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Swiss influence in the World Trade Organization (WTO) with and without membership in the European Union (EU)

Applicant Weder Rolf
Number 120337
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Economics
Start/End 01.10.2008 - 31.10.2011
Approved amount 90'381.00
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Keywords (6)

Trade Policy; WTO; WTO-Membership; EU-Membership; Switzerland; Voting Power

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU) which implies economic and political benefits as well as costs associated with non-EU-membership. Political costs and benefits usually arise in terms of the adjustments in the direct democracy, the extent of federalism and the degree of sovereignty. Regarding the latter aspect, we believe that there is an important trade-off to consider when assessing a possible membership of Switzerland to the EU. The trade-off is between a marginal positive effect from being able to affect joint decisions in the EU and a marginal negative effect from giving up the possibility of pursuing own (independent) decisions. This trade-off has been poorly analyzed in existing studies and, if at all, it has been subject to qualitative studies. The aim of this project is to get a more precise understanding of how Switzerland’s impact on certain policy areas is affected by EU-membership. In particular, we aim at a quantitative analysis of this trade-off for one important range of policies which could be described as trade-related policies. These include any policies that are closely linked to the World Trade Organization (WTO), from traditional trade policies such as tariffs in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to service-related issues in the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) to finally questions on global patent rights in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It also includes policies that are increasingly restricted by the WTO such as subsidies or non-tariff barriers to trade.For the mentioned policy areas, we thus compare how Switzerland is likely to affect them as an independent member of the WTO (if the policy is part of the WTO framework), as a member of the EU and as an independent actor in the world economy (if an individual country is able to affect them at all). In order to do so we use quantitative methods, such as the Modified Banzhaf Index, which have recently been widely used in the analysis of the decision making process of the EU in political economics. This analysis is interesting from two points of views. First, the WTO is setting rules and standards in policy fields that are crucial especially for a small open economy like Switzerland. Therefore, it is important to see whether Switzerland is more likely to affect WTO policies as a member of the EU relative to the current situation. Second, the project is likely to shed some light on the general discussion of an EU-membership of Switzerland. Note that one important argument in favour of an EU-membership is the possibility to affect EU-decisions. The analysis will, of course, take this important aspect into account, but also considers some potential losses that arise from giving up the possibility to directly influence policies through independent national decisions or direct contributions in a multilateral framework such as the WTO. We consider this project of great importance with respect to a more informed discussion about Swiss EU-membership in general and better understanding of the Swiss role and impact in multilateral institutions such as the WTO as a non-EU member.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Name Institute

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
European Communities Studies Assocation 09.12.2011 Basel
European Trade Study Group 30.09.2009 Rome