Some 150 years ago, South America was synonymous with a new and better life for thousands of Swiss emigrants. Poor harvests, difficult economic and social conditions and job insecurity pushed large numbers of people into poverty in Switzerland. People from across Switzerland emigrated to South America to escape poverty or seek opportunities for self-advancement in the New World. Today, there are well over 100,000 people with Swiss roots living in Uruguay, Chile and Brazil alone. Despite the great distance from Europe, they continue to maintain close links to Switzerland.
Mr Cassis will meet members of Swiss communities in Uruguay, Chile and Brazil and gain insights into the cultural and economic significance of the Swiss abroad and their dedication to education and innovation. In Uruguay he will visit the towns of San José de Mayo and Nueva Helvecia and view paintings and sculptures by various Swiss artists who have worked in that country. In Chile Mr Cassis will focus on education and innovation. One of the highlights of his trip will be the 80th anniversary celebrations of the Swiss international school in Santiago. In Brazil, the focus will be on economic cooperation. In São Paulo, for example, Mr Cassis will meet with members of the Swiss-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
All three countries are important partners for Switzerland. Uruguay and Brazil are founding members of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur). The European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member, is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Mercosur. Discussions are under way with Chile on modernising the EFTA-Chile Free Trade Agreement. Brazil is also a member of the G20, a forum comprised of the 19 most important industrialised and emerging countries and the EU. Switzerland also cooperates with Uruguay, Chile and Brazil at the multilateral level. During his political meetings in Montevideo, Santiago and Brasilia, Mr Cassis will explore opportunities for bilateral cooperation and discuss the role Latin American countries can play in addressing regional and global challenges.
Address for enquiries:
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53