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Quest Means Business
Red Sea Attack Escalates; Blinken And Palestinian Authority President Abbas Meet; Boeing CEO Defends Company's Proven Design; Hunter Biden Makes Appearance On Capitol Hill; Switzerland Tries To Clean Up Banks' Reputation; Walking The Art-Laden Halls Of The World Trade Organization Building; Camille Bloch Produces Switzerland's Beloved "Ragusa". Aired 3-4p ET
Aired January 10, 2024 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Midweek QUEST MEANS BUSINESS coming from Geneva in Switzerland and the markets are higher. Take a look. A good
rollicking day in the market. That's a strong gain. I'll show you one of the reasons why: Boeing is up heavily and that's one of the reasons why the
market is up. Investors also waiting for inflation data, but those are the markets and the stories we're talking about tonight.
US and British warships intercept Houthi attacks. The Secretary of State Blinken says there will be consequences for these attacks.
Boeing's chief executive says he is devastated by the 737 Max fuselage blowout. He gives an interview.
And days out from the Iowa caucuses, the World Economic Forum based here in Geneva says electoral disinformation from AI is the biggest global risk.
Live from Geneva in Switzerland. It's Wednesday, it is January the 10th. I'm Richard Quest. It's freezing here -- what do you expect -- Switzerland
in the winter, but I still mean business.
Good evening, and a warm welcome on a cold night to Geneva, which in many ways is the home to international diplomacy, the center and home to some of
the world's top diplomatic organizations, everything from the United Nations, which has an absolutely massive campus here to the World Trade
Organization, a whole host -- the International Red Cross, who we will be talking to during the course of this program.
In fact, on tonight's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, you'll hear from the director- general of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
In a moment, it'll be the head of the International Red Cross, Robert Mardini. We've got Saadia Zahidi, who is a managing director of the IMF on
that AI and disinformation.
We're in Switzerland and you'll also hear from Olivier Calloud, the CEO of Piguet Galland, the bank, and we have chocolate, we have lots and lots of
We begin now tonight with the violence in the Red Sea, which is escalating. The head of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala tells me the
potential is growing for even greater serious problems not only for those involved, the shipping involved, but of course for the supply chain and
The US Navy has said it has downed 21 Houthi missile drones launched towards the international shipping lanes. It was a complex attack, and of
course, the more of these attacks there are, the worse it gets for shipping, and the more avoid the region.
Secretary of State Blinken in the Middle East made a surprise trip to Bahrain, and he delivered a warning to the Houthi rebels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: If these attacks continue, as they did yesterday, there will be consequences.
Again, this represents a clear threat to the interests of countries around the world and it is important that the international community come
together and respond to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: The issue of course, global trade is that the route to avoid the Red Sea and the Suez Canal is considerably longer. We've shown you this before,
on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. It can take up to 10 days to two weeks from Asia to Europe, at a time when supply chains are already greatly constrained.
That would be a serious negative, if nothing else, for the global economy.
The head of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO is based here in Geneva, met me yesterday and we talked about this rising
issue and crisis. She says diplomacy is the issue or diplomacy is the solution, I should say, but she is not confident that easy way can be
NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION: The Red Sea is potentially a serious problem, and I just hope it doesn't escalate.
There are some estimates that they are spending about $10 million more on fuel just for getting around. And in addition to that, we've -- there been
some estimates of what it actually costs because there's some very sensitive supply chains and when there are delays like this, it adds on
costs, about 23 percent tariff according to some estimates including our own.
QUEST: And there is no easy solution because the ability to put an armed escort through the Red Sea up to the Suez Canal, we know from what -- it
has been tried, can't really be done.
OKONJO-IWEALA: Yes, and I don't think that that is a really sustainable solution for getting traffic through. So I think the best is to find ways
diplomatically to stop what is going on in terms of the potential attacks.
QUEST: Have we just being given another reminder, if we needed it, that supply chains are fragile?
OKONJO-IWEALA: I think that all the conflicts and all the uncertainties they generate, do have an impact for trade. Why? Because they impact global
growth all around, and you can see that when global growth, when forecasts are revised downwards, what does it mean? It means we are looking at lower
aggregate demand in many countries or parts of the world, lower demand for imports and so on and that also impacts trade.
