Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

by Flagpictures.org

Exports from Switzerland totaled US$310.5 billion in 2018, down by -0.2% since 2014. Year over year, Swiss exports increased in value by 3.7% from 2017 to 2018.

As of September 2, 2019, Switzerland exported $186.1 billion worth of goods during the first 7 months of 2019 down -3% compared to the same period one year earlier.

From a continental perspective, 45.9% of Swiss exports by value in 2018 were delivered to fellow European countries while 35.1% were sold to Asian importers. Switzerland shipped another 14.9% to North America. Smaller percentages went to Latin America (1.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (1.2%) and Oceania (1%) led by Australia.

Given Switzerland’s population of 8.3 million people, its total $310.5 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $37,500 for every resident in the central European nation.

In macroeconomic terms, Switzerland’s total exported goods represent 56.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($548.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 56.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 64.6% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Switzerland’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Switzerland also provided $124.3 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 22.7% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Switzerland’s unemployment rate was 2.3% at May 2019 down from 2.4% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Swiss global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Switzerland.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the number one Swiss exported product is gold.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$81.5 billion (26.2% of total exports)
  2. Pharmaceuticals: $75.2 billion (24.2%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $24.9 billion (8%)
  4. Clocks, watches including parts: $21.6 billion (7%)
  5. Organic chemicals: $20.8 billion (6.7%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.3 billion (5.6%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.8 billion (4.1%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: $5.6 billion (1.8%)
  9. Perfumes, cosmetics: $3.7 billion (1.2%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: $3.1 billion (1%)

Switzerland’s top 10 exports accounted for 85.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Perfumes and cosmetics increased in value at the fastest pace, up by 13.5% in value year over year. This upward trend was largely led by beauty or makeup preparations and preparations for the care of skin (including sunscreen).

In second place for improving export sales was plastics including items made from plastic via a 9% uptick.

Trailing Switzerland’s two leading categories was optical, technical and medical apparatus (up 7.9%) then clocks and watches including parts (up 6.9%).

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Switzerland’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.


Overall, Switzerland posted a $31.5 billion trade surplus for 2018. That dollar amount represents a -0.9% drop from the $31.8 billion deficit for 2017.

The following types of Swiss product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Pharmaceuticals: US$45.2 billion (Up by 8.7% since 2017)
  2. Clocks, watches including parts: $17.5 billion (Up by 5.4%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $9.1 billion (Up by 7.9%)
  4. Organic chemicals: $7.9 billion (Down by -11.2%)
  5. Machinery including computers: $4.8 billion (Down by -0.8%)
  6. Perfumes, cosmetics: $2.2 billion (Up by 17.9%)
  7. Coffee, tea, spices: $1.5 billion (Up by 6.1%)
  8. Base metal tools, cutlery: $894.1 million (Up by 5.8%)
  9. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $844.3 million (Up by 2.9%)
  10. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $364.1 million (Up by 32.2%)

Switzerland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of pharmaceuticals. In turn, these cashflows indicate Switzerland’s strong competitive advantages under the drugs and medicines product category.


Below are exports from Switzerland that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Switzerland’s goods trail Swiss importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Vehicles: -US$12.8 billion (Up by 1.7% since 2017)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$6.8 billion (Up by 10.4%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: -$5.1 billion (Up by 12.8%)
  4. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$3.8 billion (Up by 6.2%)
  5. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.5 billion (Up by 6.9%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.2 billion (Up by 8.8%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.1 billion (Up by 7%)
  8. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.5 billion (Up by 43.5%)
  9. Iron, steel: -$1.5 billion (Up by 14.7%)
  10. Wood: -$1.4 billion (Up by 6.1%)

Switzerland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for vehicles–notably imported cars and trucks.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Switzerland’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market — no great surprise given its close proximity to automobile-making neighbors including Germany, France, the UK and Italy.


Swiss Export Companies

Based on Forbes Global 2000 rankings, here are examples of large international trade players from Switzerland. Shown within parentheses are the types of products each company provides.

  • Nestlé (food processing)
  • Novartis (pharmaceuticals)
  • Roche Holding (pharmaceuticals)
  • ABB Group (automation technology)
  • Holcim (construction materials)
  • Glencore International (diversified metals)
  • Syngenta (pesticides, specialized chemicals)
  • TE Connectivity (electronics)
  • Transocean (offshore drilling equipment)
  • Swatch Group (clothing, watches)
  • Weatherford International (oil field equipment)
  • Schindler Group (escalators, elevators)

Global trade intelligence firm Zepol also documents the following companies as examples of Swiss exporters:

  • Baselux Sa Lugano Branch (heterocyclic compounds, printed documents)
  • Novametal Sa Switzerland (stainless steel wire, plastic bobbins, aluminum wire)
  • Olivado Tanlay (vegetable oil, honey, coconut oil)
  • Polarome Switzerland (ketones, acetic acid esthers, acyclic polyhyric acids)
  • Starbucks Coffee Trading (coffee, tea, paper bags)

Switzerland’s capital city is Bern.

