The President of the Swiss Confederation welcomed his Singaporean counterpart at the Lohn country residence in Kehrsatz with military honours. The meetings that followed, which were also attended by Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, head of the Federal Department of Finances (FDF), and Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), provided an opportunity for the delegations to emphasise the excellent relations between Switzerland and Singapore. The two countries have maintained diplomatic relations since 1967.
In order to reinforce these ties, the Swiss and Singaporean delegations signed a Declaration of Enhanced Partnership. The document establishes a regular political dialogue and paves the way for the strengthening of cooperation between Switzerland and Singapore, primarily in terms of business and finance, as well as in the fields of research and innovation. It should also promote understanding between the two countries, in particular by encouraging cooperation at scientific level, as well as by facilitating exchanges among young professionals.
The Asia-Pacific region is the world's most dynamic region, stated President Burkhalter during the discussions, stressing that Singapore is one of the region's economic drivers and Switzerland's leading trade partner in South-East Asia.
Trade between the two countries increased considerably following the signing of a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Singapore in 2003. This agreement was the first of its kind to be concluded by EFTA with an Asian country. In 2012, Switzerland's direct investment amounted to CHF 19.7 billion, making Switzerland the fifth largest investor in Singapore. In November 2012, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, the head of the EAER, and a delegation of representatives from the private sector travelled to Singapore for a series of high-level meetings with government representatives, with the aim of strengthening long-standing relations between the two countries.
Cooperation in the field of research and education also formed part of today’s discussions. For ten years Swissnex Singapore has been supporting Swiss universities, research institutes and high-tech companies in Singapore and has been facilitating scientific and technological exchanges. The aim is to promote Swiss institutions and establish networks through university exchanges, scientific contacts and research cooperation. The main actors involved are the University of St. Gallen (UniSG), the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne (ETH and EPFL) and the National Research Foundation of Singapore.
At the multilateral level, the Swiss and Singaporean delegations raised a number of issues including the continuation of the good collaboration at the United Nations. Mr Burkhalter, in his capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), also informed his counterpart of Switzerland's priorities during the year-long chairmanship and briefed him about the OSCE's efforts in connection with the crisis in Ukraine.
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