So what is happening? Yes, it does impact trade, because it is going to impact growth in the world, whichever way we look at it.
QUEST: So we've got the wars on one side, we've got the new government in Argentina, and we've got arguably protection or more protections. It is
very hard to understand, actually, because half the policies seem to be free trade, and the other half seem to be closing down. But are you
concerned, if you take the global position at the moment.
OKONJO-IWEALA: I would say, yes, I'm concerned. Why am I concerned? Because there are so many uncertainties now.
You know, last year for 2023, we forecast 0.8 percent growth, and we were a little bit more optimistic on 2024, pegging it at about 3.3 percent, but
when I look at all the risks we are facing in the world, I feel that there are risks to the downside. And therefore, I'm not as optimistic that we'll
be able to do as well.
QUEST: I'm not taking you down political roads, because obviously, the electorate in the various countries, whether it's the UK, the US, or
wherever it is will make their decisions. But the trend of fragmentation is growing faster than your ability to convince otherwise.
OKONJO-IWEALA: Yes, the trend of fragmentation is growing, but I want to make clear that sometimes the talk is ahead of the actual data that we
Like I said, now, if you listen to what everyone is saying, you'll think, oh, globalization is over. And I know that it's trendy to say,
globalization is over, you know, we are now in a post-globalization period, but that's why I'm saying that the data from trade shows that with 75
percent of global trade, it is still taking place on WTO terms free, fair, open and stable.
Now, the other percentage that is not taking place, yes, we are worried about that. For example, we did simulations between, let's say, two trading
blocs, and we saw that trade between two opposing blocs is growing much slower than trade within the blocs, and this is a sign that we think of
people trading more with like-minded people, and now, some of that imagined fragmentation.
QUEST: Final question, at the end of the year, what do you hope to have achieved here? Is there a framework that is burning to get out of this
OKONJO-IWEALA: I think the ones I want to talk about is we're working on sustainability issues, a fisheries subsidies agreement, we conclude that
part one of it stopping subsidies that go to shore up illegal, unreported fishing. We're now trying to work on subsidies for overcapacity and
overfishing so that our oceans can be sustainable.
This is real: Two hundred and sixty million people in the world depend on fisheries for a livelihood. We're working on reform of the WTO itself,
which I think with all members participating is going well. We're looking at the dispute settlement system.
QUEST: Good luck.
OKONJO-IWEALA: And how we'll reform that.
Yes, Richard, you'll be surprised to know --
QUEST: If you succeed without before your term is over, I'll buy you dinner in any restaurant.
OKONJO-IWEALA: You'll buy me three dinners, not just one. One is too cheap. We actually have some good work going on by members on this. I hope we will
go a long way and surprise people.
QUEST: I have no idea why the director-general decided she wanted three dinners, but if she manages to get that through, maybe even here in Geneva,
which is so very expensive, I'm sure we'll find somewhere to take her for dinner.
As we continue tonight on the other main news that we're following here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, a top US diplomat has visited Ramallah and spoke to
the Palestinian Authority leader.
Secretary Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State met President Mahmoud Abbas, where they talked about reuniting Gaza and the West Bank under the
reformed Palestinian leadership, as well as, they've already said, of course, that there will be no room that roll in their view for the
Palestinian leadership in Gaza in the future.
They both discussed as well, the need for more aid into Gaza. That is something of which the Red Cross most certainly and heartily would agree as
a matter of urgency, describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as dire.
The organization says extreme shortages of food, water, fuel, medical supplies, the amount of aid entering via the Egyptian border is tiny
compared to what is needed with the aid. Well, we'll find out now from Robert Mardini, who joins me.
Robert Mardini is the director-general of the ICRC and he is with me now.
So, the issue of aid to -- aid is going through the Rafah Border. Is it also going through the Israeli border as well?
ROBERT MARDINI, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: No, not at this stage. The aid is only trickling through the Rafah Border,
which has been designed only for the transit of persons.
So it's trickling in and all the aid that is getting in the Gaza Strip is only a small fraction of what is needed and cannot match the magnitude of
the humanitarian need and the disaster, unfortunately.
