Canada and Switzerland enjoy close and multifaceted bilateral relations, based upon shared values and a commitment to democracy and human rights. Our two countries cooperate closely within multilateral forums and enjoy a robust commercial relationship. Despite the vast difference in size of the countries, Canada and Switzerland share a number of similarities: both are prosperous, plurilingual, and multi-ethnic societies as well as federal states. Canada and Switzerland also share French as one official language. As the host of numerous United Nations Agencies, the World Trade Organisation, the World Economic Forum, and many multilateral organisations, Switzerland frequently hosts representatives from all levels of Canadian government as well as Canadian business leaders.
Multilateral and International Engagement
Canada and Switzerland work together closely within key multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Forum of Federations. Both States support the principles of multilateral co-operation and humanitarian assistance and collaborate closely on a diverse range of priorities, such as promoting democracy and human rights, combatting climate change, and inclusion.
Canada and Switzerland enjoy a strong and diverse commercial relationship that covers the full spectrum of trade, investment and innovation. In 2009, a Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is one of four members, came into force. It confers a distinct competitive advantage to Canadian businesses and provides a strategic platform for Canadians to expand commercial ties throughout Europe. Since then, trade between Canada and EFTA has substantively increased and two-way merchandise goods trade was valued at $6 billion in 2015.
Bilaterally, Switzerland is Canada’s tenth-largest foreign investor ($12 billion) and fourteenth-largest merchandise trading partner ($6 billion in 2015); Canadian merchandise exports to Switzerland ($1.2 billion in 2015) consisted mainly of precious stones and metals, electrical and electronic machinery and equipment, pharmaceutical products, and aerospace products. Swiss merchandise imports into Canada ($4.5 billion in 2015) included pharmaceutical products, organic chemicals, scientific and precision instruments, machinery and equipment, as well as clocks, watches and parts.
There are 140,000 Canadians of Swiss origin, with approximately 40,000 Swiss citizens living in Canada, making it the fifth-largest Swiss community abroad (after France, the U.S., Germany and Italy). An estimated 15,000-20,000 Canadian citizens reside in Switzerland. Both countries exchange large numbers of tourists, with an average of 100,000 Swiss and 140,000 Canadians travelling to the other country each year.
Swiss interests in Canada are represented through an embassy in Ottawa and consulates in Montreal and Vancouver. 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and Switzerland.
Academic relations and youth mobility
Canadian and Swiss universities have numerous agreements between them, reinforcing the quality of education, research and innovation in both countries. Every year, several hundred Swiss citizens go abroad on exchange year, to collaborate on a research project or to pursue their academic studies in a Canadian institution.
In 2007, Canada and Switzerland signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate and increase youth mobility by creating new opportunities for young Canadians and Swiss (aged 18 to 35) to gain international work experience to complement their studies or within their study curriculum. Canada is the top non-European destination for young Swiss undertaking such programmes.
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