Leigh Miller for GlobalAtlanta
Urs Ziswiler, Switzerland’s new ambassador to the United States, told GlobalAtlanta that his first trip to Atlanta on Monday, Nov. 13, is to promote his country as an investment location, as well as meet with Swiss companies, the Swiss consul general here and an old friend, former president Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Ziswiler, who assumed his post in May, is to give a presentation about U.S.-Switzerland economic relations at a Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday, Nov. 13, 12 p.m., at the Oglethorpe University Museum.
He will also meet Swiss Consul General Ulrich Hunn and visit some Swiss companies with operations in Atlanta.
“Atlanta and Switzerland have many things in common in terms of human rights and peace efforts and negotiations by the Carter Center. I am looking forward to seeing my good friends there with whom I worked in the past. I know Jimmy Carter personally from his work in the Middle East and his Geneva initiative, so I am looking forward to meeting him again,” Mr. Ziswiler said.
During the Swiss chamber luncheon, he is to give a presentation on Switzerland as a good location for U.S. companies’ headquarters in Europe.
“Switzerland is extremely well-placed economically, and the U.S. is an important market for us,” Mr. Ziswiler told GlobalAtlanta in a telephone interview, noting that his country had $16 billion in two-way trade with the U.S. last year.
On Sept. 26, the World Economic Forum ranked Switzerland as the world’s No. 1 competitive economy in its Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007. Switzerland’s high quality of life and stable political and social environment, liberal labor market and favorable tax incentives helped the country rise in the rankings from No. 4 last year, Mr. Ziswiler said.
Finland and Sweden ranked second and third, while Denmark, Singapore, the U.S., Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were in the top 10. The U.S. fell from first to sixth since last year’s report.
Switzerland is the U.S.’ sixth largest investor, with 500 Swiss firms supporting 500,000 jobs here, many of which are high-paying, Mr. Ziswiler said.
The U.S. is Switzerland’s top investor with 650 U.S. firms located there, and this number is “growing every week,” Mr. Ziswiler added.
He said that the most recent large American firm to choose to locate in Switzerland was Kraft Foods Inc., which moved its European headquarters from Vienna, Austria, and London to Zurich, Switzerland’s capital.
Since IBM Corp. opened a research center in Zurich 50 years ago, prominent U.S. companies such as Google Inc., Caterpillar Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and others have chosen Switzerland for their Europe, Middle East and Africa headquarters, Mr. Ziswiler said.
Prior to becoming ambassador in May, Mr. Ziswiler was head of the political directorate of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern, Switzerland, the second-highest ranking diplomat in the Swiss Foreign Service. In this capacity, he was also vice-chairman of the Presence Switzerland Commission, the country’s public outreach agency.
He previously served as a senior diplomatic adviser to Switzerland’s minister of foreign affairs, Federal Councilor Micheline Calmy-Rey.
Since joining the Swiss Foreign Service in 1979, Mr. Ziswiler has been ambassador to Canada and the Bahamas 1999-2004, head of affairs for Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 and deputy head of mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1994-95 and Tel Aviv, Israel, 1988-90.
He has served at the Swiss embassies in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Lagos, Nigeria, and Oslo, Norway, and the Swiss Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.
From 1995-99, he was head of the Swiss Political Division for Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy and coordinator for International Refugee Policy 1995-99, spokesman and head of the Information Department of the European Integration Office 1990-92. He was chairman of the European Free Trade Association Trade Committee in 1987 and managed relationships with the member countries and the former Yugoslavia 1985-88.
Mr. Ziswiler began his career as a junior expert for the World Bank in Madagascar and later served as a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beirut, Lebanon; Gaza and Tel Aviv and Kampala, Uganda.
He is fluent in German, English, French, Spanish and Italian and has a basic knowledge of Arabic.
Cost for the Swiss chamber luncheon is $30 for non-members. Contact Karen Wright at (678) 415-4219 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Contact Mr. Hunn at the Consulate General of Switzerland at (404) 870-2000 or visit www.swissemb.org.