QUEST: I am not for a single second decrying, denying or minimizing the calls from yourselves, from World Food Programme, all of you, but you've
been saying this now for months, and Israel doesn't seem to be listening, or the international community isn't able to put enough pressure.
MARDINI: It's not only about aid in and aid out, it's about also, respecting the basic rules of war. International humanitarian law has been
designed precisely to minimize the human suffering in armed conflict and parties to the conflict have to respect these key rules.
QUEST: But at some point, it's going to dawn on everyone that Israel is going to finish this job as they see it, regardless. I mean, the US hasn't
managed to get -- I mean, there may be some modifications now. So what can you do?
MARDINI: And this is precisely why we are repeating our calls to the two parties of the conflict. There are two parties in this conflict, Israel and
Hamas, and they are bound by those obligations.
Civilians are in harm's way. They are caught in the line of fire day in and day out. This conflict is a nightmare. It has been a nightmare for the
families of hostages for now, more than three months. It's been a nightmare, day in day out for Palestinians being killed, being injured,
lacking food, medicines, medical supplies, access to water, shelter, and the freezing cold.
QUEST: Right. So the Egyptian plan that was put forward or at least is out there in various stages, it's a nonstarter in many cases. Israel won't go
MARDINI: Well, I won't speculate now. But what is needed is the combination of respect for the rules of war and unhindered access of humanitarian aid
and the conditions for humanitarian actors to be able to deliver their work.
We are able to do things, life-saving activities in the Gaza Strip today, operating in hospitals, we have medical teams that they are saving lives
QUEST: And your own people have come into harm's way and unfortunately have succumbed.
MARDINI: We are devastated to learn today that four medics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, our partners have been killed in the line of duty and
this is not the first time humanitarians are also caught in the line of fire.
QUEST: Sir, I wish you and I meeting face-to-face, we could be talking on happier matters, but I'm grateful that you've braved the cold to come out
tonight since we're in Geneva. Thank you, sir.
MARDINI: Thank you for having me.
QUEST: Thank you very much.
Boeing's chief executive says he is devastated by what happened with the 737 Max-9, you will be familiar of course.
The Alaska Airlines video shows the awfulness of when the plug door blew out. Now, in a new CNBC interview, the Boeing chief executive defends the
company's proven design. Meanwhile, the NTSB chair is recommending that the Max-9 stays grounded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER HOMENDY, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD CHAIR: We know what broke, we need to understand how it broke, but I would recommend that they
not put those back in service until they absolutely know how this occurred. That will tell them what inspections need to take place and what repairs
need to take place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Pete Muntean is in Washington. Pete is with me now, aviation correspondent.
This was a an interesting one, by the way, because the CEO of Boeing, very quickly doing mea culpa. I mean, it's a statement of the bloody obvious in
a sense, something went wrong, or the door wouldn't have blown out. But the fact he said it's so early shows a different state of mind.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's a very different state of mind, Richard, in fact the plane maker is coming out so quickly to say
this, but also the fact that they are doing this in such a very controlled way.
We just heard from Alaska Airlines that they will cancel more flights, United Airlines will cancel more flights here in the US. Max-9 remains
grounded in the US. We're waiting on these inspections from the FAA.
We also just learned this: Spirit AeroSystems, which is the company that builds the Max-9 fuselage, it will be party to this investigation. And as
you mentioned, we're now hearing from Boeing CEO, Dave Calhoun, his first interview since Alaska 1282, that violent in-flight blow out of the plug
He said in this closed door meeting that yesterday was a mistake, that there was a mistake made by Boeing, but he did not say what the mistake is
and now he's really qualifying this.
We just want you to listen to this soundbite in this just aired CNBC interview where Calhoun says the door plug violently blowing out, that was
the mistake. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE CALHOUN, CEO, BOEING: A fuselage plug blew out, that's the mistake. It can never happen. We're not allowed that to happen.
