Press releases, 15.02.2023

For the first time, the Federal Council has adopted a regional strategy concerning the countries of South East Asia. The strategy is intended to broaden Switzerland's relations with the region and to coherently harness the many opportunities offered by the overall growth of the Asia-Pacific. It complements the China Strategy that the Federal Council approved in 2021.

The South East Asian region is becoming increasingly important. Taken together, the eleven countries making up the region form the world's fifth largest economy. The abundance of their rich natural, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity, in addition to their economic potential, represents ample opportunities for Switzerland to promote and diversify its relations in Asia.

The four thematic focus areas of the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 – peace and security, prosperity, sustainability, and digitalisation – will form the foundation for bolstering Switzerland's exchanges with these eleven countries. A fifth priority set out in the new strategy is to continue providing quality services to Swiss citizens living in the region.

Thematic priorities

South East Asia is one of the world's most economically dynamic regions. There is thus a growing potential for Swiss economic interests in the region. Switzerland is therefore striving to improve market access through free trade agreements. At the same time, Switzerland is committed to improving economic and social prospects in the less developed countries of the region, in particular through the development cooperation programmes of the SDC and SECO.

To further peace and security, Switzerland is active in the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts in South East Asia. The country places a particularly strong focus on human rights. As part of its diplomacy in this area, Switzerland defends the freedom of expression and supports the abolition of the death penalty, the prevention of torture, and the protection of minorities in the region. Respect for international law is a priority. Switzerland's seat on the UN Security Council in 2023 and 2024 provides an opportunity to strengthen cooperation in this area.

Within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, Switzerland is committed to the sustainable development of South East Asia, a region particularly vulnerable to climate change. The strategy sets out measures not only to combat climate change, but also to deal with its consequences. Natural resources management, starting with water, is a core part of the Federal Council's strategy.

South East Asia is also an emerging centre of technological innovation. In this respect, Switzerland aims to strengthen dialogue with selected countries in the region, particularly as regards digital governance and the facilitation of digital commerce. The Federal Council also seeks to strengthen scientific cooperation with this region in view of emerging opportunities.

Finally, the Federal Council seeks to provide appropriate support to Swiss citizens living in the region. Providing digital services is a priority, as is optimising consular affairs. The goal here is to assist the Swiss community living in South East Asia in their dealings with their host country's authorities.

Reinforcing Switzerland's presence in multilateral forums

Another pillar of the strategy is the strengthening of Switzerland's presence in several multilateral forums. The most important of these is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which brings all the South East Asian countries and those of the entire Asia-Pacific to the table on a regular basis. Through its Sectoral Dialogue Partnership, the Federal Council has privileged access to high-level meetings, for example those of foreign and economic ministers. The strategy thus aims to strengthen this relationship and to expand the technical assistance with ASEAN in place since 2017, including in the areas of digitalisation, vocational education and training, disaster prevention, human rights, and the environment.

In order to diversify its relations with all the actors of the Asia-Pacific, Switzerland participates in other high-level multilateral meetings such as the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the intergovernmental Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), and the Shangri-La Dialogue, the continent's preeminent security conference.

Foreign policy coherence

The South East Asia Strategy 2023–26 is the fifth geographical strategy to build on the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23, after strategies focusing on MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa, China and the Americas. It is the result of extensive consultation within and outside of the Federal Administration. Its approval by the Federal Council strengthens the coherence of the Federal Administration's action (under the whole-of-government approach), while also serving as a reference for the cantons, the private sector and civil society (under the whole-of-Switzerland approach). The aim here is to make sure that Swiss foreign policy is carried out coherently.

Further information:

South East Asia Strategy 2023-2026

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Last update 19.07.2023

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