Swiss President Joseph Deiss arrived in Tokyo on Monday for a four-day visit which is expected to focus on improving economic ties with Japan.This content was published on October 6, 2004 - 15:05
The trip, which includes a meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, also marks the 140th anniversary of the first trade treaty signed between the two countries.
Japan is Switzerland’s most important trading partner in Asia. In 2003 exports from Switzerland to Japan totalled SFr5.14 billion ($4.06 billion), while imports from Japan were worth SFr2.64 billion.
Around 140 Swiss companies are directly represented in Japan, but Deiss said there were still plenty of opportunities to increase investment in the country.
“There are possibilities to do more and we can still strengthen economic relations,” he told swissinfo before departing for Japan. “And by that I mean both trade ties and direct investment.”
On Monday Deiss is due to see evidence of the close business ties during a tour of the research facilities of Chugai, the Japanese pharmaceutical firm in which Basel-based pharmaceutical giant, Roche, holds a majority stake.
A visit to a factory run by the Japanese arm of Swiss-based food giant Nestlé is also planned.
Deiss’s visit comes almost three years after the Swiss federal export promoter, Osec Business Network Switzerland, opened a bureau in Tokyo.
The office is charged with helping Swiss companies to find business partners in Japan and also assists Japanese firms looking to invest in Switzerland.
Deiss is also due to hold talks with the new Japanese agriculture minister, Yoshinobu Shimamura.
Switzerland and Japan belong to a bloc of ten nations within the World Trade Organization (WTO) which heavily subsidise their farming sectors.
During recent trade liberalisation talks at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, both nations lobbied hard to preserve high tariffs for what the group considers to be “sensitive” agricultural products – including cheese, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables.
“Both Switzerland and Japan are interested in making a success out of the WTO talks,” said Deiss, “so we have to be prepared to make concessions.”
“But on the other hand, we both know that we have to get a result which is compatible with our agricultural policies.”
Deiss added that one of the aims of his visit was to build up a “close relationship” with Shimamura, who took over the agriculture portfolio during a recent reshuffle of Koizumi’s cabinet.
The Swiss president’s agenda includes a meeting with Emperor Akihito, as well as talks with the country’s new foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura.
Deiss will also use the trip to launch a long-term programme of Swiss cultural activities in Japan, which is scheduled to continue beyond next year’s World Expo in the country.
Organisers of the Swiss pavilion at the Expo, which opens in March in the central Japanese region of Aichi, hope to attract at least 800,000 of the 15 million people expected to attend the event.
The Swiss government says its participation in the global exhibition, for which parliament has approved a credit of SFr15 million, will be a chance to explore and extend economic ties with Japan.
Switzerland is the fifth largest foreign direct investor in Japan.
The most important Swiss export products to Japan are machinery, technical instruments, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods.
Imports from Japan consist mainly of cars, electronic goods, machinery and chemical products.
More than 1,300 Swiss nationals reside in Japan, while more than 5,000 Japanese live in Switzerland.
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