We're going to want to know what broke down in our gauntlet of inspections. What broke down in the original work that allowed for that escape to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUNTEAN: As you can see, still a very controlled message from Boeing. One question investigators will ask Boeing is whether or not they've had any
previous problems with the door plug. That's the part of the left side of Alaska 1282 that shot off in that explosive bang. Remember this is a door
that's visible from the outside of the plane, normal window wall and seats on the inside of the plane.
What is really critical here with the bolts that essentially keep this part from shooting off and both Alaska and United Airlines say they've
discovered loose bolts as they prepare for FAA-mandated inspections. United noted possible insulation problems.
Today, Boeing CEO Calhoun said the tolerances on those bolts are measured in millimeters, not centimeters and this unnamed mistake could have escaped
its quality control -- Richard.
QUEST: Pete Muntean who is with us from Washington. Pete, I'm grateful.
As QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in Geneva continues tonight, the World Economic Forum, look, we'll all be up the mountain in Davos next week, but WEF
itself is actually based here in Geneva.
Its headquarter is here, so the managing director will be with us to talk about the risks report and why AI disinformation and a slew of elections in
2024 is all giving great concern.
QUEST: It's very cold in Geneva. I think it is about zero Celsius at the moment, that would be cold. I was up a mountain, it was really freezing.
But here in Geneva, it is a magnificent city because it adapts itself beautifully to the international climate.
The amount of diplomacy that is here, whether it is summer on the lake or winter in the mountains, Geneva has got the lot.
QUEST (voice over): The whole world comes together at the edge of Lake Geneva. It's a center of international diplomacy, where of course, the
trains and the clocks always run on time. Here are some of the highest quality goods that roam the streets.
Geneva's history is one of thousands of years. Churches that were the original homes of Calvinism. Its residents honor these traditions to this
Geneva has also inspired world famous works of fiction. The British writer Mary Shelley first wrote the story of "Frankenstein" on these streets. The
monster continues to walk among its modern citizens.
The city finds comfort in some of the world's greatest luxuries. Here, there are watches, cars, and of course, chocolate galore.
Geneva sits high on the geopolitical stage. It was the home to the beleaguered League of Nations. And today, the World Trade Organization, the
Red Cross Red Crescent, and many more UN and other global groups are based here.
Geneva has seen history: A summit between presidents, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev; the Iran nuclear talks; meetings between President Putin
and President Biden in 2021.
Now, as geopolitical problems in the Middle East and elsewhere, threatened to escalate, the city's role as the home of diplomacy is more important
QUEST: So next week, we will all be making our annual pilgrimage up the mountain to Davos to the World Economic Forum ahead of the forum, they have
released their latest risks report. It's the top risks over the next two years. Misinformation, especially AI generated misinformation. There is
also societal polarization, cyber insecurity, and interstate armed conflict. I think that's wars between countries to you and me.
It comes at a pivotal time. Fifty-plus countries have national elections. Half the world's population is going to vote in some shape or form this
Saadia Zahidi is the managing director at WEF and is with me now.
First of all, let's just look at this idea of disinformation and AI. With elections around the corner, we are already seeing it, but the problem is
what to do about it.
SAADIA ZAHIDI, MANAGING DIRECTOR, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: Yes, so there are two timeframes that we're looking at, right, so the two-year mis and
disinformation, but when you look out at the 10-year timeframe, most of those risks are still very much about the climate emergency, they're very
much about, could the earth go over tipping points? Could there be more extreme weather?
And so what this is really about is how do we make that bridge between those two different timeframes? This is the here and now crisis, mis and
disinformation, and what that then does to all those other risks, and then how do you bridge that to decision-making for the long term?
QUEST: Yes. But you know, that sounds great. The problem is, it is moving faster than traditional decision making mechanisms can cope with. We've
seen this in elections before.
ZAHIDI: So last year, mis and disinformation was somewhere just into the top 20, and it shot up to number one in the two-year timeframe. So it's
very clear, with everybody having access to either zero cost or very low cost technology in their hands where they can generate synthetic content,
people are understandably concerned that that is going to put in the hands of people that mean ill a technology that could be used for spreading false
QUEST: We've got, I mean, I suppose let's be clear about this. The US election is probably the big one that everybody is talking about. Now, not
only do we have disinformation within the United States, from right-wing groups and left-wing groups alike, but also, you know, arguably, state
actors like Russia or China also meddling.
