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A Salute to the Long Swiss and American Special Relationship

By Celine C. Erickson, AAFSW President
The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) cordially invited His Excellency Jacques Pitteloud, Ambassador of Switzerland to give a talk on January 17, 2023 in the Burns Auditorium at the State Department in Washington, D.C. His Excellency shared with AAFSW’s distinguished guests and members his vision of the special Swiss American relationship. Sheila Switzer shared Ambassador Pitteloud’s impressive biography. A former Swiss intelligence official, he joined the Swiss Foreign Service in 1987, being first assigned as an Advisor to the Foreign Minister. From 1988 to 1989, he served as a trade attaché at the Swiss Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ambassador Pitteloud then found himself in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994 and then formed his own organization to track down perpetrators and bring them to justice. He met his wife, Angelique Gakoko PItteloud, through this journey, and later served as Ambassador to Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Somalia and the Republic of Seychelles. He was appointed as Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States of America in 2019.

Celine Erickson, AAFSW President, thanked Ambassador Pitteloud for making the time for this event, a salute to the long Swiss and American special relationship, established in 1853. Celine reminded the legacy of a leading Swiss figure in the early years of the United States, Albert Gallatin, or as he was known, the Swiss Founding Father. Albert Gallatin helped shape the new American republic’s financial system and foreign policy; and last but not least, he established the House Ways and Means Committee in 1765. In a 1796 letter to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison characterized Albert Gallatin as “a real Treasure … sound in his principles, accurate in his calculations and indefatigable in his research.” At the image of the multifaceted spirit of the people of Switzerland, Albert Gallatin was a politician, diplomat, ethnologist, and linguist. It goes without saying, many of his Swiss counterparts have made significant contributions to the modern world.

Ambassador Pitteloud then began his passionate tribute to Switzerland, a very distinctive nation with a diverse socio-economic structure and traditions. His Excellency debated about the significance of his country’s pledge to neutrality, to the merits of globalization and the successful Swiss-American trade cooperation: “It’s one of this really clear-cut cases of mutually beneficial relationships, especially in the last 25 years, during which the U.S. has become Switzerland’s top trading partner, and Swiss companies have continued not only to pour in funds but also to place job generating factories into the United States. We are the sixth biggest investor in the American economy. We are always between the first and the third biggest invest in R&D in the U.S. It’s incredible if you think about it.”  

Citing the benefits of innovation and technological collaboration, Ambassador stated: “There are so many examples of countries fighting each other on the trade field, and the Swiss American relationship is the very demonstration that free trade can benefit both sides if done intelligently.”  

The guests were invited to a lively Q&A. After many questions and comments, Ambassador Pitteloud and AAFSW’s guests all agreed in recognizing the mutual benefits of this special Swiss American relationship, dating back to the Founding Fathers of the young nation.