A delegation of the Council of States Foreign Affairs Committee will pay an official visit to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore from 6 to 13 April. The aim of this visit is to strengthen bilateral relations with these three states – which despite their geographical remoteness are major partners for Switzerland – and to cultivate links with local Swiss companies and the large Swiss community in the region.

Due to the large distances involved, the delegation of the Council of States Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC-S) has decided to visit a number of countries in one trip: on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 April it will make a brief stop in Singapore before continuing to New Zealand and Australia. With nearly 400 Swiss companies operating in the country, Singapore is Switzerland’s most important commercial partner and investment location in Southeast Asia by far. During its visit the delegation will address topics such as relations between the two states’ financial centres and the ASEAN presidency, which Singapore assumes this year. An official meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a visit to the Singapore ETH Centre as well as exchanges with representatives of various Swiss companies and members of the Swiss community abroad are also on the agenda.

The delegation will then travel on to New Zealand, where it will make several visits on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 April as part of its official programme. The delegates hope to benefit from this opportunity to strengthen relations between Switzerland and New Zealand, which is a major partner sharing many interests with Switzerland, especially in terms of multilateral relations. In Wellington the delegation will meet the speaker of the New Zealand parliament, the chair of parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee and some of its members, as well as senior government officials. Discussions with representatives of Swiss companies and of the large Swiss community in New Zealand – some 7,000 citizens – are also planned.

The FAC-S delegation will then travel to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, from 11 to 13 April. The purpose of this visit being to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, the members of the delegation will have the opportunity to hold talks with members of the Australian parliament and with representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Home Affairs. Switzerland is also one of Australia’s top 20 trading partners and its tenth largest investor. The delegation will therefore take advantage of its stay to address foreign economic policy issues in meetings with representatives of various Swiss companies based in Australia, and to maintain good relations with members of the Swiss community in the country.

Every year, the foreign affairs committees send a delegation abroad for an information gathering trip. In selecting this year’s destination the FAC-C took into account the international activities of its National Council sister committee, the Council presidents and the delegations of the Federal Assembly. The foreign affairs committees have never participated in official meetings with New Zealand and Australia before, while the last visit to Singapore dates back to 2004.

The Office of the Council of States authorised the trip on 2 February on the proviso that the committee respect its total travel allowance during the current chair’s term of office.

Led by committee chair Filippo Lombardi (CVP, TI), the delegation comprises Council of States members Daniel Jositsch (SP, ZH), Thomas Minder (SVP, SH), Philipp Müller (FDP, AG) and Damian Müller (FDP, LU).