The Asia and Pacific Division (APD) is in charge of coordinating Switzerland's policies on the 39 countries in this region and works together with all units in the FDFA and Federal Administration. The APD identifies Switzerland's interests in the region based on the FDFA's foreign policy strategy and the five foreign policy objectives set out by the Federal Constitution. The APD also maps the risks and opportunities for Switzerland in this region.
Asia and Pacific Division
For Switzerland, the Asia-Pacific region is growing in importance. Exchanges with these countries are increasing not only at the economic level but also in terms of the political, social and human dimension. In this context, Switzerland's priorities are to maintain peace and security, sustainable development, humanitarian aid and prosperity.
The APD is divided into three coordination teams each responsible for a different region: South Asia, East Asia, and South-East Asia and Oceania. The teams coordinate and maintain bilateral relations between Switzerland and the countries under their responsibility, acting as an interface between the Swiss representations in their respective regions and the Federal Administration. They are also in charge of maintaining contacts with the embassies of Asia-Pacific countries accredited to Switzerland, and other external institutions whose work focuses on the region.
The South Asia regional coordination team is responsible for Switzerland's bilateral relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, a region comprising around 1.8 billion people. Switzerland's activities in this densely populated and economically and demographically diverse region include economic cooperation, humanitarian aid and development cooperation. In Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, for example, which are priority countries of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Switzerland is running bilateral cooperation programmes. The South Asia regional coordination also works closely with Sri Lanka on issues relating to migration and human security.
India, known as the world's largest democracy and on the verge of becoming the most populous country on the planet, is expected to acquire greater geopolitical weight in the coming years. Switzerland's ties with India are as extensive and varied as the large number of treaties between the two countries – trade, air traffic, finance, taxation, development cooperation, and science and research, for example. India is a heavyweight in South Asia, which makes strengthening bilateral relations important – firstly at the economic level, to enable Swiss companies to be involved in India's economic success and to diversify economic interests in Asia, and secondly at the political level, because India has ambitions to become a global player and is committed to traditional democratic values. In order to increase cooperation with India, Switzerland maintains a wide-ranging diplomatic network. India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member, are also currently in negotiations over a future free trade agreement.
The lack of connectivity in South Asia, however, limits the region's potential and economic interest. This is due to the unequal size of the different countries, long-standing rivalry between India and Pakistan, and a number of existing conflicts (such as Afghanistan) or conflicts that ended only recently (Sri Lanka and Nepal, for example). Efforts to create regional organisations along the ASEAN model have failed to produce the expected results.
The South-East Asia and Oceania regional coordination team is responsible for Switzerland's bilateral relations with 11 countries in South-East Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) and countries in Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and 13 South Pacific Island States (the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu). Switzerland's priorities in South-East Asia are maintaining a stable business environment, humanitarian aid and respect for human rights. To achieve this, Switzerland engages in regular political dialogues, operates via regional and bilateral cooperation programmes, and works together with multilateral platforms.
In South-East Asia, Switzerland is in engaged in development cooperation through the SDC and Human Security Division (HSD) programmes. In Myanmar for example, Switzerland runs an important programme dealing with food security, health, democratisation, and peace support. For Switzerland, the dynamism and economic growth of South-East Asian countries makes them attractive partners. That is why the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) lists Vietnam and Indonesia as two of its priority countries for economic development cooperation. In 2016, Switzerland also became a sectoral dialogue partner at ASEAN, the most important regional organisation in South-East Asia. The South-East Asia and Oceania regional coordination team also handles Switzerland's relations with the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
Australia and New Zealand are Switzerland's main partners from the Oceania region and in multilateral forums. Both states cooperate regularly with Switzerland on diverse issues such as human rights and environmental protection. Bilateral cooperation primarily concerns training, research and trade.
Relations between Switzerland and the South Pacific Island States are good. The Swiss embassies in Canberra, Wellington and Manila are in charge of Switzerland's bilateral relations with the different states. In addition, Switzerland has appointed a Special Envoy to the Pacific Islands, resident in Canberra, who represents Switzerland at summits of the Pacific Island Forum, an international organisation of the island states, for example. To enable all countries to have a presence in the multilateral organisations, Switzerland also supports South Pacific Island States in opening permanent missions to the UN in Geneva.
The East Asia regional coordination team is responsible for Switzerland's bilateral relations with China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea and South Korea. For Switzerland, the region is of major economic and political importance. Furthermore, cooperation with East Asian countries in education, research and innovation is particularly extensive. In this context, Switzerland's priorities in the region are maintaining a stable business environment, integrating China into the international system, and promoting multilateralism.
China is Switzerland's third largest trading partner and its most important partner in the Asia Pacific region by far. Ties between the two countries are particularly extensive. Switzerland was one of the first Western countries to recognise the People's Republic of China, and bilateral trade and commercial ties have been growing considerably ever since. The free trade agreement (FTA) between Switzerland and China can be seen as a success of this long-standing relationship. Switzerland was the first European country to sign such an agreement with China and, more importantly, is the largest economy with which China has signed an FTA to date. In addition, the two countries conduct over 30 bilateral dialogues on such issues as human rights, migration and transport. There is also a technical agreement that helps Swiss companies take part in China's Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to improve connectivity between Asia and Europe through infrastructure development.
As the world’s third-largest economy, Japan is an important economic and research partner for Switzerland. In addition, Japan and Switzerland often share the same views in multilateral bodies.
In North Korea, Switzerland is engaged in peace policy through its good offices and a humanitarian aid programme. There are also Swiss military observers on the demarcation line between North and South Korea under the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.