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"Asia is by far the most important workhorse"

After being shaken by the financial crisis and the currency shock, the Swiss export economy is on the road to recovery. Daniel Küng, CEO of Switzerland Global Enterprise, outlines the most important challenges.

CEO Daniel Küng is convinced of the potential of the Asian markets

Daniel Küng, how successful is the Swiss export economy?
More successful than two years ago. After the currency shock at the beginning of 2015, countless exporters found themselves facing massive problems overnight. Exports to Europe really suffered. Happily, last year there was once again an upward trend, which has held up so far in 2017. If I compare this with the times before the big financial crisis of the years 2008 and 2009 though, the Swiss export industry is undoubtedly less successful now.

Are you able to quantify the upward trend?
In 2016, Swiss export growth amounted to almost four percent, and this year it looks like we'll see similar growth. Companies are now even more positively placed than last year. Many have undergone fitness and cost-reduction programs and thus improved their internal structures.

Have many companies exploited the opportunity to build up new intercontinental export business as a result of the euro crisis?
That is most definitely the case. A few years ago more than 65 percent of all Swiss exports were destined for the EU, while now that figure is 54 percent. Asia has caught up considerably and now accounts for 22 percent, while the USA, at almost 15 percent, is now a growing target market for Swiss export companies. Exports to Africa have also seen a welcome increase, while South America has stagnated somewhat.

Why are the Asian markets in particular showing such a boom?
Because in no other part of the world over the past few years has there been such rapid growth of a middle class with ever greater purchasing power. This "rising middle class" will double worldwide over the next 15 years or so from the current 2.5 to around 5 billion consumers. Asia is by far the most important workhorse in this development. Today almost two thirds of global consumption is still attributable to Europe and North America, but by 2030 Asia will have overtaken and will account for two thirds.

So the magic word here is "diversification"?
For six or seven years now, that has been the key message that we want to make Swiss export companies more aware of. The big financial crisis and striking distortions it brought to even the European markets changed many things for the long term. Now we also have the unfavorable currency constellation in relation to the euro. Exporting companies that have the opportunity to dismantle their cluster risks in Europe in favor of new growth markets should do this more actively in the near future.

How does Switzerland Global Enterprise support companies here?
We are happy to make our global expertise and network available to any interested companies. We currently operate 22 Swiss Business Hubs around the globe, which are based in embassies or general consulates and are staffed by between three and five employees.

To what extent can your customers benefit from the experiences of other companies?
Passing on expertise by exchanging experiences is one of our core services. The network that has developed this way is considerable, but we still work with 5,000 SMEs each year. Our networking events bring together a broad spectrum of entrepreneurs, giving them the opportunity to take home a lot of valuable information. Our most important events are the Forum for Swiss Foreign Trade in Zurich and the Exporter Demain! event in Lausanne.

The interview with Daniel Küng appeared in the SME magazine of AXA Winterthur. You can read the entire interview here (in german).

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