Opinion: Americans and Swiss do good business

Robert Bastong

Switzerland has fewer residents than New York City. Yet it is America's seventh largest foreign investor.  Swiss companies have poured a cumulative $224 billion into the U.S. economy, eclipsing European stalwarts like France and Italy, global behemoths China and India, and even NAFTA-partner Mexico.

Some of America's largest employers -- including mining giant Glencore, pharmaceutical powerhouse Novartis, and food and beverage conglomerate Nestle -- are Swiss. And many are ramping up their U.S. operations.

Just this spring, Swiss packaging manufacturer Neopac announced plans to build a new facility in North Carolina. The $30 million investment will create over 40 jobs. 

Why are companies from this tiny European nation seeking out American consumers and workers? Because the United States remains the most lucrative market in the world -- and a great place to do business. Especially in the current climate with the ongoing threat of tariffs, U.S. leaders need to keep a global business focus and foreign firms will continue to flock to the United States.  

Bastong writes: "Swiss companies have poured a cumulative $224 billion into the U.S. economy, eclipsing European stalwarts like France and Italy, global behemoths China and India, and even NAFTA-partner Mexico."

Foreign firms, regardless of size, can't afford to ignore the American market. U.S. consumers dished out $13 trillion on goods and services in 2016 -- "nearly a third of the entire world's household consumption," according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.     

As the general manager of Dr. Dünner, a natural health products company in Switzerland, I can personally attest to the importance of the U.S. market for growing brands. 

Today, the United States isn't the driving force behind our sales. U.S. consumers only accounted for about 2 percent of our total product turnover last year. But we're anticipating that figure to grow to 10 percent in just three years. 

Our first real quarter in the U.S. showed the potential of this market. After re-launching our brand in the United States in a way that communicated more effectively to the American consumer, we garnered twice as much revenue as we had during our previously most successful quarter. 

Besides selling to U.S. consumers, many Swiss companies are also building plants and offices in America. Why? According to the World Bank, the United States ranks sixth on a global scale for ease of doing business.  

Take Nestle. The international brand is a household name in the United States. In 2016, Nestle reported $27 billion in U.S. sales and 97 percent of U.S. households consumed at least one Nestle product. The company directly employs 51,000 Americans across its brands.  

Or consider UBS, the Swiss global banking titan that boasts nearly 300 locations across the United States. Thanks to the recent tax overhaul, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, UBS is looking to ramp up its investment in America. The new law makes the United States an "attractive place to run businesses and attract businesses," according to UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti.  

UBS and Nestle are in good company. Swiss firms are responsible for more than 460,000 U.S. jobs, including almost 190,000 manufacturing positions.

Swiss companies see great potential in the United States, but in truth, the optimism is mutual. American firms have invested over $170 billion in Switzerland.  

As a small country, we have to punch above our weight to stay competitive. One way we do that is by knowing where to find good business partners -- we've found one in the United States.  

Robert Bastong is the general manager of Dr. Dünner, a Swiss herbal supplement producer.