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Ties strengthened with Kazakhstan

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey continued her journey through Central Asia on Wednesday with a stop in Kazakhstan, where she opened a new Swiss embassy.

Swiss-Kazakh ties continue to grow beyond the new offices in Astana, the foreign ministry said. Trade between the two countries soared to more than SFr1 billion ($970 million) last year for the first time.

Bilateral trade, however, remains rather lopsided for the moment. Swiss exports totalled SFr180 million to Kazakhstan, while Kazakhstan sold SFr875 million in goods to Switzerland.

Economists estimate the actual economic impact of business between the two countries is closer to SFr11 billion when combined with commodity trading in Geneva by Kazakh firms.

About 35 Swiss companies have settled in the country, a former Soviet republic. Switzerland recognised Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991. Shortly afterwards, Switzerland began representing Kazakh interests on the executive board of the International Monetary Fund.

The two countries passed a trade agreement in 1997 and have had regular political consultations with each other since 2005. Oil from Kazakhstan has helped offset that from Libya.

Kazakhstan will head the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe next year, while Switzerland presides over the Council of Europe for six months.

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