Relations between Kuwait and Switzerland have strengthened noticeably over the past year on more fronts than one, witnessing a 19 percent increase in the value of Kuwait's merchandise imports from Switzerland, according to the Swiss Embassy's economic and commercial advisor Ziad Tarakji. In exclusive remarks to KUNA, Sunday, the advisor said direct Swiss exports to Kuwait last year totaled about USD 610 million, of which pharmaceuticals accounted for 31 percent, watches for 29.5 percent, and industrial machines for 11.7 percent, while food products accounted for 4.8 percent. He added, however, that actual value of Swiss products entering Kuwait is in reality 10 to 15 percent higher than that "if we take into account the Swiss goods coming to Kuwait through a third party and through regional free-trade zones, rather than directly from Switzerland." He noted that Kuwaiti exports to Switzerland meanwhile remain very modest in value, given the fact that Switzerland does not import oil and its by-products directly from the Gulf region. The advisor said trade ties between Kuwait and Switzerland are set to elevate to new levels when a free trade agreement signed between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a principal member, goes into effect this year as foreseen. He also noted with content that several Swiss firms are currently taking part in mega-sized infrastructure and power generation projects in Kuwait, while at least 500 other Swiss companies are operating in the Kuwaiti market in cooperation with local agents. The exchanges between the two friendly nations are not limited to the flow of merchandise, according to Tarakji, who pointed out that the number of tourists who visited Switzerland from Kuwait in 2013 stood at more than 24, 000, which is a remarkable increase of 44 percent from the year before. On another front, the new-born Kuwaiti Anti-Corruption Authority has accepted an invitation and its representatives visited Switzerland a few months back for a close look at the experience of Swiss authorities in this domain, he added. Taking cooperation between the two countries to a new level, the American football team of the Swiss city of Neuchatel visited Kuwait last January at the invitation of the President of the Kuwaiti Federation of the game, Sheikh Mishaal Talal Al-Fahad, and played against the Kuwaiti national team, the embassy advisor noted. On the political front, he said ways and means to further cement relations between the two countries were the focal point of discussions when Swiss Under State Secretary for Political Affairs Wolfgang Amadeus Brulhart visited Kuwait last January and held talks with senior government officials.