How do we cope?
ZAHIDI: So I think it's about many countries, now, nearly four billion people may be going to some form of national or municipal election. But the
risk of mis and disinformation is different in different economies, depending on the level of technological and digital and media literacy in
So for example, in the US, it doesn't show up in the top five risks, but when you look at India, it's the number one risk. When you look at
Pakistan, it's the number five risk. So it also depends on where you are.
QUEST: This year's theme, Hallelujah, Davos has a theme that's not very long and complicated and I can actually understand. It is all about trust,
the deficit of trust. We were talking about it with the founder, Klaus Schwab, this weekend. But this combination deficit of trust,
misinformation, AI, which we're told is a great bonanza for the future, and yet what? We're left flailing around.
ZAHIDI: All of that landing on top of the situation where there is a lot of economic hardship. I think that's one element of the report, economic
downturn risks, inflation rates in the US, those are some of the critical concerns, in addition to potentially energy shortages and securing that
supply in the long term.
So I think all of that, that societal polarization, that risk of mis and disconfirmation, the rising disruption from artificial intelligence, to
labor markets, all of that together happening at the same time, that sort of poly-crisis, that is, I think, the main concern.
QUEST: Looking forward to next week.
ZAHIDI: I am because I think that's our moment to actually bring people together for the dialogue that's needed.
ZAHIDI: For building on common vision, and most importantly, actually delivering on action.
QUEST: That's the key part. That's the bit that people often say, doesn't really happen as a result of that. But --
ZAHIDI: You know, we are tracking measurement against what we've committed to the coalitions that have come together, the initiatives that have been
put in place and there is progress, and you'll see more of that next week.
QUEST: I'm looking forward to it. Thank you very much. See you at the mountain.
ZAHIDI: Thank you. See you there.
QUEST: Thank you very much, indeed.
Now, we will be there next week. It's about a five-hour drive. I'm going to take the train, of course.
QUEST MEANS BUSINESS will be live from the World Economic Forum, the decision makers, we will wrangle. It is three o'clock in New York and we'll
be doing it 8:00 PM London, nine o'clock in Davos.
Still to come tonight on our program, a debate between the two candidates who arguably are not going to be the Republican nominee, Nikki Haley and
Ron DeSantis. It's a CNN live debate tonight. We will show you and talk more, in a moment.
QUEST: QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in Geneva.
In Washington, Hunter Biden, the president's son, made a surprise appearance on Capitol Hill. He took everyone by surprise. It was at a
contempt of Congress hearing, which is part of the impeachment inquiry.
Hunter wants to testify publicly whilst the Republicans want a closed-door deposition. He left after 10 minutes and the GOP called it a stunt. Katelyn
Polantz is with me from Washington.
Was it a stunt?
And if so, what was its purpose?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, you could call it a stunt. This is the most pandemonium we've seen in a
congressional hearing, especially related to Hunter Biden, in a while.
Because the House, Republicans in the House, were talking about and looking at holding him in contempt. They had subpoenaed him previously. They wanted
him to come in and testify in this impeachment inquiry that they say they want to continue to push forward.
And so, Hunter Biden and his team, they have been calling their bluff, saying he will testify; he just wants to do it publicly. And then today,
surprise, showed up with his lawyers, walked into that hearing on whether he should be held in contempt for not showing up for a subpoena, for
testimony, and sitting in the front row.
It led to some exchanges between different members of the committee. A Democrat saying, "Well, we can hear from him right now, if we want to put
him under oath."
And a Republican shooting back, "I think he should be arrested right here and now, by Congress or someone else."
Now one of the things, Richard, that's important to remember is Congress has to subpoena, his attorneys have been engaging about. It there's not a
lot of things that they can do to enforce this subpoena or punish Hunter Biden for not speaking.
And they haven't put him in under oath, so we are now still back to where they were before. No testimony from Hunter Biden and his team, looking for
any opportunity they can to exploit what Congress is doing here.
QUEST: Fascinating days events and we look forward to you following them as they continue. Thank you very much, Katelyn Polantz in Washington.
