Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Chile are good and steadily moving forward. The two countries also have a good working relationship at the multilateral level on the basis of shared values.
Bilateral relations Switzerland-Chile
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Political relations between Switzerland and Chile have become closer in recent years. Cooperation focuses on strengthening economic relations, scientific collaboration between Swiss and Chilean institutions, and joint efforts in the areas of climate change and water management. The two countries also cooperate in the area of energy with a view to increasing the proportion of renewable energies in the energy supply.
Switzerland and Chile have a free trade agreement (EFTA-Chile) and bilateral agreements in the areas of investment protection, double taxation, mutual legal assistance, air transport and social security.
In 2018, Switzerland imported goods worth CHF 540 million from Chile, mainly precious stones and metals. Exports in the same period amounted to CHF 320 million, consisting mainly of pharmaceutical products, machinery and precision instruments. At the end of 2017, Swiss direct investment in Chile totalled CHF -1.9 billion, meaning the liabilities of Swiss parent companies to their Chilean subsidiaries or affiliates exceeded their financial claims. In 2017, Swiss companies employed some 18,500 people in Chile.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for research are available to foreign researchers each year. Chilean researchers can submit their applications for a scholarship to the Swiss embassy in Chile.
The University of St Gallen is acting as Leading House for the Latin America Region for the 2017–20 period and offers different tools to support research projects between Swiss and Chilean researchers.
In the field of innovation, the EUREKA programme supports applied research projects.
A trainee exchange agreement enables young people from Chile to acquire additional professional experience in Switzerland.
The Swiss Polar Institute, an EPFL research entity, conducted the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) in March 2017 with Chile's support and is running a number of other research projects.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The SDC's global programmes in the Andean region (climate change, protection of resources, water management) also include Chile. In order to capitalise on its knowledge base in Chile, Switzerland takes a South-South cooperation approach at the regional level to such issues as urban air quality (CALAC+ project), sustainable forest management in the Andes (Bosques Andinos project) and private-sector water management (Suizagua project). Swiss Humanitarian Aid also supports Chile – from the Swiss embassy in Lima – in disaster risk reduction and rapid response to crises.
Swiss nationals in Chile
According to statistics on the Swiss Abroad, there were around 5,400 Swiss nationals living in Chile at the end of 2018. There has been a Swiss school in the capital Santiago since 1939. Today it has around 600 students and enjoys an excellent reputation.
History of bilateral relations
A descendent of Swiss immigrants, Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei was elected president of Chile in 1964, and his son (with the same name) also served as president from 1994 to 2000.
Switzerland first opened an honorary consulate in Valparaiso in 1851 and another in the capital Santiago in 1918. The latter was upgraded to a consulate general in 1923, a legation in 1944 and an embassy in 1957.
Chile was a popular destination for emigrants from Switzerland in the 19th century. Swiss merchants settled in the port city of Valparaiso, while farmers and artisans settled further south of the country.