Switzerland

Capital:Bern
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Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP among the highest in the world. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector, led by financial services, and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-technology, knowledge-based production. The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's, in order to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The global financial crisis and resulting economic downturn put Switzerland in a recession in 2009 as global export demand stalled. The Swiss National Bank during this period effectively implemented a zero-interest rate policy in a bid to boost the economy and prevent appreciation of the franc. Switzerland's economy grew by 2.7% in 2010, when Bern implemented a third fiscal stimulus program, but its prized banking sector has recently faced significant challenges. The country's largest banks suffered sizable losses in 2008-09, leading its largest bank to accept a government rescue deal in late 2008. Switzerland has also come under increasing pressure from individual neighboring countries, the EU, the US, and international institutions to reform its banking secrecy laws. Consequently, the government agreed to conform to OECD regulations on administrative assistance in tax matters, including tax evasion. The government has renegotiated its double taxation agreements with numerous countries, including the US, to incorporate the OECD standard, and it is working with Germany and the UK to resolve outstanding issues, particularly the possibility of imposing taxes on bank deposits held by foreigners. Parliament passed the first five double-taxation agreements, including that with the US, in March 2010. The agreement with the US awaits US Senate approval. In 2009, Swiss financial regulators ordered the country's largest bank to reveal at Washington's behest the names of US account-holders suspected of using the bank to commit tax fraud. These steps will have a lasting impact on Switzerland's long history of bank secrecy.

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