Tonight, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis square off in a Republican debate. It will be here on CNN.
It's only five days until the Iowa caucuses and is the last debate before it all gets underway. Donald Trump is not turning up again. Instead, he's
doing a Trump town hall over on FOX.
Eva McKend is with us from Des Moines in Iowa.
These two candidates. I mean, it's their last real public, big attempt to get their message across.
Can they break through, do you think?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is going to be a hugely consequential night for them both, because they are still trying to
appeal to those Iowans that have not made their mind up yet, those Iowans that are looking for a clear alternative to Trump.
Policy differences on everything from the economy to abortion should also come into focus this evening. We heard earlier today from governor
DeSantis' deputy campaign manager, him sort of telegraphing what governor DeSantis plans to do tonight.
He said that, expect him to really lean on Nikki Haley, to try to pin her down and answer questions concretely. That has been a consistent attack
from her opponents, that she is sort of wishy-washy on a number of policy issues.
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey characterizes it as she's trying to be everything to everybody. But, yes, Richard, this has the potential to be
a very testy debate.
QUEST: And we are looking forward to it, every bit of it in all its testiness. Many thanks. We will follow it tonight and you can see right
here, of course, live on CNN.
Here in Switzerland, the reputation for banking secrecy is legendary. Much has changed in recent years. So much so, they let me down into the vault.
Let's see what I found after the break.
(VIDEO CLIP, "The Wolf of Wall Street")
QUEST: That is a clip from "The Wolf of Wall Street" set in the 1980s, where inarguably, much of Swiss banking secrecy was at its heyday and Swiss
banks were roundly criticized left, right and the center, for allegedly helping people hide money either from tax or from illicit gains from
Much has changed, of course, dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. Lots of the Swiss banks, Swiss secrecy laws have been abandoned and the Swiss
government has reformed its image.
But how far has it actually gone, in terms of still being a good place to come and visit your money, as they used to say?
I spoke with a private bank, Piguet Galland's chief executive. In one shape or another, they've been operating since the 19th century. There have been
many changes, much consolidation but Swiss and banks still beautifully go in the same sentence.
QUEST: When it comes to banks in Geneva, you can find them around every corner and certainly, in unusual places like this quiet suburban street,
where, all of a sudden, there's a glass tower and, look, this, another private bank.
OLIVIER CALLOUD, CEO, PIGUET GALLAND (voice-over): Also we can look inside the vault.
QUEST (voice-over): Oh, wow.
You don't know what's in these, correct?
CALLOUD (voice-over): We don't know. And we don't want to know. It's part of the, I am privileged to use that vault, that safety deposit box as you
QUEST (voice-over): There is something fascinating about -- don't you find it fascinating that you just think of all of what's ever in here and no one
knows except the other?
Doesn't it fascinate you?
CALLOUD (voice-over): I think secret interest mainly, people keep the secret a secret, you know?
The owner of the box, if you're not just, like, it's a story of our client.
QUEST: The big issue, of course, in Switzerland when it comes to Swiss banking is secrecy. I mean, that's what it's all about. But the changes
there have been fairly dramatic in the last 10 years.
CALLOUD: Yes, so the quality of the Swiss banking industry is not in keeping the secret, it's more in the performance, it's more in the quality
of the services. So there's a reason to open an account in Swiss bank was a secret, yes, it disappeared.
QUEST (voice-over): You could at least have gotten a few diamonds in here.
CALLOUD (voice-over): You may have some very rare cheese, Swiss cheese in one of them as well in the --
QUEST (voice-over): No. Go off.
CALLOUD (voice-over): That's someone with a collection of watches. We know that because he was coming here very, very regularly to make sure that he
was -- makes, you know, all the mechanism, testing the mechanism of the watches.
So you may have some collections of watches, you may have some gold bars. I can imagine you may have some in the big safety deposit box, you can have
QUEST: What would you say to those critics who say, nothing has really changed here?
The use of shell companies, the use of nominees, these are -- the whole thing that can be done elsewhere still leads to a lot of darkness.
CALLOUD: It's not my experience, it's not my understanding of what the situation is right now in Switzerland. We have a role that's completely
changed. And I think that all the darkness belongs to the past.
