The Americas Division is responsible for political relations with 35 states on the American continent from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, including the Caribbean. Its main task is to coordinate Swiss interests in the countries of this region.
The division is in regular contact with Switzerland's representations in the countries concerned (embassies, consulates general, consulates, honorary consulates, Swiss liaison and programme offices). It plays an active role in determining and implementing bilateral foreign policy. It regularly analyses and monitors current events and the development of the political, economic and humanitarian situation on the American continent. Its main activities include:
- Coordination of the bilateral activities of the various units of the federal administration.
- Elaboration of political positions and implementation of Swiss foreign policy at the bilateral level in consultation with Switzerland's diplomatic representations in the countries concerned and the 15 embassies of these states in Bern.
- The formulation of political recommendations and strategies for the shaping of Swiss policy on the Americas.
- Organisation, preparation and follow-up of trips abroad by the head of the Department and the FDFA State Secretary; elaboration of content for the preparation of trips abroad by the President of the Confederation and by other heads of Department.
- Preparation of visits by foreign delegations to the head of the Department and the FDFA State Secretary.
- Preparation of information about bilateral relations with the countries of the Americas for the Federal Council, Parliament, the federal administration, the media and interested citizens.
- Cultivation of contacts with interested circles, for example chambers of commerce, parliamentary associations, charities and non-governmental organisations.
- Carrying out six protective mandates for third states through the Foreign Interests service which is attached to this division.
The Americas Division is divided into two regional coordination teams: the North and Central America regional coordination team, which also deals with the Caribbean, and South America regional coordination. The Foreign Interests service is also attached to the division.
The regional coordination teams are responsible for the coordination and systematic cultivation of bilateral relations with the countries in the region. They are the hub between Swiss representations in the Americas and the federal administration. They cultivate contacts with the embassies of American countries in Bern and with external bodies concerned with the region.
Regional Coordination North and Central America
Regional Coordination North and Central America is responsible for Switzerland's bilateral relations with the USA, Canada, Mexico, the Central American states and the states of the Caribbean. The USA occupies a prominent role in this regard as it is by far Switzerland's most important partner outside Europe. This applies not only to economic relations but also to Switzerland's international and multilateral activities. Annual consultations at the political level with the USA are held every year. Switzerland also seeks regular contacts with American interlocutors in the margins of multilateral events. Switzerland also has regular political contacts with Canada and Mexico, which are both members of the G20. In the Caribbean the main emphasis is on Cuba, where Switzerland looks after the interests of the USA, and Haiti, where Switzerland has a substantial cooperation and reconstruction programme.
Regional Coordination South America
Regional Coordination South America is responsible for Switzerland's bilateral relations with 13 countries in South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela) and it coordinates the Confederation's policies towards these countries. With a total of 10 embassies, Switzerland has an extensive network of diplomatic relations, testifying to the long-lasting and intense nature of its links to these countries to which many Swiss nationals emigrated to from the end of the 19th century onwards, establishing communities that are very well integrated in the social economic and political fabric of the host countries. These historical relations are reflected even today in close economic relations with these dynamic economies (importance of Swiss investments in South America and the steady increase in the volume of trade). The profound changes experienced by South America in the last 20 years, with the establishment and consolidation of democracy in many countries of the region and pragmatic macro-economic policies that combine growth with the redistribution of income is the basis of an important renewal of relations between Switzerland and the countries of this region.
Three priorities should be mentioned in this context:
- the strengthening of alliances with G20 member countries and with like-minded countries to work together to tackle global challenges;
- contribution to the strengthening of the rule of law and human rights, especially in countries with weak and institutions or autocratic tendencies; working on behalf of democracy and development in the region;
- improving the framework conditions for the benefit of the Swiss economy, exploiting collaboration opportunities in future-oriented areas such as research, science and technology.
Protective power mandate
The division has a number of protective power mandates: it represents the interests of the USA in Cuba and of Cuba in the USA, of Iran in Egypt, of the USA in Iran, of Russia in Georgia and of Georgia in Russia. Switzerland's safeguarding of the interests of the USA in Iran is based on a comprehensive (consular and diplomatic) mandate. The other five mandates are more formal: business on the spot is dealt with by the interests section is of the countries concerned and by their own personnel. These sections for foreign interests are placed under the high protection of Switzerland in international law.
Switzerland's mandate for the USA and Iran goes back to the hostage crisis of 1980. Since that time, all consular matters of the United States in Iran, except for visas, have been looked after by the American Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Teheran, e.g., passport applications, changes in civil status, consular protection, notarial services etc. for American citizens visiting or residing in Iran. This Section works closely with the Service for Foreign Interests at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern and, via the latter, with the Embassy of the United States in Bern.