“We are working at the optimum level
towards strengthening and increasing business relations between
Switzerland and Pakistan”
Interview: Thomas Kolly,
Ambassador of Switzerland in Pakistan.
Please tell us
about yourself and your impressions of Pakistan?
I hail from Pfeffikon, a small town in the
canton of Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland. Having a degree
as attorney-at-law, I am a career diplomat having worked at
headquarters of the Swiss Foreign Ministry in Berne as well as
for Swiss Embassies in Europe, the Americas and Asia in the last
32 years. Since 2017, I live and work as Swiss Ambassador in
Pakistan covering at the same time Afghanistan. There are a
number of commonalities between Switzerland and Pakistan. Like
Switzerland, Pakistan has scenic valleys, lofty mountains – much
higher though than Switzerland, which makes us jealous; both
countries value milk and dairy products. People of Pakistan are
very friendly, hospitable and hardworking; Pakistani food is
delicious. The mangoes I have eaten in Pakistan were the best I
have ever had. Pakistan is one of my most interesting and
Switzerland a unique and successful nation?
Switzerland does not have natural
resources so it has to rely on one source only and that is the
human resource. In Switzerland the investments and efforts made
to sharpen and develop the skills of its people is the main
factor. Then comes dedication and commitment of the people
towards the national cause of excellence.
Thomas Kolly, Ambassador of Switzerland in Pakistan.
What are the key
challenges and opportunities for the Swiss companies established
or doing business with Pakistan?
There are opportunities and challenges
everywhere. It depends how you capitalize opportunities and face
challenges. The local leadership of the Swiss companies based in
Pakistan have outstanding curriculums. With their high
professional skills and their experience, incorporating Swiss
and Pakistani values, they do a great job. Pakistan is a country
of 220 million people; it’s a big market for the Swiss based
companies and they know how to tap the potential with their
quality and unique products. Like other local companies, they
also face challenges. They appreciate a stable political
environment and an efficient public administration that allows
them to plan well in advance.
trade relations have been growing with time. Do you think that
trade targets set have been achieved specially with reference to
Indeed, trade relations between the two
countries are growing. As I was looking at the data, in the last
5 years, the volume of trade between Switzerland and Pakistan
has been increasing at an average rate of around 8%, which is a
promising figure. Regarding the export of Pakistani textiles to
Switzerland, an average growth rate of more than 13% was
recorded in the last 5 years. Considering nominal annual
increase in the population of Switzerland, these double-digit
growth rates are commendable.
Textile industry is a major contributor of
Pakistan’s GDP growth. Has trade balance improved with Pak-Swiss
partnership? What steps can be taken to further increase trade?
I am quite convinced that the volume of
effort being put in by the Swiss Embassy in Pakistan and the
Swiss Business Council is at the optimum level towards
strengthening and increasing business relations between the two
countries. Therefore, we witness here all kinds of trade
promotion activities – visits of business delegations,
fact-finding missions coming, participation of Swiss
businesspersons in local exhibitions, etc. And I am hopeful
that in the times to come, it will continue so.
Are more Swiss
companies going towards textiles e.g. machinery, R&D, trading?
Yes, as like in all other industrial
sectors, Swiss companies are availing every possible option as
far as the textiles are concerned. Swiss products are world
famous for their quality so in order to maintain quality
combined with uniqueness and price competitiveness, the
companies have to explore all fields available. This is also the
reason Switzerland ranks amongst the top innovative countries.
How do you see
the future trade outlook?
Until the outbreak of coronavirus, the
bilateral trade outlook was stable but it will change now and we
will have to see what happens when this pandemic ends, how it
shapes the future of the international trade and how much time
will the world take to become normal again.
How does the
Swiss business community rank their
business with Pakistan?
So far, during my almost 3 years stay in
Pakistan, I have heard mainly positive things when I was
interacting with the Swiss companies based in Pakistan. In
general, they are optimistic about the future of the country and
the growth in their businesses. They are here with a long-term
perspective and they are fully aware of the potential in the
Do you think that more companies are
planning to do business with Pakistan’s textile industry as
‘cost of doing
getting leaner and transparent?
While undertaking any new business
venture, companies usually conduct a thorough analysis of the
market and in the case of Pakistan if the cost of doing business
is improving, it may be an opportunity for them.
opportunities are available for Pakistani exporters to market
their products in Switzerland?
Swiss are usually conscious about the
quality of the product. Any product with quality, uniqueness,
affordability and reliability will find its place in the Swiss
market and I know Pakistani exporters consider such factors
while exporting their goods to Switzerland.