Close ties over a great distance: Switzerland and New Zealand expand bilateral relations

Bern, Press releases, 25.10.2013

On the first day of his visit to the Asia Pacific region, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter met the prime minister of New Zealand, John Key, and the country's foreign minister, Murray McCully. Mr Burkhalter signed a joint declaration with Mr McCully on the deepening of bilateral cooperation, in particular in consular matters. Furthermore, they agreed to hold regular meetings at ministerial level in the future. In his discussion with Mr Key, Mr Burkhalter appealed for improvements with regard to the pension entitlement of Swiss citizens living in New Zealand.

Switzerland and New Zealand are looking into possibilities to work together on consular matters for a more efficient use of resources. Mr Burkhalter and Mr McCully signed a joint declaration to this end during today's working visit to Auckland. Among other potential areas for cooperation, the declaration lists mutual representation in the provision of consular services and joint use of technical infrastructures. The shared use of embassy buildings may also be considered. Mr Burkhalter said the declaration was a sign of the will to further enhance the already good bilateral relations between Switzerland and New Zealand. He added that a huge geographical distance separated the countries and yet they worked closely together, and that this cooperation should become even stronger. As a concrete measure to this end, the two countries agreed to hold regular ministerial-level meetings in the future.

Relations between Switzerland and New Zealand have been largely problem-free since diplomatic relations were established 50 years ago. Regular political dialogue has been conducted at high diplomatic level since 2005.  With some 7,000 Swiss nationals, New Zealand has one of the biggest Swiss communities outside of Europe. In November 2010 the two states signed a bilateral veterinary agreement, which among other things made it possible to export raw milk cheeses and dried meat in larger quantities to New Zealand. The overall trade volume between Switzerland and New Zealand remains rather small, however (just under CHF 300 million in 2012). Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical products and machinery to New Zealand and primarily imports agricultural products.

Multilateral cooperation – an area in which the two countries share many objectives – was also discussed at today's meeting. Switzerland and New Zealand work together in the Human Rights Council, in the areas of disarmament and climate change and on reform of the working methods of the UN Security Council, for example. Alongside Switzerland, New Zealand was also one of the first states to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty in June 2013. Didier Burkhalter today thanked his New Zealand counterpart for his country's excellent cooperation at multilateral level.

Meeting with Prime Minister John Key

After his discussion with Mr McCully, Mr Burkhalter met with the prime minister of New Zealand, John Key. Their discussion covered various topical subjects. Federal Councillor Burkhalter spoke of Switzerland's political system and informed the prime minister of Switzerland's bilateral approach to its relations with the EU.

He also mentioned the problem of pensions for Swiss citizens. According to the New Zealand system, anybody who has lived in the country for at least 10 years is entitled to a pension. Foreign nationals who draw a pension abroad have the pension they would otherwise be entitled to receive from New Zealand reduced or entirely withdrawn. Mr Burkhalter pointed out that this treatment was unfair to Swiss nationals and said that he hoped that New Zealand would find a solution to ensure that the drawing of a Swiss Old Age and Survivors Insurance pension would no longer have a negative effect on their pension entitlement in New Zealand.

Further information:

Visit to Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and New Zealand

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