“That is the greatest stupidity,” warned the President of the Farmers’ Association, Markus Ritter, in a weekend interview with the “SonntagsZeitung” as a precautionary measure. The CVP National Council’s anger was directed against the Federal Council’s intention to abolish all customs duties on imported industrial goods. The Federal Treasury would accept CHF 560 million less in order to relieve the importing Swiss economy. And to lower the inflated prices of imported goods such as cars, cosmetic products or clothes.
Indignant industry associations
However, despite an enthusiastic vote by SVP Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin, the National Council today significantly lowered the bill to abolish industrial tariffs with 108 votes to 83, with 4 abstentions. The business is still going to the Council of States and is given a second chance there. But if the National Council sticks to its failure to appear at the next round of deliberations, the abolition of customs duties is definitely off the table.
The reactions of the industries that would have benefited are correspondingly violent. “The National Council is refusing to support industry in the current difficult situation,” says angry Stefan Brupbacher, director of the Association of the Machine Industry Swissmem. “The National Council slapped the textile and clothing industry,” said the Swiss Textiles outrage.
Agricultural lobby strikes
Once again it becomes clear that what Swiss farmers are targeting is doomed to failure. Agriculture fears that in the negotiations on free trade agreements with other countries, only agricultural tariffs will remain as the bargaining chip if industrial tariffs are removed.
The agricultural lobby in the National Council has obviously done a great job. This is particularly evident in the result of the SVP parliamentary vote. Although industry representative Magdalena Martullo-Blocher officially announced that her party supported the bill, almost half of the parliamentary group subsequently voted in favor. These include prominent SVP farmers such as Marcel Dettling, Andreas Aebi or Pierre-André Page. Together with the negative left parties – the SP and the Greens – that was enough for a comfortable majority.
Gloomy prospects for Parmelin’s agrarian reform
It was no use anymore that there were numerous deviations in the other direction at the CVP. Although the party officially opposed the bill and had one of the toughest opponents in its ranks, Ritter, a representative of the farmers’ association, 16 out of 31 members of the center faction voted for the abolition of industrial tariffs. Not enough to turn the page.
Today’s result does not bode well for another business from Agriculture Minister Guy Parmelin: the planned agricultural reform under the title «AP22 +». Peasant President Ritter recently announced that it was “unsustainable” at the NZZ. After the abolition of industrial tariffs, the next bill from the Federal Council will apparently land on the parliamentary compost heap.
Head of Federal Parliamentary Department, SRF
Burkhardt is the head of Radio SRF’s Federal Office, for which he has worked for over 15 years. Before that, he had worked for “10vor10” and the “SonntagsZeitung” among others.