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Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards


Foreign Trade in Figures

The Swiss economy is extremely open to foreign trade, which represents 120% of the country’s GDP (World Bank - 2017). The European Union (EU) is Switzerland's largest trade partner, accounting for two-thirds of its total foreign trade. Since 2002, the country has signed agreements with the EU regarding seven key trade sectors. Exports of goods and services account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s GDP.  In 2017, Switzerland's main clients were Germany, China and the United States. Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical and watchmaking products.

Switzerland has a large trade surplus. Exports rely mostly on high-tech sectors, which are less dependent on the international economic situation than other industries. In 2016, the trade surplus reached an all-time high (CHF 38 billion - Federal Customs Administration), despite a fall of exports in the watchmaking sector due to the increase of the Swiss Franc. However, the surplus narrowed slightly in 2017 (6% decrease) to CHF 34.8 billion despite an increase in exports (which were at all-time high following a 4.7% y-o-y increase). In fact, imports grew at faster rate than exports (6.9%). Trade with Eurozone countries has registered a growing deficit since early 2017.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 295,961321,509275,742251,873268,658
Exports of Goods (million USD) 312,464357,851311,203289,874303,221
Imports of Services (million USD) 86,01292,26198,13692,37895,207
Exports of Services (million USD) 107,407112,501116,629108,013114,356
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -2.613.5-
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.115.2-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 56.659.952.650.654.6
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 67.071.964.362.165.8
Trade Balance (million USD) 40,19253,60055,34053,60049,539
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 63,10475,52476,69771,85368,908
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 123.7131.8116.9112.8120.4

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) - 2017; World Bank - 2017


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
Germany 15.1%
United States 12.3%
China 8.2%
India 6.6%
France 5.7%
United Kingdom 5.7%
Hong Kong 5.3%
Italy 5.3%
Austria 2.7%
Japan 2.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Germany 20.7%
United States 8.0%
Italy 7.5%
United Kingdom 7.2%
France 6.5%
China 5.0%
United Arab Emirates 3.7%
Hong Kong 3.5%
Austria 3.0%
Ireland 2.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2017


Main Products

299.3 bn USD of products exported in 2017
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 22.7%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 13.7%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 9.4%
Wrist-watches, pocket-watches and other watches, incl. stop-watches (excl. of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal) 4.2%
Heterocyclic compounds with nitrogen hetero-atom[s] only 2.8%
Wrist-watches, pocket-watches and other watches, incl. stop-watches, with case of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal (excl. with backs made of steel) 2.2%
Orthopaedic appliances, incl. crutches, surgical belts and trusses; splints and other fracture appliances; artificial parts of the body; hearing aids and other appliances which are worn or carried, or implanted in the body, to compensate for a defect or disability 2.0%
Instruments and appliances used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences, incl. scintigraphic apparatus, other electro-medical apparatus and sight-testing instruments, n.e.s. 1.2%
Hormones, prostaglandines, thromboxanes and leukotrienes, natural or reproduced by synthesis; derivatives and structural analogues thereof incl. chain modified polypeptides, used primarily as hormones 1.1%
Machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof 0.8%
267.5 bn USD of products imported in 2017
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 26.1%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 7.2%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.9%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 3.3%
Heterocyclic compounds with nitrogen hetero-atom[s] only 2.1%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 1.5%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 1.3%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 1.3%
Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted or set (excl. unmounted stones for pick-up styluses, worked stones, suitable for use as parts of meters, measuring instruments or other articles of chapter 90) 0.9%
Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 0.8%

Source: Comtrade, 2017


Main Services

73.8 bn USD of services exported in 2013
Other business services
Financial services
Insurance services
Government services
Communications services
Cultural and recreational services
24.6 bn USD of services imported in 2013
Financial services
Insurance services
Communications services
Other business services
Government services
Cultural and recreational services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Swiss Franc (CHF)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime. Since January 2015, the Swiss franc is no longer pegged to the euro.
Level of Currency Instability
Very limited exchange risk since the Swiss franc is a major currency.
Monetary Indicators 20132014201520162017
Swiss Franc (CHF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 0.930.920.960.990.98

