On Monday, 30 August, the Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey, met with her Indian counterpart Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna. Discussions also took place with the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee and with the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. The central topics addressed related to bilateral issues in the areas of finance, technology and the environment in addition to regional and international matters.
At her meeting with Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey expressed her wish for increased political dialogue and the intensification of cooperation between Switzerland and India. ‘Alongside the economic potential offered by relations between the two countries, there are also areas of great common interest, namely: research, technology and the environment’, she said on Monday in New Delhi.
Opening of a Consulate-General with swissnex
One signal for a strengthening of relations is the opening of a new Swiss Consulate-General in Bangalore, which was announced on Monday. The General Consulate will contain a department, known as swissnex, heavily oriented towards research, technology and the environment.
Federal Councillor Calmy-Rey welcomed the creation of this platform: ‘Both Switzerland and India are thriving technology locations' said Calmy-Rey. ‘swissnex will contribute to promoting exchanges in the areas of research, education and innovation even further.'
Revision of the double taxation agreement
On Monday, together with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Calmy-Rey signed the protocol to the revision of the double taxation agreement (DTA). This will introduce new provisions concerning administrative assistance in accordance with OECD standards together with a comprehensive most-favoured-nation clause.
The latter envisages that the lowest rate of withholding tax which India has agreed with other OECD countries will also automatically apply for Switzerland in cases concerning dividends, interest, license fees and commissions for technical services. The DTA contains provisions for the avoidance of double taxation and thereby promotes the development of bilateral economic relations.
Together with science and trade, cooperation will also be strengthened in the area of the environment. From 1 January, 2011 the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC will concentrate on joint projects related to the climate and energy with an annual value of around CHF 6 million. These will focus on an exchange of know-how and technology with the goal of fighting poverty and creating sustainable development.
UN panel on global sustainability
The Head of the FDFA and Environment Minister Ramesh will also work together personally on the new UN panel on global sustainability. The Panel was set up this month by the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and is made up of over twenty high-ranking officials. The goal is to reconsider the prevailing institutional and financial paradigms in the area of the environment and development, and to find new solutions.
Like other BRIC countries, India is a focal point of Swiss foreign economic strategy (2007) and its fourth most important trading partner in Asia. Negotiations concerning a comprehensive trading and investment agreement are currently underway within the context of EFTA. Since 2000 the trading volume between Switzerland and India has increased by approximately 150% and currently stands at over CHF 3 billion. As the seventh largest importer, Switzerland achieves an annual trading surplus with India of significantly more than a billion Swiss francs. With direct investment of around CHF 2.3 billion and approximately 150 branch offices and joint ventures with Swiss companies, Switzerland is the 11th largest investor in India.
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