12/02/2012

The United States vs. Switzerland in Court and on the Court

The United States is a world power; it has a population of over 300 million; it has the world's largest GDP at $14.58 trillion, a military budget of over $700 billion that dwarfs the next 12 countries in the world combined with a leading role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) collective defense. In spite of the recent financial crisis, rising debt and high unemployment, no one would deny the power of the United States, even in relative decline.


Switzerland is a small, landlocked country in the middle of Western Europe. It has a population of 8 million - smaller than metropolitan New York -, ranks 19th in the world in GDP with $527 billion and 37th in military expenditure with $4 billion. Switzerland is a neutral country that is not a member of any defense institution such as NATO or even the European Union. Except for its recent adhesion to the United Nations, Switzerland stands fundamentally alone on the world security stage.

Why has the United States been so virulent in its recent attacks against Switzerland?  Given the long, historical background of cooperation between the Sister Republics, including similar Constitutions and federal systems as well as Swiss representation of the United States in Iran and Cuba, there must be some rational argument for the current disproportional assault against Swiss banks and Americans living overseas in Switzerland. Switzerland is being picked on; the United States is acting like a bully. There is no attempt here to condone the actions of certain Swiss bankers and banks or Americans who have broken the law. Not at all.  But why so much attention to Switzerland and not to tax havens like the Cayman Islands or Delaware?

Perhaps, and this is mere conjecture, the recent economic recession in the U.S. has caused a spat of jealousy across the Atlantic. Indeed, with unemployment hovering near double digits, there must be enormous envy in Washington about the high Swiss standard of living. With Congressional infighting ruining any possibility of overhauling an overly costly health system that leaves millions uninsured and many dissatisfied, there might be jealousy about the Swiss system that has many expatriates eternally grateful for the low cost and outstanding care they receive here. Or maybe it is jealousy of the Swiss education system where one does not have to pay $40,000 a year for a decent primary through secondary education or $52,000 a year for a college degree. Do Washington politicians really believe that harassing Swiss bankers and Americans overseas will stabilize their weak economy or are they merely pandering to the public's James Bond image of Switzerland to cover up their own incompetence?

To add insult to injury, the United States crushed Switzerland this weekend in the tennis Davis Cup in Fribourg. Roger Federer and teammates could not counter the American armada; a most apt reflection of the power relationship between the two countries today.

February 12, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

15:45 Publié dans Switzerland | Lien permanent | Commentaires (3) |  Imprimer |  Facebook | | | |

Commentaires

Sir,

As a frequent, at least bi-weekly, reader of the US press, one of the few chances for Switzerland to make it in the US news, is to win some major international sport competition. If swiss way-of-life rouses some interest among swiss ex-pats or descendents in the US, I can assure you, any article on the subject in US main stream media (MSM) is perceived with the same interest as promotion by some swiss tourism office.

Now with the exception of requesting to be considered as an exception to the generic western european style of government, with it's back against the Alps, limited geographical and population size, there is nothing that Switzerland has that the US can not get from it's neighbors, establishing Switzerland's geostrategic value, from a US foreign policy point of view, close to insignificant, if not of the lowest priority.

Therefor, one can only conclude that the actual attacks on Switzerland are motivated solely by private interests, using the US government to divert international business away from swiss corporations.

Since at least Julius Casear, being bullied and crushed, is part of swiss history, and every day life when holding a frontline, international business position for the state or a swiss corporation.

So Switzerland has thrived for roughly 70 years in the banking business. But how exactly did Switzerland get on board ?

Wikipedia tells us:
"The Bank of International Settlements, an organization that facilitates cooperation among the world's central banks, is headquartered in the city of Basel. Founded in 1930, the BIS chose to locate in Switzerland because of the country's neutrality, which was important to an organization founded by countries that had been on both sides of World War I."

So Switzerland didn't choose to become a winner, but was itself chosen.
And what about Switzerland's infamous "banking secrecy" that gave it it's unfair advantage over other banks in the world ?

Again, Wikipedia tells us:
"Banking law of 1934

The Swiss Parliament passed the Banking Law of 1934, which codified the rules of secrecy and criminalizes violation of it. The secrecy provisions were not included in the first draft of the law, which mainly concerned administrative matters such as bank supervision. The provisions, found in Article 47(b), were added before passage of the bill due to Nazi authorities' attempts to investigate the assets of Jews and "enemies of the state" held in Switzerland."

Amazing, isn't it ? What a little country would stand up for, at the risk of being invaded, if not of simply being destroyed. During times when IBM was selling calculators to the Third Reich to put it's population, and incidentally the jewish population, on file, and when Ford was building thousands of trucks in Nazi Germany, the same trucks that invaded Poland in 1939 and France in 1940.

But none of all that made it in the US news in those days, as none of it makes it in MSM news today, as like MSM has no memory of past events, with unfortunately the risk of giving the wrong impression about other people.

One event that did make it in the international news then, but wasn't noticed, was the Swiss 4-2 win over Nazi Germany in a quarter-final game of the 1938 World Cup of Football. No wonder nobody in the US noticed, twas the wrong kind of football, the one played with the feet instead of the american one, played with the hands.

Écrit par : Chuck Jones | 12/02/2012

In my eyes, reasons for these attacks on Swiss banking system are a lot simpler than that

Swiss banks are full of money that was not declared to the IRS (apparently), but more importantly, they have found cracks in the vaults !! With the very help of those supposed to keep them safe....

Swiss bankers themselves have opened these cracks, Americans are not the only ones trying to breach into them anyway

I don't think there is any jealousy in their approach, Americans are very proud of who they are, and their country, this is just a reflection of current situation...

I have seen the argument of Delaware, Bahamas and other havens too often....Switzerland has a great opportunity to show the world it has leadership on this topic and solve this issue first !! Then it can do the finger pointing...Not before....

Écrit par : Andreas Weber | 13/02/2012

Thanks for your article.

The depserate needs to blame somebody for the current situation in the EU and the US is a strange and dangerous behavior. Not that I'm defending tax evasion here, but aiming at Switzerland and not Delaware, Anglo-Norman Isles, Singapor or even Dubai etc... seems to be a quite coward solution for a complex worldwide problem.

If there is one thing that can be taken from all of this (both EU and US attacks toward Switzerland), it is for sure the demonstration of the "schizophrenic" relationship that this little "island of prosperity" have with its closest partners: On one hand refusing to take part in the EU, NATO etc (exept for the UN and OSCE) and defending a strong political independance and neutrality, and on the other hand, the dependance of its economy to the EU and the US which are its two main trade partners, and the vulnerability that comes from it.



This situation is generating a strong anti-french and anti-american feeling across Switzerland which makes me kind of unconfortable as a young french student here. I feel kind of shared between my roots and my home country which I both love. At some point, I even feel like I have to choose a side in this sort of "economic and juridic warfare". I hope it will settle down with time and after the elections in the US, France and Germany.

Écrit par : Frenchy | 13/02/2012

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