Japan is one of Switzerland’s most important partner states in Asia. As well as intensive economic relations the two countries enjoy close cooperation in the economic, political and multilateral areas. Relations, at the highest level, are excellent. In 2014 Switzerland and Japan will celebrate the 150th anniversary of official bilateral relations.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
There has been a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the promotion of dialogue between Switzerland and Japan since 2010.
The Free Trade Agreement with Japan entered into force on 1.9.2009, in the context of an economic partnership. It is considered to be the most important since the agreement signed with the European Union in 1972, and indeed is the first FTA Japan has signed with a European country.
The Free Trade Agreement of 2009 established a subcommittee for the promotion of economic cooperation. Switzerland and Japan meet every 18 months for financial dialogue and to coordinate policy on financial matters.
Tourism and image management are two other important economic components.
Japan ranks eighth as a Swiss priority country in the areas of education and research and innovation. Cooperation in medical research began in 2008 under the leadership of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ).
Economic relations between Japan and Switzerland are intensive. The Swiss Business Hub in Tokyo is responsible for promoting Switzerland as a business location.
Japan is a priority country for Swiss export promotion and after China (including Hong Kong) is Switzerland’s second most important trading partner in Asia.
In 2011 exports of goods to Japan were worth 7 billion CHF or 3.2% of total Swiss exports. The lion’s share consisted of chemical and pharmaceutical products, watches and jewellery, precious metals and machinery. Imports were mainly vehicles, machinery, chemical products and electrical appliances.
Switzerland is a major investor in Japan, ranking eighth among foreign investors in 2009.
Cooperation in the domain of education
In 2007 Japan signed a cooperation agreement with Switzerland in the areas of science and research.
Cooperation in medical research, which began in 2008 under the leadership of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, has been supported by the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) to the amount of 1.2 million CHF in the 2008–2012 period. Forums are held regularly in Japan to provide information on research in Switzerland.
Foreign scholars and artists from Japan can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
The Swiss Embassy is particularly active in promoting cultural exchanges.
At the 2005 World Expo in Aichi Japanese visitors were presented with the image of a modern, dynamic Switzerland.
In celebration of 150 years of diplomatic relations the two countries plan further cultural projects in 2014.
Swiss in Japan
At the end of 2011 there were 1478 Swiss living in Japan.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland was quick to take an interest in Japan. The first trade delegation, led by watch industry representative Aimé Humbert, visited Japan in 1863. This visit resulted in the conclusion of a trade and friendship agreement the following year.
Switzerland opened a representation in Tokyo in 1906. During the Second World War Switzerland represented the interests in Japan of many countries including the United States and Great Britain. Following an interruption in the 1945–52 period diplomatic relations were resumed in 1952, and in 1957 the embassy was reopened.