Switzerland country brief
Australia and Switzerland established diplomatic ties in 1961. Switzerland has operated an Embassy in Canberra without interruption since 1961. For much of this time, Australian Ambassadors to Switzerland were “non-resident” (based in Austria from 1968 to 1973 and Germany from 1993 to 2022). Australia reopened an Embassy in Bern on Tuesday 16 August 2022, with its formal opening by Australian Trade and Tourism Minister Senator the Hon Don Farrell on 9 December 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 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.
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 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 makes it easier for Australian and Swiss citizens to move between countries.
Switzerland is a direct democratic federal republic. The federal legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Federal Assembly: the National Council and the Council of States. The Federal Council holds the executive power and is composed of seven power-sharing Federal Councillors elected by the Federal Assembly. The judicial branch is headed by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, whose judges are elected by the Federal Assembly.
Switzerland’s Federal Council is elected by the United Federal Assembly, that is, by the two parliamentary chambers jointly. The election takes place every four years in December, following the election of the entire National Council.
Each year in December, parliament elects the President of the Swiss Confederation from among the seven federal councillors for a twelve-month term of office. A member of the Federal Council can be president more than once during their time in office, but not in consecutive years.
Switzerland has a tradition of direct democracy. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory; for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested. In addition, the people may present a popular initiative to propose amendments to the federal constitution.
Switzerland's foreign policy is driven by interests in peace and security, strengthening its bilateral relationship with the European Union, action on global climate and environmental protection and strengthening international digital governance. Switzerland is a member of the OECD and joined the Blue Dot Network Steering Committee in 2023.
While Switzerland has a long-standing tradition of neutrality and is not a member of NATO or the EU, it has historically played an active role in conflict mediation. Despite only becoming a full member of the United Nations (UN) in 2002, it has participated in UN peacekeeping missions since 1990 and has been one of the four members of the UN Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission monitoring the demilitarised zones between North and South Korea since 1953. On 9 June 2022, Switzerland was elected 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.
Switzerland’s Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23 focuses on peace and security, prosperity, sustainability and digitisation.
- Swiss visitors to Australia (2022)
- Australian resident returns from Switzerland (2022)
- Resident Australian population born in Switzerland (2021 census)
- Australian residents of Swiss descent (2021 census)
- Swiss working holidaymakers in Australia (2022)
- Swiss students in Australia (2022)
High level engagement
- September 2023 – Foreign Minister Wong met with her counterpart Swiss Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis at the United Nations General Assembly in New York
- August 2023 – Foreign Minister Wong met with her counterpart Swiss Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis during his visit to Australia. Federal Councillor Cassis was accompanied by Members of the National Council Mr Thomas Aeschi and Ms Yvonne Feri
- December 2022 – Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell officially opened Australia’s new Embassy in Bern
- September 2022 – Foreign Minister Wong met with then President of the Swiss Confederation and Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis at the United Nations General Assembly in New York
- June 2022 - Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell and Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing Ayres visited Geneva for the 12th Ministerial Conference at the World Trade Organization
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. In 2020, Australia and Switzerland signed a Statement of Commitment to cooperate on Antarctic research.
Texts of bilateral agreements are available at the Australian Treaties Database.
Trade and investment
Australia's economic relationship with Switzerland is strong and growing, especially in the areas of scientific research and development, trade, and investment.
In 2022 two-way goods and services trade with Switzerland was valued at $8.7 billion. Switzerland is an important investment partner for Australia, our 11th largest source, valued at $74 billion in 2022. Bilateral trade has grown by over 25 per cent in the past 5 years. 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. Around 60 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 Frankfurt office.
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.
Australian Embassy in Switzerland
Australian Embassy Bern
Weltpoststrasse 5, 3015 Bern
Ph: +41 (0)31 310 17 80
Australia has a Consulate-General in Geneva, Switzerland.
See Smartraveller for information on travelling to Switzerland.