SwissCham Annual General Meeting 2008
This year's SwissCham Annual General Meeting took place at the Hotel Concorde Lafayette in Paris on May 2 and 3. The memorable, well organised meeting was hosted by the local bilateral chamber, the Chambre de Commerce Swiss en France. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their effort and support.
The guest speakers included political and economic leaders from Switzerland, Paris and the EU. Two chambers were accepted as the newest members of Swisscham by the general assembly, bringing the total membership to 53 chambers (36 full members and 17 associate members), situated across Switzerland and the wider world.
The event was attended by 21 bilateral chambers of commerce, hailing from as far away as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Columbia. A total of 55 people, including speakers and guests, were expertly moderated by the SwissCham President, Peter Silberschmidt. Proceedings began on May 2 with a word of welcome by Maximilien de Watteville, President of the Chambre de Commerce Suisse en France, followed by a welcome speech and an overview of the past activities by Peter Silberschmidt. Susan Horvàth, Managing Director of the Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, moderated an interesting panel, which discussed the role of the chambers of commerce and how that might change in the future. The panellists included Jörn Bousselmi, Managing Director of the German-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jean-Claude Thomas, Administrator and Director of Finance at the French-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Christian Hanssen, President of the SWISSCAM Swiss-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. Participants were inspired to learn about the way other chambers of commerce are managed and financed, in a refreshingly open and direct style.
In order to exchange ideas and to profit from other experts, participants broke out into working groups which brainstormed central issues pertaining to chamber activities, including marketing and services, financing and communication.
A gala dinner was held at the Hotel Bedford where guests enjoyed a memorable evening. During this evening we had the pleasure of listening to an interesting speech by our guest, Ambassador Jacques de Wateville, Head of the Swiss Mission at the European Union in Brussels.
As in previous years, the issue of cooperation between the bilateral chambers and the network of business promotion instruments and organizations was on the agenda. Ambassador Dr. Eric Scheidegger (Deputy Director, Head of Promotion Activities Directorate, State Secretariat of Economic Affairs) spoke on Competitiveness and international openness. Ambassador Scheidegger pointed out Switzerland’s strengths as a location for business, with its stable and transparent institutional environment, flexible labour market, its excellent fiscal policy with its low burden of taxation, the innovation and quality of Swiss companies, and Switzerland’s well-developed and reliable infrastructure.
Switzerland‘s weaknesses as a location for business are the high degree of regulation in some market sectors, particularly in agriculture and infrastructure, where subsidies protect against international competition; the lower productivity in sectors oriented towards the domestic market and the high cost of living are also among the disadvantages of doing business in our country. Since Daniel Kueng could not be present in Paris, Ambassador Scheidegger gave his speech, on the possible role of the bilateral Chambers of Commerce within the Business Network of Osec.