For Switzerland, the main objective of the ministerial meeting was to further cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In Bangkok, Ms Baeriswyl attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding to step up Swiss cooperation with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management, which promotes regional cooperation on disaster risk reduction.
"Cooperation with ASEAN helps Switzerland to achieve a greater impact in areas that are important to us, including climate change and disaster risk reduction, sustainable development, vocational skills development, and peace and human rights," said Baeriswyl .
ASEAN is Switzerland's most important partner organisation in South East Asia. As part of its sectoral dialogue partnership, since 2016 Switzerland has worked closely with ASEAN in the areas of human security, vocational skills development, disaster risk reduction, sustainable forestry and climate change. The trade volume between ASEAN and Switzerland has grown in recent years to over CHF 20 billion per year. Swiss companies have invested almost USD 37 billion and created over 120,000 jobs in ASEAN countries.
The ten ASEAN member states now have a combined population of about 650 million people. With its commitment to peace, security and stability, ASEAN plays a key role in the Asia-Pacific region. ASEAN also fosters economic cooperation among its member states and is currently negotiating the world's largest free trade agreement with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
This year's meeting was attended by the US secretary of state, the foreign ministers of Canada, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, and the EU's representative for foreign affairs .
Visit to Cambodia
Before travelling to Bangkok for the ASEAN meeting, Ms Baeriswyl spent three days, from 30 July to 1 August, in Cambodia, where she visited projects undertaken by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and met with representatives of victims' organisations and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, to discuss efforts to come to terms with the genocide in Cambodia (dealing with the past). Ms Baeriswyl also attended the inauguration by the Cambodian King and Queen Mother of a new heart clinic affiliated with Kantha Bopha Children's Hospitals in Phnom Penh.
The visit was rounded off with talks at the Cambodian ministry of the interior and with the minister of economics and finance. Discussions with government officials centred on the political situation, pluralism and human rights, as well as Switzerland's engagement in Cambodia in the areas of health, decentralisation and vocational skills development.
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