Rules for economic globalization and the role of Switzerland

Switzerland is small, rich, and profits greatly from globalization. Consequently, it is under growing international and public pressure from those who wish to make the world economy “fairer” and “more sustainable” by means of transnational rules. Home to many multinational companies, Switzerland is highly exposed to any such regulatory changes. Yet it need not assume a passive role. Indeed, the very process of implementing rules for multinational companies provides valuable scope for action.

Small state or economic power?

Emerging regulations may accommodate or defy the specific interests of particular domestic actors. In principle, transnational governance frameworks that legitimate the global market in line with Western ideas stand to benefit Switzerland as a business location and a community of values. Whether the country decides to view itself primarily as a small state and a passively affected party or as an economic power and an active shaper of future developments is largely a political question. At the same time, this question is complicated by the fact that growing demands for nation states to assume responsibility for “their” multinational enterprises are occurring simultaneously with the denationalization of market forces.

Contribution to transnational governance

Existing law offers scope for action, as the implementation of transnational guidelines in the area of corporate responsibility is not yet well-established. This affords Switzerland an opportunity to independently apply the concept of due diligence in various legal areas, arriving at viable solutions by carefully weighing diverse public interests. Such a process always involves finding out how sector-specific efforts towards “due diligence” are best complemented, encouraged, and enforced. In addition to civil law and liability law, this also concerns other legal areas less prominent in the debate. All countries, not just Switzerland, currently face the task of adjusting existing national rules so as to promote sustainable development worldwide. In doing so, as both a small country and a global “economic power”, Switzerland can make an important contribution to 21st-century transnational governance.

Background paper and factsheet

The background paper “Small State, Large Companies: Switzerland in the Order of Globalization” (in German) and the factsheet are based on historical and economic research at the Center for Global Studies and the Centre for Development and Environment, both at the University of Bern. It was published by the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE).

Kleiner Staat, grosse Unternehmen: die Schweiz in der Ordnung der Globalisierung (background paper in German) (PDF, 2.8 MB) Small-state big companies (factsheet in English) (PDF, 2.4 MB)