A focus of Mr Cassis' visit to Southeast Asia is the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23, under which Switzerland is to expand its engagement in Asia and step up cooperation. Switzerland aims to achieve this objective through bilateral exchanges and a dialogue partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Switzerland is also taking an active role in efforts to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. In view of the health situation in Thailand, Swiss Humanitarian Aid sent about 100 respirators and over one million antigen test kits to Bangkok on Wednesday.
Extending cooperation in trade and other areas
Mr Cassis will hold talks with the prime ministers and foreign ministers of the three countries. In Thailand, Mr Cassis will also meet with the minister of health to discuss measures to cope with the pandemic and with the minister of the environment to discuss the challenges posed by climate change. The trip will also focus on the situation of the Swiss community in the Mekong region. In addition, Mr Cassis will meet with representatives of Swiss and Thai companies and business associations to explore ways to strengthen economic and consular cooperation.
Switzerland is also seeking to strengthen economic cooperation in Vietnam. In Hanoi, Mr Cassis will launch the cooperation strategy 2021–24 of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Vietnam was for decades a priority country for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Since 2016, SECO has been responsible for Swiss economic cooperation with Vietnam and has run a series of programmes in the country. Since 2012, Switzerland has also been negotiating a free trade agreement with Vietnam, which it expects to be concluded in the near future.
The main focus of the visit to Laos is development cooperation. The SDC opened a Swiss cooperation office in Vientiane in 2006 and is currently developing a new programme for the period 2022–25. In Vientiane, Mr Cassis will sign a cooperation agreement with the Laotian minister of planning and investment aimed at facilitating effective implementation of the Swiss development programme in Laos.
Anniversaries and 1 August celebrations
During his trip, Mr Cassis will celebrate the 90th and 50th anniversaries of bilateral relations with Thailand (1931) and Vietnam (1971). Mr Cassis will also deliver a virtual 1 August address from Bangkok to the Swiss communities in the region. Thailand is home to the largest Swiss community in Asia, with around 10,000 Swiss nationals.
Mr Cassis will be accompanied on his trip to Southeast Asia by Céline Vara, who is a member of the Council of States and its Foreign Affairs Committee, and by Laurent Wehrli, who is a member of the National Council's Foreign Affairs Committee and of the board of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad.
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