Kazakh, Swiss presidents discuss cooperation opportunities

NUR-SULTAN – Swiss President Ueli Maurer and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev discussed international and business cooperation opportunities Nov. 22 during the former’s visit to the Central Asian country.  

L-R: Ueli Maurer and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Photo credit: akorda.kz.

“The two nations have maintained international relationships for a long time, both politically and economically. More than 40 Swiss companies work in Kazakhstan and they feel comfortable here. We are happy that our relationships are friendly, open and transparent. I am grateful to Kazakhstan for the invitation,” said Maurer during the joint press conference after his talks with Tokayev.

“We are interested in further strengthening our cooperation, which could use Kazakhstan’s and Switzerland’s capabilities. Our meeting today is a proof of it. I am sure that developing the cooperation meets the long-term interests of our friendly nations. For Kazakhstan, Switzerland is an important strategic partner in Europe,” added Tokayev.

Maurer noted Switzerland is focused on working on global platforms. The nation is home to many international organisations, including the UN’s second largest office in Geneva, and involved in humanitarian aid throughout the world. Kazakhstan’s geostrategic position between Asia and Europe allows it to function as a bridge. 

“We are complementing each other in the work of international platforms. We represent similar positions and have similar values. I am convinced that small independent nations such as Kazakhstan and Switzerland should play a big role on an international field. In performing this role, our cooperation is important,” he added. 

Tokayev noted Kazakhstan, like the rest of the world, has acknowledged Switzerland’s experience in democracy, a multiparty system and foreign policy for centuries.

“The preamble to the Swiss constitution says that the strength of a nation is measured in the well-being of the weak. I agree with this statement,” he added.

The presidents agreed to continue international collaboration. Tokayev noted Kazakhstan is providing a space for Syrian peace talks, which complement the Geneva talks.

“During the meeting, I appreciated the humanitarian component of Swiss foreign policy. Switzerland initiated the adoption of this policy in September 2015 as the United Nations’ goal. It was the first to spend millions to aid affected civilians in conflict zones, including Ukraine and Syria,” said Tokayev.

Kazakhstan’s Swiss partners have appreciated the country’s achievements during its years of independence under the leadership of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev. They noted it has become a stable and dynamically developing nation.

Maurer and Tokayev agreed the main component of the Swiss-Kazakh relationship is economics.

“We do not want to exchange only goods; we also want to exchange knowledge, experience and technologies. Kazakhstan’s big plus is in its growing population; it differentiates Kazakhstan from Switzerland, where the population is growing old. Another important point is understanding your partner, the way he or she thinks and lives, which could play a positive role in economic relationships. People should get closer, get to know each other, which is why we should open a direct flight from Nur-Sultan to Zurich,” said Maurer.

Switzerland is known as a nation with strong industrial innovation, developed agriculture and one of the main financial and banking centres of the world. Kazakhstan, by contrast, is known for its stable economic growth and the best investment climate in the region and Swiss businesses appreciate the opportunities opened by its market. The nation is the third largest investor in the Kazakh economy and one of the country’s top ten trade partners. 

The volume of Swiss investment has exceeded $24 billion in the last 15 years. Heads of its large companies attending the meeting demonstrated their interest in working in the Kazakh market and the sides agreed the country will create all the necessary conditions for their future involvement. Trade turnover has reached $3 billion this year and the attendees acknowledged diversification is needed to include products other than raw materials. 

Kazakhstan has experienced a demand to create innovative enterprises and implement energy sector, agriculture, medicine and pharmaceutical projects. Mechanical engineering, chemical and food industries, transport and logistics, tourism and environmental protection are also expanding fields. 

“Considering Switzerland’s status as one of the main international financial centres, we think that cooperation in the financial sphere would be beneficial. We noted the possibility of cooperation between Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) and Swiss financial centres,” said Tokayev.

He added Kazakhstan’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), access to the huge Chinese market and possibility to enter Central Asian markets have always been attractive to partners. The country is ready to help Swiss investors interested in opening joint enterprises within its borders to export the final product to neighbouring markets. 

Maurer was accompanied by a delegation of businesspeople, which provided the opportunity to discuss future cooperation in detail, and Kazakh partners will analyse the proposed initiatives.

In a subsequent business forum the sides signed six business deals including a  management and franchise agreement between Aqbura Development and Swiss Choice Holding to build a “Swiss village” in the Burabai resort area, a memorandum of cooperation on “Development and implementation of a national system for classifying hotels in Kazakhstan,” a memorandum of cooperation on “Traceability Labelling System” and memorandums of understanding between Astana International Finance Centre (AIFC) and Swiss companies Blackfort Capital AG, Clarus Capital Group AG and Herculis.