QUEST: And you really don't know what's in all those boxes downstairs?
CALLOUD: No clue.
QUEST: No gold bars?
CALLOUD: No gold bars. Legal bars, I can imagine, but not illegal bars.
QUEST: So there you have what's in those boxes. We've talked about banking.
What about chocolate?
After the break, we will talk to a chocolatier who was a voice of the crisis during the pandemic for us and now has decided to inundate us with
chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.
QUEST: A warm welcome back. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, tonight live from Geneva. If you're wondering, yes, that is Geneva airport behind me. It's very close
to downtown. The view tonight, we are at the Marriott Geneva, getting a bit cold. Very kind of them to give us these rather nice wood burning heaters.
Absolutely environmentally correct.
So there we go. Now Geneva is the center of so many things. Earlier, we heard from the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the head of the World Trade
Organization. We talked then about the serious issues facing world trade at the moment. Then she showed me around their excellent, superb headquarters.
QUEST: This is interesting, what is it all about?
OKONJO-IWEALA (voice-over): It's all the ceramic painting presented by the Portuguese government to the ILO (ph) in 1928.
Which is the -- so this building was built in 1926 for the International Labor Organization. So this is all about the beauty of labor, as you can
see, from the rural landscapes of Portugal.
QUEST (voice-over): And not a million miles from the beauty of labor to the significance of trade.
OKONJO-IWEALA (voice-over): Beautiful connection, which is why I feel it's appropriate that the WTO ended up in this building. Because you cannot
trade without investment, without work, without labor. And it's all connected.
QUEST (voice-over): Are you still enjoying this job?
OKONJO-IWEALA (voice-over): I love the job, you can see that.
People always ask me, where you get your energy?
And I think it's because I really not only like what I do but I feel it is a privilege. So, yes, I'm just like you, Richard. People looking at you can
see you enjoy every minute of what you do. And I think that's the essence, really, of not being tired of a job.
QUEST (voice-over): Which way are we going?
OKONJO-IWEALA (voice-over): We're looking at this.
QUEST (voice-over): So this is another example of something that is extremely historic on the whole question of labor and trade.
OKONJO-IWEALA (voice-over): Yes. Well, you know what is interesting to me, Richard, is that you are making connections from the labor to the trade,
which many people don't make.
What I wanted to say to you, why is that?
The preamble to the Marrakech agreement that completes the purpose of the WTO says that it is to enhance living standards, to help create employment
and support of sustainable development.
And that is helping to create employment, again, links us to, work to labor and to this building.
QUEST (voice-over): But it's a fine goal but it immediately falls apart with (INAUDIBLE).
OKONJO-IWEALA (voice-over): It -- I don't agree, Richard. You know, I always famously agree to disagree with you sometimes. Yes, it does,
politics gets into it.
But we need to remind ourselves, for each agreement we produce at the WTO, why are we doing it?
Because sometimes people have been forgotten, left out of the equation of the organization. And yet, its only purpose was to serve people.
QUEST: Always a treat and a pleasure to be with Ngozi at the WTO, showing us around.
We've talked about banking and, of course, the other things that Switzerland is famous for. But chocolate is what we're talking about now.
One of the biggest producers of chocolate is Camille Bloch. Sales are up 40 percent in 2022 and a similar boost from last year.
A stark contrast. You see, the company, Ragusa, was one of our voices of the crisis during the pandemic when we spoke to the CEO then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL BLOCH, CEO, CHOCOLATS CAMILLE BLOCH: Sales went down by 20 percent. By the end of April, and now, the economy opened up again. Sales didn't
pick up again. People are still cautious and staying at home.
QUEST: Next year, when we are at Davos, we will have your chocolate with us on the program. We'll be coming to you from Switzerland so we will make
sure next, year in Davos, we will have your chocolate and only your chocolate as we gorge ourselves through Davos next year. Good to see you,
BLOCH: I will bring myself to Davos. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Now you know we've talked about these promises that I made during the pandemic. But we keep them all. Good to see you, sir. And you brought
BLOCH: Thank you very much for inviting me. I think everything is fine, still fine. If we look back at 2023, it was quite an expensive year for us,
because the cocoa prices went up, all other ingredients too. So we had to cope with that. But the chocolate is still very good.
