US President Donald Trump has offered a surprise invitation to Ueli Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year.
Maurer, who is also the Swiss finance minister, will travel to Washington on Thursday and meet Trump, the Swiss government confirmed.
It is the first time a Swiss president has been received by a US president in the White House, according to Swiss public radioexternal link, SRF.
A head-to-head had previously been planned for January during the annual general meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, but it fell through because the US government shutdown meant Trump stayed at home.
The two leaders are expected to discuss various bilateral issues as well as the possibility of a free-trade agreement. Efforts to revive a deal, following the collapse of a previous attempt in 2006, have so far made slow progress.
Venezuela could also be on the agenda. Last month Switzerland agreed to represent the interests of the United States in the South American country under a “good offices” agreement. Venezuela has not yet responded to the US request.
Agriculture could also be a topic for the meeting. Although Swiss farmers have historically been wary of a trade deal with the US, they would also stand to gain from it, Edward McMullen, US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, told swissinfo.ch in a recent interview.
Tariffs on metal – and Trump’s mixed messages regarding them – are another potential discussion topic. In July, Switzerland initiated a World Trade Organization dispute settlement procedureexternal link following Trump’s announcement on import duties. Switzerland exported steel products worth about CHF80 million ($80 million) last year.
With his visit to Washington, Maurer is once again meeting one of the most powerful politicians in the world. At the end of April he met Chinese President Xi Jinping on a state visit to Beijing.