Dante Martinelli, GHF Board Member

Dante Martinelli
Swiss Ambassador to Geneva

Born in the Italian-speaking Ticino area of Switzerland, educated with honours at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (“Sciences Po’”), veteran Swiss career diplomat Dante Martinelli recently left Beijing as Switzerland’s Ambassador to China to become the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and to intergovernmental organizations in Geneva.

Martinelli has worked some 30 years in the Swiss Foreign Service. Starting in Bern where he rose from the bottom rung as an intern to the position of Chef de Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Martinelli then became Switzerland’s Ambassador to Italy, the European Union in Brussels and China where he was also Ambassador to Mongolia and to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Earlier, he served in posts in Tunis, Washington, DC and Paris.

With eight years of experience at major Swiss banks he was well qualified for his posts of Deputy Head of the Economic & Commercial Office of the Swiss Embassy in Washington, as Alternate Executive Director of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank Group, as head of the Economic and Financial Service of the Embassy in Paris, and as Head of the Swiss Mission to the European Union in Brussels.

But his activities went well beyond economic affairs. In Bern he was involved in every political aspect of Swiss foreign policy. Elsewhere, for example in Mongolia, he participated in humanitarian work of the SDC (Swiss Development Cooperation). This included helping to construct dormitories for students who came from distant areas. In Italy Martinelli was very active in resolving complex issues of international transportation and logistics – this due to Switzerland’s important role as a transit zone between southern and northern Europe.

Following his five years in Brussels, Dante Martinelli gave an interview in which he called for closer ties between the EU and Switzerland. He conceded that the bilateral route which the Swiss people have chosen, rather than membership in the EU, was not an easy one. But, he said, “since Switzerland and the EU are now working so closely together, it is inconceivable that we should stop now.”

Given the important political, economic and cultural ties between China and Switzerland, Martinelli’s broad background led logically to his posting to Beijing.

Martinelli points out that Switzerland is one of the few countries to have a trade surplus with China. China principally exports textiles, machines, toys and sports equipment to Switzerland, while the Swiss sell pharmaceutical and chemical products and machinery to the Chinese.

Shortly before his reassignment to Geneva in 2008, Martinelli pleased the Chinese by adopting, on behalf of an economic delegation led by the Swiss Minister of Economy, a nine-month-old Giant Panda. “Adopting a baby panda is a good way to make a contribution to society. The Giant Panda is known as a living fossil and people need to pay more attention to protecting the species”. (P.Ress)


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