QUEST: I think the extraordinary, amazing thing is you stayed in business from the pandemic, when some many companies didn't. You've not only come
back but you have grown.
BLOCH: Yes, actually, the pandemic did us a little bit of, yes, we had -- we lost some sales because chocolate, you give us a gift, you eat while
you're on the way. That didn't happen. You just had the chocolate at home.
So we lost 20 percent but we came back to the pre pandemic level. That was fine. And we grew in certain niches, like kosher chocolate and specialty,
special things we did on top.
QUEST: The cocoa prices, I've done a lot couple of stories on cocoa so I know a bit about this.
The ability to hold inflation under control at the moment is very difficult for you, isn't it?
Because all your commodities are going up in price.
BLOCH: All commodities are going up and we have a very strong brand in Switzerland. So we're not a big international company. But in Switzerland,
we are very strong. And we decided not to increase the prices.
QUEST: You have to at some point.
BLOCH: At some point we will have to. But we try to cut on promotions because we think the fact that this growity (ph) and scale up is maybe
we'll continue. And so we cannot always increase price, increase price.
We cannot overexploit the strengths of the brand. So what we are doing is also cut on promotions because we think, to our fans, we want that they can
afford the chocolate in Switzerland. And they have some difficulties.
QUEST: How can you get this great product out to more people?
In terms of internationally.
How can you get people --
BLOCH: By tasting. Tasting, I think the taste is everything.
QUEST: Like I need an invitation to taste chocolate.
BLOCH: Well, you can.
QUEST: Very good.
BLOCH: I think it's not internationally known like all the others. So people like to bring it from Switzerland to their people internationally.
And so it gets known. And we have more and more people internationally that are really --
QUEST: You brought some of the new ones, like the blond, which is a caramel and the Torino and these things. Developing new chocolate in a country like
Switzerland, which is in love with chocolate, is very difficult and expensive.
BLOCH: I think it's difficult because the Swiss eat the most chocolate in the world. They have the world record. You can not ask them to eat even
more. And so there is quite a competition and Swiss people are very critical about the quality.
So they will stick to their favorite and we are happy that we are among their favorites for a lot of people, for a lot of Swiss people.
QUEST: What's the big change you are going to make this year?
What's the big thing you're going to do?
Sorry, I'm just eating all your chocolate. I'm eating your profits here.
BLOCH: The big thing it's actually not the chocolate that will change. You see, what makes a company survive is not only the top of the tree, the
products that you, see the sales and everything but also the roots.
And it is important to extend the roots, the values of the company. And our roots are, strong we do our own, chocolate we do everything ourselves. We
stay independent and what we also will do is our own hazelnuts now.
We will grow our own hazelnuts in Georgia -- not Georgia in the United States but in Georgia, the country. And so that's what we will do.
QUEST: Thank you very much, sir. Don't worry about these. These will remain safely here.
BLOCH: You have to share it.
QUEST: Profitable Moment after the break.
Sharing indeed and language indeed.
Thank you, sir.
QUEST: Tonight's Profitable Moment from Geneva, there is something fascinating about this place. It's not just the amount it costs you to buy
a cup of coffee, you need a mortgage. Or indeed the cost of taking a taxi. Fortune.
But the sheer cosmopolitan nature of Geneva, with its private banking and all that things going on over there and the jewelry. I actually got myself
-- I looked at new watches all over the place. And some of them are seriously expensive.
No, Geneva has got the lot. In the summer, you've got the lake and the fountain, which, by the way, they're going to maybe let me have ago
switching on if things go according to plan.
In the winter you've got the mountains just an hour or two up the road, Montreux and beyond, where I went to today. If you want to really
understand what international cities are like, then really you can't do much better than Geneve.
Of course with my schoolboy French, aided by Duolingo, things are going rather well. best of all, the chocolate. More chocolate then you can
literally shake a stick at.
That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Wednesday night. I'm Richard Quest in Geneva. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.
I'll see you in Davos next week.