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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Colombia
Relations between Colombia and Switzerland are close and multi-faceted, with frequent consultations. Colombia ranks as a priority country for Switzerland in the areas of peacebuilding, humanitarian aid and economic development. Trade between the two countries is brisk.
Bilateral relations are close and wide-ranging from the promotion of trade and economic development, to humanitarian aid and peacebuilding.
Relations have been strengthened by various ministerial level meetings. In 2008, then President Pascal Couchepin and Head of Department Micheline Calmy-Rey welcomed then President Alvaro Uribe on an official working visit to Switzerland. In the same year, Federal Councillor Calmy-Rey paid a return official visit to Colombia as did Doris Leuthard in 2009.
Switzerland and Colombia have agreements in the areas of investment protection, free trade, double taxation, mutual legal assistance, air transport, scientific cooperation and the protection of cultural property.
Colombia is Switzerland’s fourth most important trading partner in Latin America. The potential of the Colombian economy and of the EFTA-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which came into force on 1 July 2011, should help to further develop economic relations.
In 2011, Switzerland imported goods worth CHF 169.9 million from Colombia, mainly agricultural products, precious stones and precious metals. Swiss exports to Colombia worth 344.5 million CHF consisted mainly of chemical and pharmaceutical products, machinery and watches. Swiss capital invested in Colombia at the end of 2010 amounted to more than CHF 1.9 billion, and Swiss firms employed some 14,600 persons in the country.
A Declaration of Intent on the promotion of economic cooperation was signed in March 2012. Collaboration between the universities and other scientific institutions in both countries is to be promoted by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and its counterpart in Colombia "Colciencias". Scholars and artists from Colombia can apply to the SERI for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Since 2002, Colombia has been a priority country for Swiss peace and human rights policy. The current programme focuses on strengthening civil society peace initiatives (SUIPPCOL programme), dealing with the past, transitional justice and strengthening human rights. The annual budget amounts to CHF 2 million.
Since 2001, Colombia has been a priority country for Swiss humanitarian aid in a programme that focuses on assisting and protecting the conflict-affected civilian population, with an annual budget of around 10 million CHF.
Colombia has been a priority country for SECO since 2009 in the area of economic development, notably aimed at improving the economy’s competitiveness in the framework of sustainable growth. The medium-term annual budget is also around CHF 10 million.
Colombia also benefits from the SDC programme for the Andes, focused on adapting to climate change and the sustainable management of water resources.
At the beginning of 2012, there were 2354 Swiss citizens living in Colombia.
Switzerland’s reputation in Colombia has been enhanced by a number of cultural events, as well as by the Swiss school “Colegio Helvetia” in Bogotá.
Switzerland has enjoyed consular and diplomatic relations with Colombia since the 19th century. A Convention on Friendship, Establishment and Trade concluded in 1908 helped to improve the situation of the Swiss colony. A Consulate was opened in Bogotá in 1911, a legation in 1940, which was upgraded in 1958 to an Embassy. A Swiss-Colombian Chamber of Commerce was established in Bogotá in 1974.