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Switzerland

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Switzerland country brief

Bilateral relationship

The Australian Embassy commenced operations on Tuesday 16 August 2022, marking a significant milestone in the bilateral relationship. The Embassy is working to expand our trade and investment ties and deepen bilateral cooperation.

Australia and Switzerland established diplomatic ties in 1961. In 2021 Australia and Switzerland marked 60 years of diplomatic relations.

Australia and Switzerland share political and economic interests in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. Australian leaders and parliamentarians regularly visit Switzerland for bilateral and multilateral meetings. 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.

Foreign policy

Switzerland's foreign policy is driven by interests in peace and security, strengthening the bilateral relationship with the European Union, action on global climate and environmental protection and strengthening international digital governance. 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. On 9 June 2022, Switzerland was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2023-24. Switzerland hosts the largest global hub of multilateral institutions with more than 20 international organisations 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.

Economic diplomacy

Australia's economic relationship with Switzerland is strong and growing, especially in the areas of scientific research and development, trade, and investment.

Trade and investment

In 2020-21 two-way goods and services trade with Switzerland was valued at $7.4 billion. Switzerland is an important investment partner for Australia, our 11th largest source, valued at $69.2 billion (2021). Bilateral trade has grown by over 25 per cent in the past 5 years and over 250 Swiss companies operate today in Australia. Swiss investment in Australia is concentrated in pharmaceuticals, medical technology and services, banking, and insurance.

More information on trade and investment

Business

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.

Fast facts

Swiss visitors to Australia (2021-2022)
2961
Australian resident returns from Switzerland (2021-2022)
349
Resident Australian population born in Switzerland (2020 census)
13,017
Australian residents of Swiss descent (2020 census)
35,629
Working Holiday arrivals to Australia (Jan-June 2022)
32
Swiss student arrivals in Australia (2021-2022)
145

High level engagement

  • 2021: Then-Foreign Minister Marise Payne visited Geneva to  discuss the global response to COVID-19 and key humanitarian and human rights issues.
  • 2021: Then-Trade Minister Dan Tehan visited Geneva in April for meetings related to the World Trade Organisation.
  • 2020: 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.
  • 2019: Then-Foreign Minister Marise Payne visited Geneva to attend the High-Level Segment of the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and address the Conference on Disarmament.
  • 2018: 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

Cooperation is growing in the areas of multilateral engagement, human rights, scientific research, environment, education and two-way investment. People-to-people links continue to increase with changes to visa arrangements from 1 January 2022 which make it easier for Australian and Swiss citizens to move between countries. In 2020, Australia and Switzerland signed a Statement of Commitment to cooperate on Antarctic research. In 2013, Australia and Switzerland signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a Strategic Dialogue to strengthen bilateral ties.

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.

Science and education

In 2020, the Australian Antarctic Division and the Swiss Polar Institute signed a new 10-year Statement of Commitment to cooperate on Antarctic research. 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.

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.

Public diplomacy

Australia supports Swiss-based initiatives showcasing Australian culture, people-to-people and historical links to Switzerland, including film festivals, dance performances and visual arts exhibitions.

Australia in Switzerland

Australian Embassy Bern
Weltpoststrasse 5, 3015 Bern
Phone: +41 (0)31 310 17 80

Australia has a Consulate-General in Geneva, Switzerland.

Facebook: Australia in Switzerland
Twitter @AusCGGeneva

Travel

See Smarttraveller for information on travelling to Switzerland.

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