ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland’s medical technology lobby advised members on Thursday to brace for trouble should the government reject a stalled bilateral treaty with the European Union, potentially hurting access to the crucial EU market.
The Swiss government has been holding consultations with domestic power brokers on how to proceed with the treaty, which would have non-member Switzerland routinely adopt EU single market rules and ease conditions for EU citizens in Switzerland.
The outcome is in doubt amid opposition from critics across the political spectrum who say the deal infringes too much on Swiss sovereignty. The government is supposed to stake out its position by June.
The 120 sectoral accords that now govern bilateral ties include a pact on mutual recognition of industrial standards that need to get updated as new rules take effect. This cannot be taken for granted should the treaty get shot down.
Swiss officials have cited medical technology as an exposed sector should EU ties deteriorate. It employs around 58,500 people and generates annual sales of nearly 16 billion Swiss francs ($15.7 billion).
Others stand to lose too as cross-border stock trading gets hit and plans for an electricity union evaporate.
“Swiss Medtech recommends that Swiss manufacturers’ business considerations should also include the scenario of having to meet the requirements of a third country” outside the single market, the industry group said.
This means that Swiss manufacturers wanting to export products under the EU’s new Medical Device Regulation may have to appoint an authorized representative based in the EU and adapt all product labels.
“Depending on the complexity and scope of the product range, meeting these two requirements can take two years,” Swiss Medtech President Beat Vonlanthen said.
Should the Swiss government decide to support the treaty in principle, that may suffice to update the mutual recognition accord, it noted, adding Brexit-related supply bottlenecks in Europe could also lead to exemptions.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Potter