Innovation, investment, Swiss community: Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ignazio Cassis, opens consulate general in Chicago

Washington D.C., Sept. 25, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Switzerland is once again represented in the Midwest, a major economic region of the United States, with a consulate general. At the opening ceremony in Chicago, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis highlighted the potential for increasing cooperation in various areas such as innovation. The reopening of the Chicago representation by the FDFA comes in response to a parliamentary request. The consulate general will increase the support available to Swiss companies in the Chicago metropolitan area and it serves as a further example of strengthened Swiss-US ties.

In 1864 Switzerland became the first country to open a consulate in Chicago, sparked by the huge influx of Swiss immigrants to what is now the third-largest US city. Today some 35,000 people of Swiss origin live in the Chicago metropolitan area and throughout Illinois.

The Chicago consulate general was closed in 2014 after 140 years in service: it was decided, for cost-cutting reasons, to transfer consular services to the Swiss representations in Washington and New York. However, economic, scientific, cultural and personal relations with Switzerland remained vibrant and diverse, and the closure came up for discussion in Parliament in 2018. FDFA Head Ignazio Cassis subsequently informed the Federal Council on 23 May 2018 that the Chicago consulate general would be reopened.

The US is an important partner for Switzerland in every respect. Relations between the two countries have a long tradition, and were further strengthened in 2019 with various presidential and ministerial meetings at federal government level.

The reopening of the new consulate general in Chicago will now build on these connections in the region. There are more than 100 Swiss companies operating in the Chicago metropolitan area, one of the country's most dynamic economic regions. They provide up to 30,000 jobs, making them the sixth-largest foreign employer there. Swiss exports to the region are valued at CHF 1.3bn annually. The Chicago metropolitan area is thus one of the leading US destinations for Swiss businesses. The Swiss Business Hub responsible for the Midwest  has seen a vast increase in demand for its services, particularly from Swiss SMEs. The opening of this consulate general thus bridges the gap between the East Coast and West Coast.

Cooperation is also being stepped up in education, research and innovation. Neutron physics is an example of one area in which Switzerland and the US cooperate closely, involving researchers from ETH Zurich and the universities of Geneva and Basel. "Chicago has a key position in our bilateral cooperation in innovation," said Mr Cassis at the opening of the consulate general. He also referred to the many Swiss immigrants who settled in the Midwest and played an active role in its expansion.

The new consulate general offers Swiss businesses and institutions a direct point of contact for their various needs. As Mr Cassis pointed out at the opening event, the focus is on "innovation, investment and people" and, in particular, promoting the economic interests of Switzerland. The consulate general is also in contact with the large Swiss community in the Chicago region. Consul General Bruno Ryff took office in Chicago on 1 September 2019. However, consular services for the region will continue to be handled in Washington and New York.