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Message of the President

Author
Heinrich Wegmann
Published
January 2014

Dear Members and Friends,

2014 marks a cornerstone in the relations between Switzerland and Japan, as we are to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Trade between the two countries. As a consequence, the Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce as one of the leading pertinent economic platforms here in Switzerland is focusing this yearʼs activities on this outstanding historical event.

To start a series of events, we plan to put a cultural aspect in the limelight, namely the world of Japonisme relating to the immense influence and impact of Japanese culture and art on the European impressionist painters. We are dedicating our New Yearʼs reception (Shinnenkai), which takes place on January 14, 2014 at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, to this concept. The director of the museum, Dr. Dieter Schwarz, will elaborate on Japonisme and provide some outstanding examples of the painting collection at display in the museum. Following this, we will all toast with a heartfelt “Kanpai!” and enjoy some Japanese delicacies.

The second event, the Swiss-Japanese Symposium 2014, takes place on January 21, 2014 (13:30–18:00) in Winterthurʼs city hall. This symposium addresses the 150th anniversary of Swiss-Japanese relations from an economic perspective and coincides with the 750th anniversary of Winterthur receiving the Stadtrecht – the town status. Organized under the auspices of the Location Promotion Winterthur Region and supported by our chamber and several other institutions, prominent speakers are covering manifold themes. The attendance is free of charge and it will be completed by a traditional Japanese Kaiseki Bento including beverages.

As you can observe, both the Shinnenkai and the Symposium are concluded by Japanese food and beverages. This to the tribute of the Japanese traditional cuisine that is so much appreciated and liked here in Switzerland and that always remains to strengthen the bonds of Switzerland and Japan.

There is more to come to celebrate this anniversary and our members will be updated as soon as relevant details are available. The last event of the year 2013 took place on December 4 at the Zunfthaus zur Waag. Stefan Mächler, Chief Investment Officer of Mobiliar Versicherung, elaborated on “Swiss Real Estate – a Bubble”. We recall that both the Japanese and the Swiss real estate markets underwent a dramatic decline from the early to the mid nineties, because the Bank of Japan as well as the Swiss National Bank – among other things – tightened the monetary base and sharply increased interest rates. While the Japanese market is still fighting to recover, a broad real estate boom started here in Switzerland some 10 years ago providing investors, at least on paper, with happy returns. As to the present state of the market, Mr. Mächlerʼs view is that we are not in a dramatic overvaluation overall, but near a very critical point.

In October 2013, Kurt Haerri, Executive Director of Schindler Elevator Company and President of the Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, gave us a very interesting presentation on “Perspectives emanating from the recently concluded Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and China”. For many companies and countries, todayʼs China is the place to be represented due to the impressively strong and sustainable economic boom taking place there. Mr. Haerri outlined detailed developments and impressed everyone present with mind-boggling extrapolations. By the way, in the year 2014 we are celebrating the 5th anniversary of the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement signed between Switzerland and Japan. The outcome on what happened based on this is by no means spectacular but it provides a sound basis for a continuous close cooperation between the two countries.

The board of the Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce is determined to continue to provide an interesting platform and wishes to thank its members and sponsors for their support.

Henry Wegmann
President