Switzerland country brief
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Australia and Switzerland established diplomatic ties in 1961.
Australia and Switzerland share political and economic interests. Australian leaders and parliamentarians regularly visit Switzerland for bilateral and multilateral meetings in Geneva and Davos.
In 2013, Australia and Switzerland signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a Strategic Dialogue to strengthen bilateral ties.
Cooperation is growing in the areas of scientific research and development, education and two-way investment. In 2020, Australia and Switzerland signed a Statement of Commitment to cooperate on Antarctic research.
Australia’s relationship with Switzerland is underpinned by shared economic interests and close engagement on global challenges. Switzerland's significant investment in Australia is a key element of our bilateral relationship. Cultural links have traditionally been close, and many Swiss have made valuable contributions to Australia.
While Switzerland has a long-standing tradition of neutrality and is not a member of NATO, it participates in peacekeeping missions and plays an active role in conflict mediation. Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations (UN) in 2002 and is one of four members of the UN Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission monitoring the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. More than 20 international organisations are headquartered in Geneva, including multiple UN agencies, the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2020, Switzerland released its foreign policy strategy for the next four years, with a focus on peace and security, prosperity, sustainability and digitalisation: Swiss Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23.
- Swiss visitors to Australia (Year ended June 2020)
- Australian resident returns from Switzerland (Year ended June 2020)
- Resident Australian population born in Switzerland (2016 census)
- Australian residents of Swiss descent (2016 census)
- Swiss student enrolments in Australia (2019)
High level engagement
Then-Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, visited Davos-Klosters to attend the World Economic Forum Annual meeting and Zürich to promote business ties between Australia and Switzerland.
Then-Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, travelled to Geneva to represent Australia at the High-Level Segment of the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Agreements with Switzerland
Australia and Switzerland have concluded a number of bilateral agreements, including on double taxation, social security, defence and supply, nuclear safeguards (covering the import of Australian uranium for peaceful purposes), air services, extradition, and mutual assistance on cooperation on law enforcement. Memoranda of understanding have been signed on cooperation in the fields of science, research and innovation, trainee exchanges, and a regular dialogue on health regulations.
Texts of bilateral agreements are available at the Australian Treaties Database.
The Australian Embassy Berlin supports Swiss-based initiatives showcasing Australian culture, people-to-people and historical links to Switzerland, including film festivals, dance performances and visual arts exhibitions.
Science and education
The Swiss Australian Academic Network was established in 2005 to increase bilateral scientific exchanges and develop collaborative research grant programs, fellowships and scholarships. It currently has more than 650 members.
The Swiss-Australian Joint Committee for Cooperation in the Areas of Science, Research and Innovation provides a forum for senior government officials from both countries to identify opportunities to further strengthen bilateral science and innovation collaboration. The first meeting of the Committee was held in Canberra in 2014.
In 2020, the Australian Antarctic Division and the Swiss Polar Institute signed a new 10-year Statement of Commitment to cooperate on Antarctic research.
Australian Embassy in Berlin
The Australia Embassy in Berlin is responsible for Switzerland.
Australia has a Consulate-General in Geneva, Switzerland.
Australia's economic relationship with Switzerland is growing, especially in the areas of scientific research and development, trade, and two-way investment.
Two-way merchandise trade with Switzerland was valued at $5.4 billion in 2019. Switzerland exported $3.5 billion worth of goods to Australia, mainly comprising medicaments (including veterinary); watches and clocks; aircraft, spacecraft and parts; and pharmaceutical products (excluding medicaments). Australia’s principal exports to Switzerland were gold; medicaments; meat (excluding beef); and silver & platinum.
Switzerland is a valued investment partner for Australia. In 2019, the stock of Swiss investment in Australia was worth $56.1 billion. Swiss investment in Australia is concentrated in pharmaceuticals, medical technology and services, banking and insurance.
Switzerland and Australia have a complementary business culture. Switzerland’s strong, stable and diverse market offers investment opportunities for Australian business. A number of Australian companies have a base in Switzerland, taking advantage of its highly-educated labour force and world-class science and research networks. Australian companies in Switzerland include Cochlear, CSL Behring, IFM Investors, Macquarie Group and Sonic Healthcare.
About 250 Swiss companies are active in Australia. Major Swiss corporates investing in Australia include ABB, Crédit Suisse, Glencore, Nestlé, Novartis, Roche, Swiss Re, UBS and Zurich Insurance.
Due to the high level of research and development spending by major Swiss corporates, Austrade has an active ‘invest in research’ strategy to attract further Swiss investment to Australian R&D in the areas of life sciences, agribusiness and food, power and technology.
For more information, please see Austrade’s Zurich office.
See Smartraveller for information on travelling to Switzerland.