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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Japan
Japan is one of Switzerland’s most important trading partners in Asia. In addition to enjoying close trade relations, the two like-minded countries work together closely in the areas of policy, economics, culture and education. The year 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of official bilateral relations between Switzerland and Japan.
In 2014 Switzerland and Japan celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relations. The President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, visited Japan from 3 to 6 February 2014. In addition to official talks with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, Mr Burkhalter had an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and also met with Crown Prince Naruhito, with whom he is the co-patron of the 150th anniversary year.
Political relations between Switzerland and Japan have been strengthened in recent years through various agreements:
- Agreement on social security (in force since 1 March 2012)
- Revised double taxation agreement (in force since 30 December 2011)
- Memorandum of understanding on intensified political cooperation signed on 5 July 2010.
- Free trade and economic partnership agreement (in force since 1 September 2009): the first free-trade agreement between Japan and a European nation, and for Switzerland one of its most important free-trade agreements alongside those concluded with the EU (1972) and China (2014).
Economic relations between Japan and Switzerland are very close. In 2013, Japan was Switzerland’s third-largest trading partner in Asia after China and Hong Kong, and its fifth-largest globally after the EU, the United States, China and Hong Kong. The trade volume between Switzerland and Japan in 2013 exceeded CHF 9 billion. Switzerland mainly exports chemicals and pharmaceutical products, watches, medical equipment and machinery to Japan. The main imports from Japan include cars, precious metals, medicines and machinery. Switzerland is one of the most important foreign investors in Japan. The two countries hold talks on financial matters every 18 months and coordinate their viewpoints on financial policy. The Swiss Business Hub in Tokyo has an advisory role for the Swiss export sector and promotes Switzerland as a prime location for business.
Japan is one of seven priority countries where Switzerland promotes cooperation in the areas of education, research and innovation.
Switzerland and Japan have been working together in the area of medical research since 2008. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) provided CHF 1.2 million for this cooperation from 2008 to 2012.
At forums in Japan regular information sessions are held about Switzerland as a prime location for research. In 2007 Japan signed a science and research cooperation agreement with Switzerland. Scholars and artists from Japan can apply to SERI for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
At the end of 2013 there were 1,499 Swiss citizens living in Japan.
Exchanges at the cultural level are promoted in particular by the Swiss embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese embassy in Bern. A multitude of cultural events are taking place in Switzerland and in Japan as part of the 150-year anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Renowned Swiss architects such as Herzog and de Meuron, Mario Botta and Le Corbusier have all designed buildings in Japan.
Official relations between Switzerland and Japan began in the mid-19th century. In 1862 the Federal Council appointed Aimé Humbert-Droz as minister plenipotentiary and entrusted him with the task of negotiating an agreement with Japan. Humbert-Droz, a watchmaker from Neuchâtel, travelled to Japan in 1863. His trip culminated in the signing of a friendship and trade agreement between the two countries, marking the start of a brisk trade in imports and exports on both sides. Thereafter, numerous Swiss companies set up offices in Japan. In 1906 Switzerland opened a representation in Tokyo.
Relations between the two countries continued without interruption, even during the Second World War. During the war years Switzerland represented the interests of many countries in Japan, for example those of the United States and the United Kingdom.