The National on Thursday refused to take up the issue of the Federal Council’s plan to abolish tariffs on cars or appliances as early as 2022.
Tariffs on industrial products should not be abolished. The National on Thursday refused by 108 votes to 83 to enter into the government’s plan. The Council of States has yet to decide.
The Federal Council wants to abolish tariffs on a range of products such as cars and appliances from 1 January 2022. This package will cost the Confederation 560 million francs a year. It is part of a programme announced in 2017 to combat the Swiss high-cost island. It responds to numerous parliamentary interventions.
Depriving the Confederation of such a large sum of money is not appropriate. In addition, the Federal Confederation has already spent a significant amount of money to help many economic sectors cope with the coronavirus crisis, said Samuel Bendahan (PS/VD) on behalf of the commission. This deletion is not compatible with the current financial situation, criticised Leo Muller (PDC/LU) and Sophie Michaud (Greens/VD).
Not for consumers
In addition, the expected decline is 0.1% on consumer prices. In this case, prices are never adjusted for the decline, stressed the Socialist. The removal of tariffs will therefore not benefit consumers.
On the contrary, it will increase the commercial margin of manufacturers, such as the automotive or cosmetics sector, according to the Vaudois. In addition, this will make outdoor products more competitive with domestic products.
About 80% of goods are not subject to customs duties. For the remaining products, these duties represent an average of 1.8% of the price. Tariffs only determine prices marginally, argued Jacqueline Badran (PS/ZH). Economy Minister Guy Parmelin countered that some consumer goods are subject to 55-60% tariffs.
Switzerland would see its negotiating power weakened when negotiating new free trade agreements, Mr. Muller argued. “A unilateral deletion disarms us.” And the pressure on agricultural tariffs would increase massively, Bendahan said. The fear of the abolition of tariffs on agriculture is unfounded, according to Olivier Feller (PLR/VD).
The PLR, some UDCs and some PDCs were in favour of the project. For the PLR, the abolition of tariffs on industrial products will help to strengthen the Swiss economic position and the competitiveness of Swiss companies. “This is the best stimulus package imaginable for our economy,” Feller said.
An increase in economic activity is expected. This will result in new revenues of 860 million francs. Some of the shortfall will be offset by additional revenue. If the economy is more competitive, it will invest more and create jobs, Parmelin said.
The project would also reduce administrative costs by a total of 100 million francs, which would benefit a large number of companies, including many SMEs, said Magdalena Martullo-Blocher (UDC/GR).
A differentiated system
The Greens also supported the project. However, said Kathrin Bertschy (BE), the customs system must be differentiated according to environmental criteria and not to protect certain sectors.
The autonomous abolition of tariffs on industrial products is not new, Said Guy Parmelin. Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Iceland, Norway and New Zealand have already unilaterally waived all or part of their entry fees on industrial products.