Strengthening Australian-Swiss Economic Ties: New Austrade Office in Zurich

I am delighted to welcome a new addition to the Austrade network in Zurich, reflecting the increasingly dynamic relationship and ever deepening ties between Australia and Switzerland. Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb marked the opening of the new Austrade office during his visit to Zurich on 19-20 January 2016, ahead of his attendance at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Australia and Switzerland share many common political and economic values and interests. A key element of our contemporary relationship is Switzerland’s significant investment in Australia. Switzerland represents one of our largest investment markets and our economic ties with Switzerland are strengthening and growing. While the Swiss market has been well serviced by Austrade’s Frankfurt office, now is an opportune, and indeed exciting, time to further consolidate Australian-Swiss economic ties through an Austrade office in Zurich.

The office will complement existing strong bilateral ties in the areas of scientific research and development, education, and two-way investment. The Zurich office will work primarily on expanding Austrade’s network into the Swiss market and on driving the investment agenda across priority sectors.

Nicolas Bentel will head up the new Austrade office. Nicolas joins Austrade from UBS in Zurich, where he was most recently the Head Investment Specialist for the Latin American team and a member of the Regional Advisory Committee for Global Emerging Markets. Nicolas will work closely with me and my colleagues at the Australia Embassy in Berlin and the Australia Swiss Chamber of Commerce.



I am delighted to welcome Nicolas to Zurich and embrace this new opportunity to strengthen Australian-Swiss relations through this valuable addition to the Austrade network.


Cities and the Built Environment: Germany and Australia Learning from Each Other

We were delighted to welcome the Hon Jamie Briggs MP, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, for a visit to Munich last week focusing on Munich’s approach to integrated planning, housing, public transport and accessibility, innovation and economic growth.

Munich is Germany’s third-largest city and one of its fastest-growing, with a current population of 2.8 million in the Greater Munich area, projected to grow to 3 million by 2030. Munich shares many similarities with a number of Australia’s fastest-growing cities, and the Minister was keen to understand how the city has managed its recent growth, as well as its approaches to the integration of migrant communities.

A highlight of the Minister’s visit was the meeting with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs, where the Minister heard about Bavaria’s approach to integrated planning, as well as the significant integration challenges arising from the recent influx of asylum-seekers to the region.

Photo of Minister Briggs with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs standing next to each other

Minister Briggs with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs


The Minister’s meeting with representatives of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK) focused on trade and investment, innovation and the collaboration between universities, institutes and industry in Bavaria. Minister Briggs said Australia was keen to collaborate more with Germany on innovation and commercialisation, and agreed we should do more to boost trade and investment, including exports of Australian wine to the Bavarian region.

Minister Briggs stands next to Peter Driessen, Managing Director IHK Munich. They have exhanged gifts and hold them in their hands. Briggs has received a Bavarian cup and Driessen holds a wrapped package.

Minister Briggs and Peter Driessen, Managing Director IHK Munich

A discussion with representatives of the Munich Transport Company (MVG) offered insights into the city’s highly successful integrated approach to public transport and urban planning. At the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the Minister heard about Munich’s experiences with the integration of asylum-seekers in the region, including the importance of targeted language courses, training and skills recognition to promote quick integration into German society.

During the discussions, Minister Briggs highlighted the warm and longstanding people-to-people links between Australia and Germany, including in his South Australian electorate. Echoing the recommendations from the recent report of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, Minister Briggs emphasised that Australia wanted to build on these existing links to strengthen bilateral ties.

Visit to Switzerland

As Australia’s non-resident ambassador, I have the pleasure of visiting Switzerland – one of the world’s oldest democracies – several times a year. Each trip offers a valuable opportunity to meet with stakeholders in government and business to discuss Australia and Switzerland’s dynamic relationship (and, of course, to experience Switzerland’s breathtaking scenery and world famous chocolate!).

Swiss-Australian ties continue to go from strength to strength. Switzerland is a major investor in Australia (our sixth largest overall) and an important dialogue partner on issues such as international development, the protection of human rights and global finance. There has been considerable high-level contact between our countries in recent times, with the Australian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Trade and Investment Minister and Communications Minister all visiting Switzerland in 2014.

In the morning of 24 March I met with senior representatives from Glencore and UBS in the Zurich area. Both companies are important investors and employers in Australia. Together we exchanged perspectives on the Australian and Swiss economies and global financial trends. We also discussed Australia’s favourable business environment and new strategies for attracting further Swiss investment.

Later that day I joined other Ambassadors from the Asia Pacific for a tour of the Novartis Campus in Basel. The site was once littered with smokestacks and old industrial warehouses. Today, it boasts first-class architecture and impressive design, with individual buildings devised by greats like Frank Gehry, David Chipperfield, Tadao Ando and Álvaro Siza. The Campus supports a diverse and multinational workforce dedicated to researching, developing, and producing healthcare solutions. The Campus’ philosophy reminded me of a major tech company in the Silicon Valley. Novartis’ operations in Australia are an important link in the company’s global network.


The photo pictures the novartis-campus-forum in Basel. The building has an intersting look and is designed with many colourful windows.

Novartis-Campus-Forum in Basel (Wikimedia Commons, Christian Richters)

On 23 March I met with Swiss officials from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the State Secretariat for Migration in Bern. We shared viewpoints on the Asia Pacific – a global engine for economic growth – and our responses to humanitarian crises in the Middle East and elsewhere. For lunch, I had the pleasure of dining with members of the Swiss-Australian Parliamentary Friendship Group.

So it was another exciting trip to Switzerland, a country that is approximately half the size of the Australian island Tasmania, but with nearly 16 times more inhabitants. Each time I learn an interesting new fact: most recently, that Charles Joseph La Trobe, the first lieutenant-governor of the Australian state of Victoria, spent three years in Neuchâtel and was married to a Swiss woman! I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to visit.

Portrait painting of Charles Joseph La Trobe

Charles Joseph La Trobe (Wikimedia Commons)