any supply cut agreements, oil production has been rising. US shale production is expected to rise to a record 9.2 million barrels a day next month, the Energy Information Administration said.