Bilateral relations between the two countries are good and being intensified. A dialogue on political and economic matters launched in Canberra in March 2012 is continuing. Australia hosts one of the largest communities Swiss overseas and is a crossroads in the field of education and research.
At the beginning of March Switzerland launched a political dialogue in Canberra, which is to continue on an annual basis. A first round of bilateral financial dialogue, including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), was conducted in March 2012.
Both sides are interested in improving framework conditions for trade and investment. At the end of 2011 for example negotiations were successfully concluded for a revised Double Taxation Agreement.
Although modest bilateral trade is on the increase. In 2011 exports amounted to 2.5 billion CHF, a 17.4% increase over the previous year. There was also considerable improvement in Switzerland’s imports from Australia in 2011, rising from the previous year’s 320 million CHF to 487 million CHF, a jump of 52%.
As a source of foreign direct investments (FDIs) Switzerland, which has created 40,000 jobs in Australia, ranked fifth in 2011. In 2009 FDIs amounted to over 13 billion USD.
The importance of tourism continues to grow. Since the 1980s an ever increasing number of Swiss have visited Australia, either as tourists or for language studies. Despite the strength of the Swiss franc there was an 8.2% increase in the number of Australian tourists coming to Switzerland in 2011, while in 2010 some 43,000 Swiss holidayed in Australia.
The Swiss Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) numbers over 250 members.
Australia is an important academic and scientific centre for Switzerland. The Swiss Australian Academic Network (SAAN) has established itself as an open, interactive organisation for the promotion of academic exchanges. Swiss constitute the second largest group of students of “English as a second language” students in Australia.
Foreign scholars and artists from Australia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER). A trainee agreement enables young people from Australia to spend a limited period of time in Switzerland in order to acquire additional professional experience and to hone their language skills.
At the end of 2011 there were 23,378 Swiss living in Australia, of which 18,813 had dual nationality. Australia is home to the third most important Swiss community overseas after the United States and Canada.
Despite the great distance between the two countries contacts are very close, with frequent exchanges of cultural actors and many tours and exhibitions.
The Swiss began to arrive in Australia just a few years after the founding of the first settlement in the area of Sydney in 1788. The first major emigration of Swiss began in 1839 with the appointment of Charles Joseph La Trobe as Superintendant and subsequently Lieutenant Governor of Victoria. Through his contacts many wine growers from the Neuchâtel region and the Bernese Lake District began to emigrate, helping to make Victoria an important wine growing region. During the 19thcentury gold rush some 2,000 prospectors emigrated from canton Ticino.
Towards the end of the 19th century Australia became increasingly attractive to traders and artisans from German-speaking Switzerland. In the second half of the 20th century emigration was at a more individual level. Many of the new arrivals settled in Sydney and Melbourne.
Switzerland opened a consulate in Sydney in 1855 and the following year in Melbourne. Between 1879 and 1918 a consulate was opened in Adelaide, and between 1889 and 1993 in Brisbane. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were initiated in 1961, when Switzerland opened an embassy in Canberra. The Australian embassy in Berlin is also accredited to Switzerland. The Australian Consulate General is located in Geneva. In 2012 an honorary consulate was opened in Zurich.