Gap closes on Swiss-Argentine accords

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey shakes hands with Argentine counterpart Rafael Bielsa Keystone

Switzerland and Argentina have made progress towards bilateral agreements on legal aid and double taxation.

This content was published on March 1, 2005 - 09:32

The announcement comes after a meeting in Buenos Aires on Monday between the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, and her Argentine counterpart, Rafael Bielsa.

Swiss foreign ministry officials in the Argentine capital said the accord on legal aid was close to completion, with only two technical questions left to be resolved.

They added that a meeting of Swiss and Argentine experts would take place in April to iron out the last remaining differences on a double taxation agreement.

Switzerland has a "great interest" in reaching agreement on these two issues, said Simon Geissbühler of the Swiss foreign ministry.

The Swiss government has already set a precedent by providing Argentina with legal aid in the case of former Argentine President Carlos Menem, who has been charged with tax fraud.

Menem case

Geissbühler said the Menem case was not discussed in the one-hour meeting between Calmy-Rey and Bielsa, even though it had been a cause for friction between the two countries.

Argentina had claimed that Menem had $10 million (SFr11.7 million) in illegal funds stashed in a Geneva bank.

Switzerland dropped the case due to lack of evidence last year, but the Argentine justice authorities complained of poor cooperation with the Swiss government.

The foreign ministers also discussed economic issues during their meeting. A Swiss embassy spokesman emphasised that ties between the two countries were close.

Nearly 70 Swiss companies employing 13,000 people are registered with the Swiss chamber of commerce in Buenos Aires.

Calmy-Rey also addressed members of Buenos Aires’ Swiss community during her visit. Around 15,000 Swiss live in Argentina and a further 100,000 are believed to have Swiss ancestry.

On Tuesday, the Swiss foreign minister is expected to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new president of Uruguay, Tabaré Vazquez, and use the occasion to meet other Latin American leaders and government officials at the ceremony.

She began her South American tour on Friday with a three-day stop in Peru.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Micheline Calmy-Rey is making the first visit of a Swiss foreign minister to South America since 1997.
She has visited Peru, Argentina and Uruguay between February 25 and March 1.
In Argentina she discussed bilateral agreements on legal aid and double taxation.

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