Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Chile are good and have evolved over the years. The two countries also have a good working relationship at multilateral level based on their 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 trade expansion, scientific collaboration between Swiss and Chilean institutions, and joint efforts in the areas of climate change and water management. The two countries also cooperate on energy with a view to increasing the proportion of renewables in energy supply.
Switzerland and Chile have entered into a free trade agreement (EFTA-Chile FTA) and bilateral agreements on investment protection, double taxation, mutual legal assistance, air transport and social security.
In 2020, Switzerland imported goods worth CHF 790 million from Chile, comprising mainly precious stones and metals. In the same period Switzerland exported products to the value of just under CHF 320 million, mainly comprising pharmaceuticals, machinery and precision instruments. At the end of 2019, Switzerland's direct investments in Chile totalled CHF 1.8 billion. In 2019, Swiss companies employed some 17,800 people in Chile.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers who are citizens of Chile can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Under a mandate conferred by SERI, the University of St Gallen is currently coordinating research cooperation initiatives between Switzerland and Latin America.
A trainee exchange agreement enables young people from Chile to acquire additional professional experience and hone their language skills in Switzerland.
The Swiss Polar Institute, an EPFL research entity, conducted the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) in March 2017 and is running a number of other research projects supported by Chile.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The global programmes undertaken by the SDC 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 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 assists Chile with disaster risk reduction and rapid responses to crises.
Swiss nationals in Chile
According to statistics on the Swiss Abroad, there were just under 5,550 Swiss nationals living in Chile at the end of 2020. There has been a Swiss school in the capital Santiago since 1939. Today it has around 640 students and enjoys an excellent reputation.
History of bilateral relations
Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei, who is a descendant of Swiss immigrants, was elected President of Chile in 1964. His son, of the same name, was also 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 traders primarily settled in the port city of Valparaíso, while farmers and craftspeople headed to southern Chile.