The chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries in Switzerland — organized in the Scienceindustries trade association — account for 45% of total exports with around 70,000 employees and are thus the undisputed largest export industry in Switzerland. The members of Scienceindustries generate 98% of their turnover in international competition. Approximately half of their exports go to the EU. As a small nation, Switzerland is therefore dependent on good economic relations with the EU and countries from all over the world.
Switzerland enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide as a chemical and pharmaceutical location. Basel and thus northwestern Switzerland, where traditional groups such as Roche and Novartis have their headquarters, are of international importance as locations. With Sika, Bayer, Pfizer and Vifor Pharma, the economic metropolis of Zurich is just as well positioned as the Mittelland canton of Aargau with its numerous production sites for the agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries. Central Switzerland, with the cantons of Zug and Lucerne, is also home to international companies such as AstraZeneca, Biogen, Jansen, MSD, Roche Diagnostics and Shire. The canton of Valais with Syngenta and Lonza is also important. In particular, Lonza and other companies in the Valais produce chemical ingredients for pharmaceutical production. The Bassin Lémanique with the cantons of Geneva and Vaud and the companies Firmenich and Givaudan have also become an integral part of the international life sciences map.
The chemical-pharmaceutical industry has a great demand for highly qualified personnel due to its lively research and development activities and is therefore dependent on access to the international labor market. The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons as part of Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU secures Switzerland’s access to European professionals. In addition, Switzerland’s proximity to the world’s leading universities, ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne, as well as stable political conditions, are of great importance for its attractiveness as a globally important chemical, pharmaceutical and life science location.
Key Success Factor: Bilateral Agreements with the EU
Switzerland is a first-rate export nation.
With 45% of the exports from Switzerland, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry is the largest exporter and thus a central pillar of the Swiss economy. In 2018, the chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries alone exported products worth around 104 billion Swiss francs to the whole world, around 50% of which was supplied to the EU. The bilateral agreements are a prerequisite for regulated access to the EU internal market and thus an important location factor for international companies in Switzerland. In addition to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, the Bilateral Agreements I include the five market access agreements, which make unhindered market access possible in the first place. These existing agreements are therefore an important location factor for research-intensive, export-oriented Swiss companies.
The agreements with the EU also closely link Germany and Switzerland economically. Germany is by far Switzerland’s largest trading partner, ahead of the USA. The economic importance of Switzerland for German foreign trade is also significant, with Switzerland ranking 9th in exports and 8th in imports in the ranking of Germany’s most important trading partners. Outside the European domestic market, Switzerland is surpassed only by the USA and China.
In terms of Switzerland’s chemical and pharmaceutical industry, Germany is the second most important customer country. In 2018, goods worth 16.6 billion Swiss francs were exported to our neighboring country. A quarter of the imports for our industry come from Germany. Our northern neighbor also benefits considerably from the bilateral agreements with Switzerland. Therefore, it should also be in Germany’s interest to increase its efforts within the EU to maintain the bilateral path with Switzerland. Scienceindustries for its part consistently supports the Federal Council’s proposal for an institutional framework agreement with the EU, which should guarantee more efficient application of the agreements in the area of market access.
Protection of Intellectual Property is Essential
In addition to secure relations with the EU, an expansion of cooperation with other regions of the world through free trade agreements — especially with the USA and Mercosur — is essential for the future success of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland. The recognition and application of the international TRIPS protection standards for the protection of intellectual property is mandatory for the research-oriented industry.
The chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries welcome the free trade agreement between EFTA and the common market of South America, the Mercosur states. The agreement enables the member companies of Scienceindustries to comprehensively reduce the tariffs of their products in the common market of the South. This includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay — Venezuela is currently suspended — and is a very interesting market with 290 million inhabitants. At the end of the transition period, 96% of existing Swiss exports to Mercosur will be duty-free in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.
Research and Innovation Help to Solve Current Challenges
Each year, the member companies of Scienceindustries contribute almost 40% to the private expenditure on research and development in Switzerland, i. e. more than 6 billion Swiss francs each year. In discussions in Switzerland and throughout Europe, however, we have noticed a crumbling acceptance of scientific findings in broad sections of society. The ongoing debates about new technologies and progress in general should not only take into account the real and supposed dangers and risks, but also the benefits and opportunities of these new technologies. A general zero-risk attitude is the death of all progress.
Restrictions or even prohibitions are the wrong way for an open society. In the field of plant protection products, for example, research can make an important contribution to a more sustainable approach to the environment. By investing in research, our member companies in the agricultural sector promote the development of sustainable and gentle active ingredients for crop protection.
Society and Industry Dealing with the Environment
The climate debate has gained importance in Switzerland, as in many other countries worldwide, over the past year. This public discussion on climate change dominated the national parliamentary elections in Switzerland in autumn 2019 and led to a historic victory for the ecologically oriented parties. However, sustainable management has long been a matter of course for our global industry. Since 1991, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry has voluntarily committed itself to the “Responsible Care” global initiative to ensure the safe and sustainable handling of its products throughout their entire life cycle. In Switzerland, Scienceindustries is actively committed to compliance with these global Responsible Care principles.
Consequently, Scienceindustries supports the agreement to link the Swiss emissions trading system EHS with that of the EU. The target agreement to exempt the CO2 tax has proven to be a successful model. Companies in the target agreement system often significantly exceed their emission reduction targets: since 1990, Swiss EHS companies have achieved a 14% reduction in greenhouse gases. These reductions represent a significant contribution to achieving Switzerland’s emission reduction target by 2020. For this reason, the target agreements should in future also be open to all companies outside the emissions trading system. Scienceindustries is committed to making the targets more flexible at home and abroad, because reduction measures and the corresponding investments in their own operations remain more attractive for industrial companies even if foreign measures are fully taken into account.