Strengthening Switzerland as a manufacturing location

Konolfingen, 01.09.2011 - Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann | Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA) | Opening of the new Nestlé Suisse AG production centre

Mr Bulcke,
Representatives of the Nestlé management,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I am here today to talk to you at the official opening of the new production centre in Konolfingen. Many thanks for the invitation to do so. Over the past weeks and months, the economic climate has changed dramatically.

This gives me cause for great concern. I am therefore all the more delighted that an international corporation such as Nestlé continues to be convinced of Switzerland's strength as a successful and innovative manufacturing location and has made such a huge investment in Konolfingen. This unequivocal declaration in favour of Switzerland as a location for productivity and creativity will create jobs and ensure prosperity, particularly in the Bern region. I congratulate you on this bold and forward-looking project! We must aim to ensure that Switzerland remains among the top economies in the world, even ten or twenty years from now. As head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, my job is to help create the right conditions for our economy to flourish:

  1. We must continue to invest in training, research and innovation. It is essential for personnel at all levels to be well trained. Thanks to our dual-track system of vocational and professional education and training, we have programmes with a strong practical focus. Education, research and innovation must be given top priority. Switzerland should continue to produce talent of the highest calibre. Only in this way can we maintain our leading innovative position and continue to be competitive.
  2. Market liberalisation and the removal of trade barriers are essential for Switzerland, and especially for a multinational company such as Nestlé. We are familiar with the problems and challenges which the global product trade faces on a daily basis. I therefore aim to ensure that we have access to the important growth markets and remove unnecessary trade barriers within Switzerland and abroad. I am in favour of extending our network of preferential agreements with major dynamic economies such as China, India and Russia.
  3. I am aware of the agricultural policy framework under which food companies such as Nestlé produce in Switzerland. These are currently compounded by the strong Swiss franc. This is weakening our export competitiveness considerably. I assure you that I will do everything I can to maintain or improve current conditions for Swiss companies which export abroad including the food industry.
  4. The labour market in Switzerland is flexible, and should remain so. The freedom of movement between Switzerland and the EU is to our overall economic advantage. Nonetheless, we still require accompanying measures to ensure that this advantage is not weakened. I also believe in the importance of nurturing a healthy relationship between social partners.

But simply creating the right external conditions is not enough to guarantee the success of a company. Businesses must also show a good degree of initiative themselves. A company can enjoy success only if its products and brands have a strong market position and if it is able to keep its costs under control. This is particularly so for companies exposed to international competition, such as Nestlé. I am greatly impressed by the new production centre in Konolfingen. Many local businesses, both large and small, have been involved in its construction. I understand that a considerable amount has been invested in energy recovery systems. Water use can also be halved with the new installations. At a time when the efficient use of natural resources and energy is such a hot topic, this use of new technologies sets a clear example to us all.

It shows what can be achieved with technological advances, which also bring economic benefits to the company. Nestlé mainly produces high quality foodstuffs for babies and children, thereby helping to improve nutrition in many countries of the world. The company has always been greatly concerned to produce goods of the highest quality, and this has ensured its success.

I am delighted that you choose to meet your growing demand for milk by buying in the local area. As you know, the Swiss milk industry has experienced difficulties in recent years. It gives me even greater pleasure, therefore, that our local farmers can also benefit from Nestlé's economic success. We should not overlook the fact that, to a large extent, we are able to set the conditions under which our farmers operate ourselves. They can therefore produce to the highest standards of food hygiene, animal welfare and sustainability.

All those who buy a Swiss quality product from Nestlé can enjoy it with a clear conscience. This gives you a key advantage, especially on export markets. To conclude, ladies and gentlemen: Firstly, this new production centre will strengthen Switzerland's manufacturing base considerably. You have created jobs and provided an income for numerous families in and around Konolfingen. Secondly, you have done a great deal for the environment in terms of resource efficiency. Furthermore, you manufacture quality products which enjoy an excellent reputation throughout the world. You are a valuable ambassador for Swiss quality abroad.

In my role as Minister for Economic Affairs, I will continue to advocate greater market openness and transparency so that businesses can exploit their economic potential to the full. I hope that Nestlé will also be able to benefit from this.

Ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate you on your new production centre and wish you all the best for the future.

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Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research