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The Association of Swiss Foreign Trade Chambers - SwissCham held its annual meeting on May 21-22, 2004 in Estonia. The event, attended by 21 of the 45 chambers of commerce that are members of SwissCham, was expertly hosted this year by Diana and Jürg Würtenberg of the Swiss Baltic Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) in the charming port city of Tallinn. Participants included chamber representatives from Peru and Argentina, to Morocco and Hungary, organisations that facilitate investment and trade between Switzerland and partner countries, representatives from EDA and seco's export promotion division.

The proceedings opened with a welcome statement from H.E. Edgar Savisaar, Mayor of Tallinn, who is also head of the Centrist Party in Estonia. The first day was devoted to the role of the Swiss foreign chambers of commerce in promoting Swiss exports, and forms of collaboration between the chambers and the Osec hubs. Dr. Rolf Jeker, who moderated the entire program, began with a presentation on the current status of Swiss export and directions for the future. Ambassador Bernhard Marfurt, EDA, discussed how EDA views the collaboration with Swiss chambers of commerce abroad.

A number of presentations were devoted to collaboration between the chambers and Osec: Daniel Küng, Osec CEO, focused on what Osec's expectations of a Swiss business hub are. Jürg Schweri, Managing Director of the Swiss-Austria and Lichtenstein and Charles Kaufmann Sampaio, Chamber of Commerce Switzerland- Portugal, discussed forms of cooperation between hub and chamber, and practical experiences working with Osec.

Markus Stern, SIPPO and Dr. George Malcotsis, Swiss Organisation for Facilitating Investments (SOFI) who work routinely with a global network of intermediaries to facilitate investment and trade between Switzerland and target countries described their organisations and the collaboration with chambers.

Spicing the day with local flavor were presentations on support for Swiss SMEs in the Baltic States presented by Jürg Würtenberg, President of the SBCC Tallinn, Bruno Kaspar, Honorary Consul in Lithuania and Robert Becsy, Managing Director of Dätwyler AG in Tallinn. Roger Unterberger, President, Swiss-Central Europe Chamber of Commerce (SEC) gave an overview of the Baltic States and ably moderated this section. H.E. Pierre Chrzanovski, Switzerland's Ambassador to Finland and Estonia, and H.E. Mart Laanemäe, Director of the Chancellory, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, respectively, concluded the program with presentations on Switzerland's relations with the Baltics, and particularly Estonia's relations with the EU and Switzerland.

The general assembly entailed a review of SwissCham's activities in 2003 and visions for 2004 including acquisition of new member chambers, building up the SwissCham secretariat, which has been under SOFI's management since January 2004, and adopting further measures to support chambers' export promotion activities.

Participants networked intensively during the meetings. They also participated in a full cultural program organized by the SBCC that took them to historical sites in Tallinn, a dinner on the "Admiral" steamboat with honored guest H.E. Lennart Meri, former President of Estonia, and an afternoon trip to the Lahemaa National Park where they had tea at the Palmse Manor and strolled through the forested grounds.

Replete with new ideas for the year, buoyed by renewed contacts with fellow chambers, and inspired by the beauty and hospitality encountered in Estonia, participants bid warm farewells until the next gathering, which will take place in Switzerland in November 2004. ds

The SwissCham board
(left to right): Dr. Rolf Jeker,
Martin Theurer, Daniel Küng, Jürg Schweri and Jean-Luc Peyrot.
Dr. Rolf Jeker, former SwissCham President.

(Left to right): Diana Würtenberg, Mayor Edgar Savisaar and Daniel Küng. Participants (foreground, right to left): Norma Allemann, Corinne Schirmer, Alessandra Kauffmann Modenese, Dr. Fabrizio Rindi. (Second row, right to left):Gerard Salzmann, Jean-Luc Peyrot, Christoph Etter, Martin Herb, Renée Jaccoud, Walter Diggelmann.

Participants (right to left): Roger Ünterberger, Hugo Salvisberg, Verena Voutilainen, Charles Kaufmann Sampaio, Martin Theurer. (Left to right): Daniel Küng and Ambassador Bernhard Marfurt.

Max Steiner makes a point. Csilla Halasz is seated next to him. H.E. Mart Laanemäe answers a question. Ambassador Pierre Chrzanovski is seated next to him.

Waiting to board the "Admiral" steamboat (left to right): Peter Hutzli, Christoph Etter, Robert Oehler, Sushil Premchand. Dinner on the "Admiral" (left to right):
H.E. Lennart Meri, Dr. Rolf Jeker, Daniel Küng.

Markus Stern makes a presentation. Jean-Luc Peyrot expresses an opinion. Christoph Etter is seated next to him.

Group photo at the Altja fishing village. Martin Theurer makes a statement.

SwissCham, the Association of Swiss Foreign Trade Chambers since 1935, promotes Swiss exports and a Swiss economic presence abroad through its global network of member chambers.