Relations between Switzerland and Colombia are close and multifaceted, with regular political consultations and high-level meetings. Colombia is a priority country for Switzerland in the areas of economic cooperation, humanitarian aid and peacebuilding.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Colombia
Relations between Switzerland and Colombia range from the promotion of bilateral trade, economic development, cultural and multilateral cooperation to humanitarian aid and peacebuilding.
Switzerland and Colombia have concluded agreements in the following areas: investment protection, free trade, double taxation, mutual legal assistance, air transport, scientific cooperation and the protection of cultural property.
Economic and trade relations
In 2020, Switzerland imported goods worth a total of CHF 304 million from Colombia, mainly precious stones and metals and agricultural products. Swiss exports to Colombia amounted to CHF 516.1 million and mainly comprised chemical and pharmaceutical products, machinery and precision instruments. Swiss direct investments in Colombia amounted to CHF 5 billion at the end of 2019. Swiss companies operating in the country employ around 12,750 people.
Economic relations between Switzerland and Colombia are based on a solid legal framework. A free trade agreement between the EFTA States and Colombia has been in force since 2011. Switzerland and Colombia have also had an agreement on the promotion and mutual protection of investments since 2009 and a double taxation agreement since 2011. In March 2019, Switzerland and Colombia signed an agreement to ensure the correct implementation of the double taxation agreement.
In April 2021, Switzerland and Colombia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a Joint Economic Commission. It is composed of government and private sector representatives from both countries and aims to strengthen bilateral economic and trade relations.
Export promotion and investment protection
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), as well as Swiss representations abroad, provide a wide range of services. In recent years, they have increasingly focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The 170 or so embassies and consulates general offer Swiss and Liechtenstein companies :
- Standardised information
- Mediation of contacts and support in accessing official bodies abroad
- Representation of the interests of Swiss companies
The Swiss-Colombian Chamber of Commerce (Cámara de Comercio Colombo Suiza, CCCS) has served as a bridge for the promotion of trade between the two countries since 1974. The CCCS currently has 60 members, mainly Swiss and Colombian companies (multinationals and SMEs). The Chamber of Commerce works closely with the Swiss Embassy and Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE). The CCCS has a cooperation agreement with the latter for the processing of mandates from Switzerland.
Automatic exchange of information in tax matters (AEOI)
Switzerland and Colombia have introduced the mutual automatic exchange of information in tax matters (AEOI). Information on accounts have been collected in accordance with the international AEOI standard since 2018 and exchanged since 2019.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers from Colombia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. Applications are submitted via COLFUTURO and ICETEX.
The University of St. Gallen (HSG) is the Leading House responsible for the cooperation with Latin American institutions. Among other things, the Leading House offers several funding instruments for the exchange between Colombian and Swiss researchers. In addition, the HSG together with ICETEX organizes the Academia - Industry Training, which supports Swiss and Colombian start-ups to make their products marketable.
Moreover, the Swiss Embassy in Bogotá supports the dual vocational training pilot project in Colombia, which Nestlé launched in 2020 in cooperation with the Colombian government, and the private and educational sectors.
International Cooperation in Colombia
Switzerland’s international cooperation is represented in Colombia by three pillars (SDC, SECO and PHRD), which are pursuing a joint cooperation program 2021 – 2024.
Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (SDC)
Since 2001, the SDC’s humanitarian aid program has focused on supporting and protecting civilians affected by the conflict. For the years 2021-2024, 48 million Swiss francs have been budgeted for this purpose.
Colombia is also part of the SDC’s Andean program in the areas of adaptation to climate change and sustainable water management (with a budget of 2.3 million Swiss francs).
Economic Cooperation and Development (SECO)
Colombia has been a SECO priority country for economic development cooperation since 2009. The program aims to strengthen the competitiveness of the Colombian economy and promote sustainable and inclusive growth. The budget allocated under the 2021-2024 cooperation program amounts to 45 million Swiss francs.
Peace and Human Rights (PHRD)
Since 2002, Colombia has been a priority country for Swiss peace and human rights policy. The current program of the Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) focuses on the promotion of human rights, civil society participation, dealing with the past and transitional justice. The budget allocated for the period 2021 – 2024 is 4.4 million Swiss francs.
Swiss nationals in Colombia
According to the Statistics of the Swiss Abroad, 2430 Swiss nationals were living in Colombia at the end of 2020.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has maintained consular and diplomatic relations with Colombia since the end of the 19th century. A treaty of friendship, settlement and trade concluded in 1908 improved the position of the Swiss colony. Switzerland opened a consulate in Bogotá in 1911, a legation in 1940 and an embassy in 1958. In 1974, the Colombian – Swiss Chamber of Commerce was founded in Bogotá.
In 1949, the Swiss colony in Colombia founded the Colegio Helvetia de Bogotá. It offers the possibility of a combined degree with a Colombian and a Swiss High School diploma (either in German or French).