Growing middle class, a big hope for future Swiss–RI ties
Paper Edition | Page: 12
This year Switzerland and Indonesia are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. All these years, the nations have maintained close relations with a principal focus on bilateral trade and investment. So far, Switzerland, the 15th biggest foreign investor in Indonesia, has invested around US$1 billion in the archipelagic nation, which Berne considers a priority country. Switzerland selected Indonesia and six other countries as priority countries for building strategic partnership. Bilateral trade between the nations stood at $747.65 million in 2011. Indonesia and members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein — have also agreed to negotiate a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Below are excerpts of The Jakarta Post’s intern Milan Whitfield recent interview with Swiss Ambassador to Indonesia Heinz Walker-Nederkoorn in Jakarta.
Question: What are your thoughts on Switzerland’s 60 years of diplomatic relations with Indonesia?
Answer: I think it’s great that we have had diplomatic relations for 60 years between our two countries. Before any of that even got started, a Swiss consulate opened in Batavia [now Jakarta] in 1863 and in Medan [North Sumatra] in 1916.
Then of course, the main trade route established in China, Japan and Malaysia really opened things up. In 1952, Indonesia was just recovering from World War II and was starting to become its own, all the while gaining independence. In 1998, we had the rebirth of Indonesia with Soeharto stepping down.
What have the nations achieved together?
A We have both come a long way. Indonesia has adopted a strong network of trust with other nations and seems poised to be on track for building strong diplomatic relations with other countries. To this end, we recently had Indonesia go into fifth round of negotiations with the EFTA [European Free Trade Association]here in Switzerland.
What’s in store for the future?
One of the main things that I can think of would have to be the growing middle class I know that there are about 7 million people who fit into that category, and that all but offers hope for what’s in store for Indonesia in the future.
There’s the vested interest of Switzerland from an Indonesian stand point. There seems to be a new attitude budding in Indonesians wanting to visit the country. Instead of just a one- or two-day excursion over there, more and more people are thinking about staying over there for longer periods of time.
I am very happy with the idea and think it’s a win-win for both countries, as it will only boost our respective economies further.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.