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Message to Alinghi Stunning Swiss Policy Change?

Message to Alinghi Stunning Swiss Policy Change?

In a ringing endorsement of the benefits of being open to the world, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Pascal Couchepin has congratulated Team Alinghi for its victory in the Louis-Vuitton Cup saying "Alinghi is flying the flag of Switzerland - multicultural, creative and open to the world".

"This comes as a surprise to New Zealand farmers and trade negotiators, who have been trying for decades to prise open the firmly-closed doors to the Swiss food market," says Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) President Tom Lambie.

"Import barriers to Switzerland are higher even than those to the European Union. Consumers in Switzerland pay more than three times world market prices for their food, while 69% of Swiss farmers' income results from government assistance policies.

"Swiss ingenuity has been used to devise ever more inventive ways of subsidising their farmers and closing their markets to exporters in other countries.

"Does President Couchepin's lauding of being 'open to the world' foreshadow an easing of his country's highly protectionist agricultural policy?

"Such a massive policy change would be a very welcome development for farmers in New Zealand as well as Swiss consumers. It would also be dramatic and unprecedented. But, as the President says, "Alinghi's victory is that of a forward-looking nation with an ability to surprise."

For Mr Couchepin's comments see http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/CU0302/S00066.htm

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