Sunday, November 7, 2010

Swiss version of KOTRA opens

Thomas Kupfer, left, Swiss ambassador to Korea, and Daniel Kueng, CEO of the Swiss Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, hold a plaque for the Swiss Business Hub Korea during a launching ceremony at the ambassador’s Seoul residence, Monday. / Courtesy of Park Jong-min

By Kim Se-jeong

A Swiss public agency helping small-and medium Swiss entrepreneurs invest abroad opened up in Korea last week.

Along with one in Canada, the Swiss Business Hub Korea is the Swiss Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (TIPA)’s 18th overseas office.

During the launching ceremony last Monday, Daniel Kueng, CEO of TIPA, who flew in for the occasion, said the opening was a signal that the market in Korea was ripe for the entrance of small-and medium Swiss companies.

Korea has been hosting giant Swiss companies, such as ABB, a power and automation engineering company; UBS, a global financial service firm; Credit Suisse, a financial services firm; and Nestle, a consumer packaged goods company, which have invested more than $2.8 billion over the years.

Korea also imports Swiss consumer goods such as watches, pharmaceutical products and chocolates, and its trade volume this year is expected to reach $2 billion, double the $1 billion from 2004.

An agreement on free trade between Korea and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that entered into force in 2005 was a stimulus for bilateral trade and investment.

According to Monika Baeik, director of the Business Hub Korea located in the embassy, one of her primary focuses is green technology, which makes a perfect fit for Korea that has recently shown huge public support for green growth and sustainable development.

Baeik and her boss Thomas Wicki will be in charge of carrying out field studies and market research that will pave the way for small Swiss companies to open up and operate here.

The office will also be open for Korean companies, Kueng said, but only for the benefit of ties with the Swiss companies.

Welcoming the launch, Ambassador Kupfer said he was thrilled to have an office dedicated to make the Swiss presence in Korea more visible.

The work of the new office is expected to enhance the presence of the embassy, which has managed to do only so much to help small and medium Swiss businesses.

Equivalent to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), TIPA was established in 1927 with branches in Great Britain, Russia, the Gulf Council of Countries, Brazil and South Africa. In Asia, India, China, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations it has branch offices.

Operating under the Swiss Ministry of Economic Affairs, the headquarter office is planning a Korean promotional event in Zurich, in the middle of this month and a visit by a Swiss business delegation to Korea early next year.

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