Content - Swiss President listens to SCCIJ member voices

  • April 20, 2018

Swiss President listens to SCCIJ member voices

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – During his four-day visit to Japan, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Alain Berset, has taken one hour of his precious time to listen to the concerns and matters of SCCIJ regular members. The representatives of 20 chamber members utilized this unique opportunity to introduce their business to the Swiss President and to briefly outline particular challenges and current difficulties. The exclusive round table meeting was organized in close cooperation with the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan.

Swiss President Berset meets SCCIJ

Exchange with Swiss President

Mr. Berset is the first Swiss President since 2014 to have visited Japan. “I was impressed to see how excellent the bilateral relations are,” Mr. Berset said at the start of the exclusive meeting with SCCIJ members. Two days earlier, he had held an official meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In addition to bilateral relations, the talks covered a wide range of international issues.  

During the SCCIJ event, member representatives had two minutes each to introduce themselves and their company and to elaborate on the “challenges and opportunities of doing business in Japan”. Several topics were touched upon.

SCCIJ members discuss current topics with Swiss President Mr. Alain Berset (click to enlarge)

SCCIJ members discuss current topics with Swiss President Mr. Alain Berset (click to enlarge)

Demographics as challenge

The demographic changes in Japan were touched upon in members’ comments in various ways: One company offering serviced apartments pointed to an increasing demand because seniors would be looking for personalized care while continuing to live independently. At the same time, companies in the retail market have to carefully choose their target groups in order to survive in their competitive markets.  

Another member emphasized that recent free trade agreements such as the one between Japan and the European Union would not benefit the Japanese economy due to labor shortages, especially in the logistics area. One solution to this problem would be transformation and recurrent education of employees to ease the switching of jobs from declining to growing industries, one SCCIJ member representative said.

Swiss President Mr. Alain Berset talks at an exclusive meeting with SCCIJ members (click to enlarge)

Swiss President Mr. Alain Berset talks at an exclusive meeting with SCCIJ members (click to enlarge)

Value change of Millennials

Representatives of several Swiss watch brands noted that the interest of younger generations, in particular the millennials, in buying and owning a high quality watch would be decreasing due to a value shift away from possessing material goods to experiencing something special. 

One further aspect brought up by SCCIJ members were the Japanese restrictions for hiring foreigners. Foreign companies cannot very easily sponsor work visa for foreign talents, one manager complained. Several younger SCCIJ members suggested the facilitation of student and trainee exchanges between Switzerland and Japan.  

Regulations restricting growth

Another issue for SCCIJ members were specific regulations which impede expansion and growth. One example mentioned were import amount restrictions for food and high duties on specific items designed to protect Japanese producers and limit the potential of foreign importers. Another complaint targeted the high currency fluctuations which would be difficult to compensate for in a price sensitive market. 

In his brief reply, the Swiss President underlined the relevance of hearing such thoughts first hand and thanked the present SCCIJ members for their frank contributions. This is inspiring, Mr. Berset said. He informed the audience about the interest of Switzerland to modernize the Switzerland-Japan Free Trade Agreement of 2009. The meeting ended with Swiss and Japanese punctuality after exactly 60 minutes.


Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ; Middle photo: SCCIJ, top and bottom photo: ©Embassy of Switzerland in Japan/Peter Klaunzer

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