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
Main International Economic Cooperation
Switzerland formed a customs union with Liechtenstein in 1924. Switzerland is a member of European Free Trade Association (EFTA), alongside Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway. Switzerland has signed bilateral agreements with the EU that guarantee many of the same economic advantages and lowered barriers to trade that EU members enjoy. The USA and Switzerland have formed a 'Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum' to promote mutual trade. Switzerland also signed last February, 2009 a Free-Trade Agreement with Japan allowing the exemption of customs duties for 99% of trade transactions between these two countries, within 10 years. Finally, Switzerland has signed free trade agreements with the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Albania.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
A commercial invoice in duplicate or triplicate is sufficient for importing and custom clearance. The invoice should contain the following details: description of the products and packaging, gross and net weight of each package, quantity (in metric terms), country of origin, and CIF value to the Swiss border. As Swiss duties are specific, indication of value is required only for statistical purposes. No consular or other stamp is required.
Free Zones
None. However companies (both local and foreign-owned) can utilize duty- free warehouses to import goods into Switzerland without paying any tax and duties if the goods are subsequently re-exported to third countries.
For Further Information
Federal Customs Administration
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
Non Tariff Barriers
Switzerland has a strict policy for import of agricultural biotechnology products. It involves a lengthy approval process. Quotas exist for import of certain products (mainly food items) which vary from year to year vary from year to year depending upon the size of harvests, volume of stocks and market requirements. These quotas are granted only to importers based in Switzerland and they need an import license. Import licenses are also required for certain products not subject to quotas, but which are covered by special regulations concerned with public health, plant health, quarantine (plants), veterinary regulations; regulations concerning the protection of endangered species, safety measures, price control (for certain textile products).
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
For details, visit: World Trade Organization.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Country’s commercial policy, as seen by the WTO.
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU.
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU.

Learn more about How to Export to Switzerland on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.



National Standards Organisations
Swiss Standards Association SNV (Schweizerische Normen Vereinigung). SNV is the umbrella for all standards and certification organisations in Switzerland.
Integration in the International Standards Network
SNV is a member :

International Standard Organisation (ISO)

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

CEN (European Agency for Standards)

International Communication Union (ITU)

Obligation to Use Standards
Classification of Standards
The various domains of standardisation along with relevant organisation are mentioned below:

1. Electrosuisse Domains covered: electrical safety standards, electromagnetic emissions

2. SIA   Domains covered: building standards (above and underground construction, cultural aspects, environmental criteria, insulation, air-cond/heating/safety)

3. VSS Domains covered: traffic safety, planning of public and private sector transportation networks, energy efficiency, signalling, safety in tunnels, financing

4. SVGW Sector covered: quality standards of processes and equipment for drinking water and natural gas

5. VSA Sector covered: sewage treatment and water pollution control.

6. DETEC (Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications) Sector covered: telecommunications incl. radio and TV;

7. Swissmem  Sector covered: Industrial machinery such as machine tools, textile machines, packaging machine, power generating and distribution equipment etc.

8. Interpharma  Sector covered: Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals with own research departments

9. SWISSMEDIC Sector covered: Therapeutic products (Swiss government agency similar to FDA in USA).

10. SUVA Sector covered: Occupational safety.

Assessment of the System of Standardization
Switzerland is a member of CEN (European agency for standards) and thus needs to adopt any new European standards, as 50% of country’s GDP is based on foreign trade. Switzerland applies “Harmonized European Standards” pertaining to health, safety and environmental criteria. All products covered by those standards must carry the CE label as a sign of compliance in all EU countries. The use of CE labels helps the sale of products in local market as well.
Online Consultation of Standards
Visit the SNV.
Certification Organisations
Swiss Accreditation Service (SAS)
Associations of Standards Users
Swiss Office of Norms Practice (NOP)


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Last Updates: May 2018