Schmid's Japan visit ends on high note

Swiss President Samuel Schmid and his wife Verena (left) meet Japan's imperial couple swissinfo.ch

Swiss President Samuel Schmid and his wife have been received by Emperor Akihito at the end of a week-long visit to Japan.

This content was published on April 19, 2005 - 14:22

During the trip Schmid also held talks with government ministers and was the guest of honour during Swiss Day at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi.

Schmid’s meeting with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in Tokyo on Tuesday had been scheduled to last no more than half an hour.

But in the end the talks continued for more than 45 minutes. "It was a very special moment and a very cordial meeting," Schmid told swissinfo.

Among the topics discussed were the various visits to Switzerland by the imperial couple and Schmid’s impression of his first trip to Japan.

"We also talked about the Expo in Aichi and about nature, which is very important to all of us," said Schmid.

Friendly and dynamic

The Swiss president said he was very satisfied with his week-long visit to Japan.

He added that he had been impressed by the friendliness of the Japanese people and described Japan as an innovative and dynamic country.

Schmid was speaking in Tokyo on the penultimate leg of his tour of Japan, which has also taken him to the central Japanese prefecture of Aichi, host of the 2005 World Expo.

On Friday he attended Swiss Day at the Expo alongside a delegation of Swiss parliamentarians and Japanese dignitaries.

Free trade

Speaking to journalists following his meeting at the Imperial Palace, Schmid underlined the importance of a long-awaited free-trade agreement with Japan.

During talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday, both sides agreed to set up a working group to lay the groundwork for such a treaty.

First discussions on the accord are due to take place in the Swiss capital, Bern, in May.

Schmid, who is also the Swiss defence minister, was shown several military installations during his trip to Japan and met his counterpart, Yoshinori Ohno.

"We had a general exchange of ideas about the security situation in different parts of the world," said Schmid.

According to him, the Japanese showed a keen interest in Switzerland’s system of civil protection.

Schmid will pay a brief visit to an air-force base on Wednesday before flying back to Switzerland.

swissinfo, Christian Raaflaub in Tokyo

In brief

Schmid and his wife paid a week-long visit to Japan.

They took part in Swiss Day at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi on April 15.
Schmid also visited Shinshiro, twin city of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

Schmid held talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as well as other government ministers.

The Swiss president and his wife were given an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

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Key facts

Japan is Switzerland’s most important export market in Asia.
Every year about 500,000 Japanese tourists visit Switzerland.
Japan granted Switzerland the status of a most favoured country in 1864.
Switzerland has been trying to forge a free-trade agreement with Japan for years, but the accord has been delayed.

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