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Annual Gala Dinner | May 2017

Remarks by Dr. Martin Dahinden, Ambassador of Switzerland to the U.S.


Annual Gala Dinner
New York City | May 17, 2017

It is an outstanding pleasure to be among you tonight and to give remarks on Swiss-American relations.

The change in the U.S. administration and the new Congress are at the center of the Swiss Embassy’s work these days. Switzerland has built up contacts to the new administration. Our exchange will intensify in the weeks and months to come as positions are filled and policies established. Fortunately, at present there are no bilateral problems in sight, despite the sometimes different views we have on foreign policy issues.

As the last speaker, it is usually not advisable to come up with numbers and figures. But what you will now hear is so enjoyable that it fits in well at the end of the evening and hopefully you will remember my remarks well beyond tonight.

Investment by Swiss companies in the United States is outstanding. At USD 255 billion in direct investment, Switzerland is now the number 6 investor in the United States, surpassing Germany for the first time.

More than 500 Swiss companies with 3,500 business locations are active in all 50 states. In twenty states, they rank among the top four job creators. This vast footprint is not limited to one particular sector of the economy, but is very broad.

Our strong bilateral trade and investment relationship supports 730,000 jobs in the United States, roughly 500,000 through investment, 200,000 from services exports to Switzerland and 70,000 through exports to Switzerland.

High-paying jobs are typical of the jobs created by Swiss investment. The average salary of an American worker employed by a Swiss firm is USD 104,000 or USD 42,000 more than the average private sector wage.

Research and development plays a major role in Swiss investment, at a total of around USD 10 billion in annual expenditures, creating 24,000 research jobs in the private sector. A number of Swiss companies have apprenticeship programs in America, which contributes to a well-qualified labor force.

Investment, trade in goods and trade in services are closely linked. The trade between our countries is in balance. Switzerland’s trade surplus in goods (USD 13.7 billion) is to a large extent offset by the U.S. trade surplus in services (USD 9.8 billion).  Tariffs on trade are very low. Over the past years, three-quarters of U.S. goods that entered Switzerland were duty-free.

There are many more figures like the USD 4.3 billion in income taxes Swiss firms pay in the U.S., which makes Switzerland the number 4 taxpayer among foreign investors.

What is the context of the role of the Swiss government?

The most significant role is to maintain and strengthen the existing good institutional framework, with its 75 bilateral agreements and its practical arrangements to deepen and expand cooperation.

And what is the role of the Swiss Embassy and other Swiss representations?

  •  An important role is to communicate the importance of Swiss-American economic ties. Not by PR campaigns, but in consistent exchange with decision makers. The facts and figures I just mentioned are not well known, either in the U.S. or in Switzerland.
  • Another important role is to report to the Swiss government on key issues. We closely observe the emerging policies of the Trump administration, and we assess their impact on Switzerland. But there is a much broader mandate to gather information and analyze it.
  • And we provide hands-on support to companies, in particular to small and medium-sized enterprises, together with the Swiss Business Hub.

My final remark is about the image of Switzerland in the United States.

The Swiss are rather modest in advertising themselves and even more so when it comes to their strengths. That may be quite nice, but it is risky as well. Eventually other people could define what we are and how we are perceived.

The general image of Switzerland in America is good. It is about cheese, mountains, chocolate, and watches. Despite the charm of this stereotype, it hides much of what present-day Switzerland is: one of the most innovative and globalized nations in the world. We should care about our image because the stereotype runs the risk of missing opportunities for us and for potential partners.

Mainly through direct contacts and smaller events, the Swiss Embassy and Consulates in the United States have started to change that image without hampering the more traditional positive stereotype. It is now time to go a step further.

Aware of our very limited natural resources, we have designed an exciting new campaign to focus on our other resources. Young designers and craftsmen from the Swiss company Abusizz have made a high-tech table out of wood from the forests near the iconic mountain, the Matterhorn. The table will now travel throughout the United States; it will go to interesting places, invite interesting people to sit at the table and to exchange ideas. Most of the events will happen live and on social media. The table’s journey will link the very different events, people and places together in a single narrative.

This outreach to the American audience is called SwissTouch. If you are interested in learning more, or even joining us, please let me know. Please get in SwissTouch with us!