Every year, the Foreign Affairs Committees send a delegation on a fact-finding visit abroad. In view of the desire to modernise the joint free trade agreement and given the great joint potential in the area of science, research and innovation, the FAC-N decided that this year’s fact-finding visit should be to Japan. The FAC-N delegation was led by its president, National Council member Franz Grüter (SVP, LU), who was accompanied by National Council members Sibel Arslan (The Greens, BS), Tiana Angelina Moser (GLP, ZH) and Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter (The Centre, BL), Hans-Peter Portmann (FDP, ZH), Andreas Aebi (SVP, BE), Roger Köppel (SVP, ZH), Fabian Molina (SP, ZH) and Eric Nussbaumer (SP, BL).
Focus in Tokyo on free trade, security policy and education
On the first leg of the visit, the delegation travelled to Tokyo, where the emphasis was on maintaining and further developing bilateral relations with Japan, particularly in regard to the free trade agreement between the two countries. During exchanges with members of the Japanese parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, led by its President Hitoshi Kikawada, and the Japan-Switzerland Parliamentary Friendship Group, led by its President Seishiro Eto, and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, the delegation reaffirmed Switzerland’s wish to modernise the free trade agreement. The Japanese parliamentary representatives signalled their full support for the modernisation of this agreement. Japan's geopolitical situation against the backdrop of the Ukraine war and the tensions between China and Taiwan were also discussed in depth.
In addition to these economic and security policy issues, the delegation also addressed questions relating to education and innovation. At a meeting with Minister of State Yosei Ide from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the delegation members pointed out Switzerland's valuable expertise in the system of vocational education and training, which could also be of interest to Japan. In connection with research and innovation, the delegation also visited the NEC Corporation - one of Japan's largest technology companies and a major investor in Switzerland - and the National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology (AIST). The programme also included a visit to the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF), the largest machine tool fair in Japan, which takes place every two years in Tokyo. Swissmem, with the support of the Swiss Business Hub Japan, arranged for Swiss companies to attend the fair, a platform that has so far been used by more than a hundred Swiss companies.
Science, innovation and World Expo in Osaka
The delegation then travelled to Osaka, where they visited the future premises of the Swiss Consulate, which will also be the location of Swissnex Japan. Swiss scientists and start-up founders were able to present their activities to the delegation. Osaka will be the host city of the World Expo in 2025. At the exhibition, the Swiss pavilion will showcase Switzerland's innovative strength and its achievements in the fields of the environment, health and the economy. The Deputy Secretary General of EXPO 2025 Osaka-Kansai, Ichinoki Manatsu, exchanged views with the delegation on the challenges involved in organising such a large event. The FAC-N delegation informed Ichinoki Manatsu during their exchange that the Federal Council's dispatch on financing Switzerland’s participation at the EXPO is set to be debated by parliament in the upcoming winter session. It also aims to send a parliamentary delegation to the World Expo. Last but not least, the delegation visited Screen Holdings, a market leader in the semiconductor sector.
The delegation rounded off its visit to Japan by meeting members of the Swiss Club Tokyo, the delegate of the Council of the Swiss Abroad (ASO) and members of Swiss Alumni.