Relations between Colombia and Switzerland are close and wide-ranging, and involve regular political consultations and high-level meetings. Colombia is a priority country for Switzerland in the areas of economic cooperation, humanitarian aid and peacebuilding. The two countries maintain significant trade relations.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Colombia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Colombia are close, covering a wide range of areas including the promotion of bilateral trade, economic development, cultural and multilateral cooperation, and humanitarian aid and peacebulding.
In August 2016 Johann Schneider-Ammann, then President of the Swiss Confederation, visited Bogotá to meet with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos. This was the first visit to Colombia by a sitting Swiss president. In January 2017, Swiss President Doris Leuthard met President Santos in Davos on the margins of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. Swiss Presidents Micheline Calmy-Rey and Didier Burkhalter had already met with President Santos in Davos in 2011 and 2014. In recent years, relations between Switzerland and Colombia have also been strengthened by various ministerial-level meetings. Didier Burkhalter travelled to Colombia in 2013 to meet with the country's foreign minister, Angela Holguín. She visited Bern in 2016.
In 2010 Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón travelled to Switzerland to meet with President Calmy-Rey. In 2008, President Pascal Couchepin and Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey received Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for an official working visit to Switzerland. Federal Councillor Calmy-Rey paid a return official visit to Colombia that year, and Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard visited the country in 2009. Several high-level meetings have also taken place on the margins of multilateral events.
Switzerland and Colombia have concluded agreements on investment protection, free trade, double taxation, mutual legal assistance, air transport, scientific cooperation and the protection of cultural property.
Colombia is Switzerland's sixth most important trading partner in Latin America. The Colombian economy has strong potential, and economic relations have been further strengthened by the EFTA-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on 1 July 2011.
In 2016, Switzerland imported goods worth CHF 513.4 million from Colombia, primarily precious stones and precious metals (69%) and agricultural products (25%, mainly coffee). The value of Swiss exports to Colombia – primarily chemical products, pharmaceuticals, machinery and optical and medical instruments – amounted to CHF 469 million. Swiss direct investment in Colombia amounted to CHF 827 million at the end of 2015, and Swiss companies employed about 11,400 people in the country.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Switzerland and Colombia signed a memorandum of understanding on the promotion of scientific cooperation in March 2012. Cooperation between universities and other scientific institutions in both countries is promoted by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SBFI) and its Colombian counterpart 'Colciencia'.
Scholars and artists from Colombia can apply to SERI for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Colombia has been a priority country for Swiss Humanitarian Aid since 2001. Swiss Humanitarian Aid focuses its activities on providing aid and protecting civilians affected by Colombia's conflict. It has earmarked CHF 35 million for this purpose for the 2017–20 period.
Since 2009, Colombia has been one of SECO's priority countries for economic cooperation and development. SECO promotes the competitiveness of the Colombian economy and sustainable growth. CHF 55 million has been earmarked as part of the 2017–20 Cooperation Strategy. Colombia is also part of the SDC's Andean programme on climate change adaptation and sustainable water management.
Peace promotion and human security
Colombia has been a priority country for Swiss peace and human rights policy since 2002. The current programme focuses on promoting human rights and supporting civil society peace initiatives, dealing with the past and transitional justice. The annual budget is approximately CHF 2 million.
Swiss nationals in Colombia
According to the Statistics on the Swiss Abroad, there were 2,627 Swiss nationals living in Colombia at the end of 2016.
Various cultural events held in the country and the Colegio Helvetia, a Swiss school in Bogotá, help boost Switzerland's image in Colombia.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has maintained consular and diplomatic relations with Colombia since the 19th century. A treaty on friendship, residency and trade concluded with Colombia in 1908 enhanced the status of the Swiss community in the country. Switzerland opened a consulate in Bogotá in 1911, a legation in 1940 and an embassy in 1958. The Colombian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce was founded in Bogotá in 1974.