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Tuesday, 06 February 2018 17:30

TAP can be considered as an important tool for energy import diversification - Philipp Stalder Featured

TAP can be considered as an important tool for energy import diversification - Philipp Stalder

Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Ambassador, you are representing the interests of Switzerland in the two Caspian countries. How would you characterize the present situation in the Caspian region? Does it promote the creation of the attractive investment climate for the Swiss and European investors in general?

Philipp Stalder, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Swiss Confederation to the Republic of Azerbaijan and Turkemenistan: Predictability, rule of law and stability are fostering elements for any foreign investor’s decision, therefore I rate them also as important elements for the Caspian region. Stability plays also a key role in the development of economic ties and the implementation of regional infrastructure projects. Stability in Azerbaijan allows to actively promote local and foreign investments, be it in the field of the recently inaugurated Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project or elsewhere. About two dozens of Swiss companies are active in Azerbaijan, among them well-known enterprises with a long history of ‘Swiss made’ quality. They provide not only hundreds of jobs to the Azerbaijani workplace. Furthermore, Swiss companies often operate their businesses as technology leaders and can globally contribute in this perspective and raise the level of not only technology, but also professionalization and training capacities for their workers.

CE : The EU countries conduct most of their trade with neighbor countries. Do you see this trend in the Caspian? What helps and prevents the five Caspian states increasing the goods turnover?

Philipp Stalder: Officials from the Caspian States are certainly in a better position to answer this question but in my opinion, indeed, the cross-border business activities among neighboring countries in this region have a considerable potential to develop further to the benefit of the private sector and the people. For my own country, it is definitively true that trade with neighbors is of crucial importance since in 2016 more than 53% of Swiss exports went to Germany, France, Italy and Austria, our four direct neighboring countries, as well as to all the other EU member states while we imported almost 74% of all foreign goods from the EU.

Important facilitating factors for trade and investment in Europe are certainly also the simplified procedures in the area of taxes as well as mutual recognition and protection of designations of origin. Furthermore, in business relations with our European partners I see also considerable political will from all sides to remove technical obstacles for trade and investments as soon as problems emerge in a constructive and non-bureaucratic manner. Finally, let me underline the importance of a fair and predictable tax regime as well as guaranteed property rights, which is always very important for foreign companies and investors.

CE : Is  Switzerland  interested  in  development  of  economic  relations  between Azerbaijan?

Philipp Stalder: Switzerland and Azerbaijan have a mutual interest in intensifying relations in many areas. Of course, the increase of trade & investment in both directions (SOCAR within a few years has become a well-known brand to customers in Switzerland) can be associated to our overall endeavor to further broaden and deepen our good, friendly and stable relationship between our two countries.

Regularly at the beginning of the year, President Ilham Aliyev uses his much appreciated participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss mountain resort Davos as an opportunity to talk to CEOs of major Swiss and European multinational companies.

Furthermore, at the meetings between the two presidents of Azerbaijan and Switzerland, Mr. Ilham Aliyev and Mr. Alain Berset, not only discuss political issues but also the development of bilateral economic relations. In such a context, an exchange of views can also include the mentioning of potential or real barriers and obstacles in order eliminate them and give room for further boosting bilateral trade and investments. Finally and as I mentioned many times in previous interviews, however, the media and your readers should also bear in mind that the Swiss economy takes all its investment decisions fully at its own responsibility without any advice or interference from the government.

CE : How will the launch of the TANAP project in 2018 and TAP project in 2020 impact on the energy security of Switzerland?

Philipp Stalder: Indeed, the Southern Gas Corridor, and in particular the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) – a consortium with headquarters in Switzerland by the way – can be seen as an important mechanism for Europe to diversify the import of its energy sources. This is true from a Swiss perspective despite the fact that our energy security is not so much dependent on gas from the Caspian Basin. As the representative of the Swiss government in Azerbaijan, I also note with satisfaction that among all the TAP shareholders we have the Swiss energy company AXPO on board which since the early years of the establishment of the TAP consortium takes an active interest in bringing energy from Azerbaijan to Europe and to Switzerland.

CE : What do you think about the unresolved status of the Caspian Sea? Is it possible to have this matter settled this year?

Philipp Stalder: The statements of the various officials of the littoral states have raised positive expectations and hope for a solution of the long-pending issue. Seen from a business and investment’s perspective, a resolution of the legal status of the Caspian Sea would only bring benefits to all involved countries. It would definitively raise the attractiveness for the whole Caspian region and open new potential for a wide range of economic and trade opportunities not only for Azerbaijan but also for the other countries.

CE : How fruitful was the 2017 year for Switzerland in Azerbaijan? Can it be called successful in trade and economic terms?

Philipp Stalder: I definitively call 2017 a successful year in terms of our overall relations although trade figures according to Swiss statistics slightly decreased. President Alain Berset and President Ilham Aliyev expressed their satisfaction about our relations during their recent meeting at the WEF in Davos. In particular, we were very  pleased  about  frequent  high-level  visits  taking  place  in  the  political, economic and financial spheres in 2017. Besides the meeting of the two head of states in Davos, we also welcomed the Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Switzerland, Prof. Thomas Jordan, to Baku in July 2017. Recall that Switzerland and Azerbaijan are close partners in the area of technical cooperation, which helps to deepen our close cooperation in the frame of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, IMF) and elsewhere (GEF).

As the Swiss Embassy in Baku, we also held a series of quite successful cultural events by offering a glimpse to the Azerbaijani audience about the rich and very diverse cultural life in my country. I perceive this as equally important as trade and investments, so that people abroad get an accurate perception of the diversity of Switzerland and do not only associate my country with the well-known facts about for example our strong financial sector and the rankings as one of the most innovative countries in the world. Culture, respect for each other and a better understanding through arts, culture and people-to-people contacts among young people and academicians, finally can also have a very positive long-term effect on trade and investments.

CE :  Could you please tell us about your assessment of the 48th World Economic Forum in Davos?

Philipp Stalder: This year, the four-day forum in Davos attracted considerable attention around the globe with a huge participation of head of states, CEOs and representatives of the academic world. Over 3,000 VIPs attended the event, among them 70 heads of state or heads of government, along with business executives, scientists, government officials and other celebrities. For the first time in 18 years, also a US president participated at the forum. In short: The exchanges and discussions among the participants were of great importance for the global economy. As for Switzerland, in particular, the WEF – located in Davos in the center of our beautiful mountains – has a tremendous positive impact.

CE :  What impact will Azerbaijan's accession to the WTO have on Swiss investors?

Philipp Stalder: Switzerland believes that a multi-national framework like the WTO is the most desirable solution for international trade and that WTO membership is generally beneficial for any country. At the same time, one should bear in mind that WTO membership does not hinder a state from forging individual Free Trade or other agreements with the countries it is most interested in.

 

Thank you for the interview.

 

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