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SUISSE news Fall 2018 / August 2018

Business News (September 2018)

Zurich airport is third in the world

Zurich Airport has scooped third place in the “Handelszeitung” Airport Ranking 2018. In a repeated run of success, Europe’s best airport was beaten only by Singapore and Hong Kong.

Anyone landing at Singapore Changi Airport will make it “from airport to taxi” within 25 minutes, “including immigration control, baggage collection and customs clearance”, writes Claus Schweitzer in the Airport Ranking 2018 published by “Handelszeitung”. It has been “the world’s best airport for years”, and the only negative Schweitzer could find was the complicated WLAN access.

In second place, Hong Kong International Airport boasts the “attractive new The Deck lounge with open-air terrace and view over the airfield”. But Zurich Airport too lays claim to an open-air area – and it is among the reasons the airport has once again scooped third place in the ranking. With “around 300,000 visitors annually”, the observation deck is “one of Switzerland’s most popular attractions”, writes Schweitzer.

While Zurich also scored well for its “clear signage, predominantly pleasing passenger flow and exemplary connection to public transport”, Schweitzer and the frequent flyers surveyed for the ranking were unhappy with the time-consuming new Automated Border Control gates and the Skymetro, which is often overcrowded.

However, Zurich Airport has “a great opportunity to climb in the ranking”, says Schweitzer, thanks to The Circle, which is due to open at the end of 2019. The service centre built around a hill close to the terminals will make Zurich “one of the only airports in the world with its own park”.

At Qatar’s Doha Hamad Airport, which ranked sixth, Schweitzer uncovered a touch of Switzerland. Of the three thousand artworks from around the world exhibited in the airport, one is Swiss artist Urs Fischer’s “big gold bear under an even bigger table lamp”.

Basel researchers develop new approach to terpene syntheses

Terpenes are a class of chemical compounds found in nature that also include clinical substances. Lab synthesis has always been very difficult, but Basel scientists have now developed a new approach.

Clinically relevant substances such as the antimalarial drug artemisinin and the chemotherapy medication paclitaxel belong to the class of compounds known as terpenes, explained the University of Basel in a statement. But because terpenes are so structurally complex, chemists have always found them difficult to synthesize.

Now, nature has inspired researchers led by Konrad Tiefenbacher from the University of Basel’s Department of Chemistry to develop a new synthesis concept. They took a so-called molecular capsule, which forms itself in organic solvents from smaller compounds and then, similar to nature, encloses the starting material for the terpene synthesis. Control elements are also integrated into the precursor to ensure the desired product.

The Basel scientists proved the applicability of their concept with the synthesis of the natural product isolongifolene. The synthesis succeeded “in significantly fewer steps and with a good yield”, according to the statement.

“Our next goal is to use capsules as an artificial enzyme in the creation of even more complex terpenes,” commented Tiefenbacher. The statement added that this may open up new ways of synthesizing terpene compounds that “would otherwise not be readily accessible”.

Close-up on Swiss-U.S. business relations

Three questions for Tara Feret Erath, deputy head of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland, on the development of business relations between the U.S. and Switzerland. She will be part of the keynote speech at the Exporter demain! 2018, organized by Switzerland Global Enterprise and taking place on October 30 at the SwissTech Convention Center in Ecublens, to discuss the future of trade relations between Switzerland and the U.S.

Tara Feret Erath, what will be the impact of increased tariffs on steel, aluminum, and potentially also other products, on trade between Switzerland and the United States?

The President’s statements reflect important national security and overcapacity concerns; these are the reasons for such measures. On April 30, the President extended the temporary exemption for the EU and several other countries to May 31, to give countries time to propose alternatives to tariffs on steel and aluminum. Discussions with the EU, Canada and Mexico were unsuccessful; therefore these countries will be subject to tariffs on imports of steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) from June 1.
According to government officials, tariffs are used as a tool to correct the serious trade imbalances that have damaged the United States. U.S. customs duties have been considerably lower than tariffs applied to U.S. merchandise exports to major trading partners. It should be emphasized that among major trading partners there is a broad consensus regarding the need to address global trade imbalances. In Paris on May 31, U.S. trade representative, Lighthizer, EU trade commissioner, Malmström, and Japanese trade minister, Seko, issued a joint statement expressing concerns over non-market oriented third country policies and measures that could be taken in the near future. Several countries have benefitted from permanent tariff exemptions on steel and aluminum (South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Argentina). These countries have proposed and negotiated acceptable alternatives to remedy the global overcapacity in the steel and aluminum sectors. Swiss manufacturers in the United States may apply for product-specific exemptions from the Department of Commerce for specialty steels and aluminum. Requests for product-specific exemptions will be made available for public comment. Decisions will be made within 90 days.

To what extent will corporate tax cuts make the United States more attractive to Swiss investors?

The United States has adopted strong economic growth policies, including a new low corporate tax rate and drastic regulatory cuts. The U.S. corporate tax rate has been reduced from 35% to 21%. Businesses will receive $1.8 trillion in tax cuts, which will boost economic growth and generate more revenue. More than 500 companies have stated that the law will have a favorable impact on them. Consequences: more than 5.5 million U.S. workers receive bonuses, raises and other benefits. Since his election, President Trump’s focus on stimulating economic growth has forced unemployment rates to historically low levels.

Is the tough immigration policy making it more difficult for companies to expand their operations in the United States?

Recent changes to U.S. immigration policy are not having any impact on Swiss companies who want to start or expand their businesses in the United States. The U.S. embassy in Berne has opened an email account to provide information on investor visas. The address is: BernNIVEVisa@state.gov
The United States aims to improve border security and adopt immigration policies based on the rule of law.

World Tourism Forum Lucerne supports startups

The World Tourism Forum Lucerne is supporting startups in the tourism sector. In November, it will host the first Swiss Start-Up Innovation Camp, with selected companies competing to win prize money and coaching.

The first Swiss Start-Up Innovation Camp will take place on 9 November, announced the World Tourism Forum Lucerne. The forum is seeking startups founded in the last five years with the potential to innovative Swiss tourism.

“We are searching for the rising stars of the Swiss startups scene in five key categories for the tourism industry,” explained Martin Barth, President and CEO of the World Tourism Forum Lucerne. The five categories are mobility, hospitality, transaction, destination and impact.

Startups can apply for the camp until 23 September, with selected businesses receiving the opportunity to present their ideas to the jury, investors and experts. Winners will then be chosen in all five categories. Up for grabs is prize money of 5,000 Swiss francs and participation in a two-year coaching programme.

“The camp is more than a competition. By combining elevator pitches, awards ceremonies, knowledge transfer within expert circles and networking, we are taking a special approach,” said Barth. The aim is to give startups a springboard into the industry, and investors and guests an insight into the startups scene.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) welcomed the new competition. “We believe that startup companies are important for boosting productivity in tourism. This is why the government’s new tourism strategy aims to strengthen support for startups,” commented Richard Kämpf, who is Head of Tourism Affairs at SECO.