Swiss Finance Minister Advances Ties on Visit to Kazakhstan

Swiss Finance MinisterASTANA – Several meetings were conducted with Kazakh ministers during the recent official visit by the head of the Swiss Federal Department of Finance and Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. A Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation was signed between the Kazakh Ministries of Finance and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance.

“The memorandum foresees the exchange of views and experience on issues within the competence of the two ministries. This can include budget implementation, experience in working with international financial institutions, effective public financial management and debt management. Another possible field of cooperation is between the two customs services,” explained Widmer-Schlumpf in her interview with The Astana Times prior to the visit.

“Under the agreement, it will be possible to exchange personnel between the Kazakh Ministry of Finance and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance through study visits to promote better understanding between the two countries,” she added.

Kazakh Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister of Finance Bakhyt Sultanov said there are plans to set up working groups on the issues of customs procedures, provisions of tax transparency, treasury and public procurement. This memorandum is about cooperation between the two ministries which will lead to an exchange of experiences and introduction of thebest world practices in the areas, where Switzerland hassucceeded as a developed European state, he added.

According to Widmer-Schlumpf, Kazakhstan and Switzerland have an excellent bilateral relationship. Switzerland is one of the major foreign investment sources for Kazakhstan.

In addition, the two sides exchanged letters supplementing the 2010 double taxation agreement, which governs the exchange of information in tax matters in accordance with the Global Forum of the OECD. As Sultanov explained, this interpretation is required in order for businessmen and governmental agencies to understand the use of the convention’s provisions. He also recalled that documents on the avoidance of double taxation were signed with more than 40 countries, which provide about 95 percentof Kazakhstan’s total trade turnover.

“The agreements on protecting investment and avoiding double taxation provide a legal framework for private investment. So far, over 40 Swiss companies already have permanent offices or activities in Kazakhstan. This creates jobs and wealth. It is the duty and the privilege of the governments to facilitate this process,” said Widmer-Schlumpf.

She also met with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov in Aktau, Chairman of the National Bank of Kazakhstan Kairat Kelimbetov in Almaty, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov and the management of the National Company Astana EXPO 2017 in Astana.

During her meeting with Massimov, Widmer-Schlumpf explained that she took notice of the recent measures taken by the Kazakh government to promote the investment climate in the country. Improvements of the conditions for doing business can also strengthen the basis for further Swiss investments in Kazakhstan, she pointed out. The two officials also reviewed future fields of collaboration between the two countries. Massimov underlined the Swiss traditions and know-how in the world’s financial sector and expressed conviction that Kazakhstan could profit from the wide experience of the Swiss financial sector.

The cooperation of the two countries in financial issues was the main topic of the meeting between Widmer-Schlumpf and Kelimbetov, following the meeting of the Swiss Bretton Woods Constituency in Baku earlier that week. Widmer-Schlumpf stressed the important role Kazakhstan plays in that group chaired by Switzerland.

During the meeting with Idrissov, the two parties underlined that Kazakhstan and Switzerland have similar views regarding many contemporary global challenges, which create a solid foundation for cooperation in the framework of multilateral structures. In their talks, the collaboration in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was also discussed.

Stressing the positive tendencies in bilateral economic relations, the parties emphasized the role of the Kazakh-Swiss Business Council and the Bilateral Joint Commissionon trade-economic cooperation.

“Switzerland and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in 1992. Switzerland opened an embassy in the capital city of Astana in 2008. Since 2005, regular political consultations have been taking place. In 2012, the Swiss-Kazakh Business Council was founded and last year, Swiss Federal Councilor of Economic Affairs Mr. Johann Schneider-Ammann led an economic mission to Kazakhstan,” said Widmer-Schlumpf.

According to the Kazakh agency on statistics, the volume of bilateral trade reached $4.4 billion in 2013. Considering the role of Switzerland in promoting technologies that use alternative energy sources, Idrissov invited the Swiss delegation toparticipate in EXPO2017 in Astana.

According to the Swiss Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Mauro Reina, the visit of the Swiss Federal Councillor to Kazakhstan was very successful. Widmer-Schlumpf was highly impressed by the achievements the country had reached in the past 20 years, he said. Apart from the official meetings, she had an opportunity to meet with representatives of Swiss companies active in Kazakhstan. The Swiss business community is very well established in Kazakhstan and offered Widmer-Schlumpf an insight into its experience of doing business in Kazakhstan. The next opportunity to further strengthen bilateral cooperation will be the 3rd meeting of the Kazakh-Swiss Business Council scheduled for November 2014 in Almaty, Reina said.

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