A new chapter in Swiss-Argentine relations was inaugurated last year with a January 2016 meeting between the presidents of Switzerland and Argentina in Davos and a subsequent visit to Buenos Aires by Mr Burkhalter in May 2016. On that occasion, the foreign ministers of the two countries signed a joint declaration establishing the foundations for closer and more extensive bilateral cooperation. After the relaunch of their joint economic commission for the promotion of trade and investment this past September and a joint statement in November to introduce the automatic exchange of tax information, a memorandum of understanding on trilateral development cooperation was signed by the two countries in December 2016.
The meeting in Bern between Ms Malcorra and Mr Burkhalter provided the occasion for an in-depth discussion of issues and projects on which Argentina and Switzerland can achieve closer cooperation. The foreign ministers cited a number of areas with a potential for more extensive mutual exchanges and collaboration between their two countries. These include joint projects in Latin America where they can complement each other’s efforts, risk reduction in the face of natural disasters and voluntary commitments to responsible conduct by large companies involved in natural resource extraction and trade. Other talking points included the promotion of human rights and the prevention of violent extremism.
Discussions also focused on dealing with the past and preventing future atrocities and genocides, an issue on which Switzerland and Argentina have already been working in concert for the past ten years. In addition, the talks touched on possible ways to support Switzerland’s endeavours to further the reform of the UN system and working methods, a subject Ms Malcorra is familiar with through her years of experience in key positions at the United Nations.
The Argentine foreign minister noted that Swiss investment and innovation, as well as its vocational education and training model, have sparked much interest in Argentina. The two countries have maintained good trade relations for many years. With a trade volume of nearly CHF 2.2 billion annually, Argentina is Switzerland’s third most important economic partner and second most important export market in South America. The Argentine government has launched a number of economic reforms and is seeking to encourage direct foreign investment and the integration of Argentina into international markets. The EFTA states (including Switzerland) and the Mercosur states (including Argentina) announced last Thursday in Davos the culmination of exploratory talks with a view to concluding a free-trade agreement aimed at developing trade between members of the two organisations.
Mr Burkhalter congratulated Argentina on its scheduled assumption of the presidency of the G20 in 2018. The head of Switzerland’s international diplomacy recalled that Switzerland, as a financial centre and important economic actor, stands prepared to contribute its expertise to that gathering of world powers. Both Switzerland and Argentina are active participants in the ongoing debates at such major international forums as the United Nations, the OECD and the G20. The two ministers decided to take advantage of that involvement to further strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the fight against corruption.
The development of closer relations between Switzerland and Argentina will continue this year with a possible visit to Buenos Aires by Swiss President Doris Leuthard, to whom Ms Malcorra will pay a courtesy visit in Bern later in the day.
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