Swiss Review

“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 pleasant postings.     

What makes 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.

Swiss Pakistan trade relations have been growing with time. Do you think that trade targets set have been achieved specially with reference to textiles?

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

Business 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 Pakistani market.

Do you think that more companies are planning to do business with Pakistan’s textile industry as ‘cost of doing

Business’ is 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.

What 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.


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