Working visit to Chile: Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis holds political talks and attends 'Colegio Suizo' anniversary celebration
Bern, 24.04.2019 - During a working visit to Chile, Mr Cassis attended an event at Colegio Suizo in Santiago to mark the 80th anniversary of Latin America's oldest official Swiss school. In his speech, Mr Cassis emphasised the payoffs of long-term investment in education. Political discussions focused mainly on the situation in Venezuela, modernising the EFTA-Chile Free Trade Agreement and bilateral cooperation in areas such as the environment.
Chile is one of Switzerland's key partners in South America from both a political and economic standpoint. Chile boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America. Switzerland maintains close bilateral relations with Chile in areas such as business, education, astronomy and the environment.
In 2018, the trade balance between the two countries amounted to approximately CHF 790 million. Today, Switzerland is the tenth biggest investor in Chile, where 200 Swiss companies have created more than 30,000 jobs. Trade is facilitated by the free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Chile. The country is home to South America's third largest Swiss community, with more than 5,000 Swiss nationals living in Chile. There are also some 80,000 individuals of Swiss descent living in Chile.
Latin America's oldest official Swiss school, Colegio Suizo, was established in Santiago in 1939 to cater to families seeking a Swiss-style education for their children. At the school's 80th anniversary event, Mr Cassis paid tribute to the pioneering founders who created a school, with only limited resources to hand, which has since had an impact "extending well beyond the walls of this building". Their work demonstrates that long-term investment in education pays off. Isabelle Chassot, Director of the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) and Monika Gschwind, President of the Basel-Landschaft cantonal government were also present at the event. The FOC is the government agency responsible for implementing the legislation governing Swiss international schools. Each international school is sponsored by a canton, with the canton of Basel-Landschaft acting as patron to Colegio Suizo.
Political discussions focused primarily on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues. Mr Cassis discussed modernising the EFTA-Chile free trade agreement with Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Carolina Valdivia, who was standing in for Chile's Minister of Foreign Affairs Roberto Espinoza, and Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Gloria Hutt. Mr Cassis recognised the need to amend the agreement in line with 21st century standards. Discussions also touched on bilateral cooperation in areas such as the environment. Switzerland is involved in work to improve water management, energy efficiency and air quality in Chile. Mr Cassis and his counterparts also discussed the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) to be hosted by Chile in December 2019, initiatives to improve multilateral cooperation, and the role of the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council.
Mr Cassis and Ms Valdivia also discussed the situation in Venezuela, both agreeing on the need to resolve the conflict through peaceful and democratic means.
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