Searchable List of Switzerland’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Switzerland’s top export products are gold followed by drugs and medicines, blood including antisera then watches.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Switzerland during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankSwiss Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Gold (unwrought)$64 billion-5.7%
2Medication mixes in dosage$44.8 billion+9.2%
3Blood fractions (including antisera)$29 billion+3.4%
4Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)$13.6 billion+7.7%
5Jewelry$11.7 billion+4.9%
6Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$9.5 billion+13.8%
7Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)$6.8 billion+4.9%
8Orthopedic appliances$6.3 billion+3.9%
9Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$4 billion+11.1%
10Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$2.5 billion-20.9%
11Coffee$2.3 billion+4.3%
12Miscellaneous machinery$2.3 billion+12.5%
13Electrical energy$2.1 billion+42.1%
14Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$2 billion+17.8%
15Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$2 billion+8.9%
16Taps, valves, similar appliances$1.8 billion-0.6%
17Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$1.8 billion-1.2%
18Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$1.8 billion+5.6%
19Turbo-jets$1.7 billion-14.1%
20Electric motors, generators$1.6 billion+9.7%
21Physical/chemical analysis tools$1.5 billion+9.9%
22Lower-voltage switches, fuses$1.5 billion+8.7%
23Carboxyamid/amide-function compounds$1.5 billion+2.7%
24Antibiotics$1.4 billion+19.1%
25Automobile parts/accessories$1.4 billion+3.7%
26Temperature-change machines$1.4 billion+4.2%
27Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$1.3 billion+32.3%
28Miscellaneous heterocyclics$1.3 billion-2.2%
29Other measuring/testing machines$1.2 billion+14.9%
30Other machine parts, accessories$1.2 billion+4.7%
31Material removal machine-tools$1.1 billion+17.5%
32Air or vacuum pumps$1.1 billion+1.9%
33Aircraft, spacecraft$1.1 billion-14%
34Platinum (unwrought)$1.1 billion-0.3%
35Liquid/gas checking instruments$1.1 billion+12.7%
36Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$1.1 billion+1.9%
37Electrical converters/power units$971.5 million+10.1%
38Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$959.2 million+0.5%
39Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)$906.4 million+1.4%
40Miscellaneous plastic items$901.7 million+5.7%
41Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$863.3 million+1.4%
42Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$848.1 million+6.9%
43Silver (unwrought)$835 million+11.8%
44Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$817.6 million+15.5%
45Interchangeable hand/machine tools$786 million+6.3%
46Debur/sharpen/grind machine tools$783.5 million+26.1%
47Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$778 million+13.7%
48 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $760.5 million-3.6%
49Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$755.4 million+5.7%
50Processed petroleum oils$743.9 million+36.4%
51Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$734.3 million-5.9%
52Other food preparations$731.6 million+6.5%
53Insulated wire/cable$722.1 million+11.9%
54High-voltage switches, fuses$698.1 million-7.7%
55Rubber/plastic article making machines$690 million+8.4%
56Liquid pumps and elevators$689.4 million+7.6%
57Aircraft parts$679.1 million+11.6%
58Printing machinery$648.6 million+12.5%
59Integrated circuits/microassemblies$640.8 million+19.1%
60Cheese, curd$635.5 million+4.1%
61Cases, handbags, wallets$632.9 million+30.9%
62Cars$629 million+20.3%
63Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$614.3 million+14.5%
64Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$609.1 million+18.8%
65Footwear (leather)$600.4 million+15.8%
66Phone system devices $599.5 million-4.7%
67Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$574.9 million+16%
68Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment$555.7 million+7.8%
69Computers, optical readers$551.2 million+18.4%
70Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$536.4 million+7.1%
71Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$532.1 million-5.2%
72Miscellaneous iron or steel items$522.8 million+20%
73Electrical machinery$520.9 million+16.6%
74Amino-compounds (oxygen)$510.3 million-14%
75Medication mixes not in dosage$506 million+53.8%
76Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$496.7 million-7.5%
77Hydrazine/hydroxylamine derivatives$492.8 million+13.3%
78Chemical industry products/residuals$484 million+10%
79Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$479.7 million+18%
80Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$477.4 million+20.6%
81Electric water heaters, hair dryers$474.7 million+7.4%
82Survey/hydro/weather instruments$472.4 million+10.3%
83Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$466.8 million+8%
84Paper/pulp/paperboard machinery$461.4 million+9.3%
85Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$460 million+42.4%
86Metal-working machinery$445.5 million+34%
87Lifting/loading machinery$444.8 million+14.4%
88Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$439.9 million+20%
89Synthetic organic coloring$434.5 million+5.2%
90Other clock/watch parts$433.6 million+11.5%
91Miscellaneous furniture$429.7 million-0.7%
92Auxiliary machines$422.9 million-9.8%
93Precious metal waste, scrap$415.2 million+14.7%
94Industrial preparation machinery$397.6 million+3.3%
95Heterocyclics, oxygen$382.3 million-0.7%
96Sculptures, statues$382 million-14.2%
97Precious metal compounds$380 million+3.5%
98Machinery parts$376.9 million-11.5%
99Moulding boxes/base$376.7 million+13.5%
100Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$368.2 million+5%
101Machine-tool for metal$341.7 million+17.9%
102Glaze/graft putty, cement, filling$340 million+11.1%
103Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$336 million+10.6%
104Copper waste, scrap$333.3 million+2.8%
105Machinery for making semi-conductors$330.3 million-11.3%
106Perfumes, toilet waters$327.2 million+0.9%
107Engines (diesel)$320.6 million+52.5%
108Prepared adhesives, glues$319.2 million+8.9%
109X-ray equipment$319.2 million-4.9%
110Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$301.8 million+24%
111Watch straps, bands, bracelets$301.1 million+14%
112Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$295.9 million+0.3%
113Electric motor parts$294 million+3.8%
114Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$289.3 million-16.4%
115Piston engine parts$288.2 million+14.8%
116Railway/tram parts$281.3 million+6.4%
117Iron or steel scrap$278.6 million+10.7%
118Mechano-therapy appliances$273.6 million+22.5%
119Printed circuits$242.9 million+9.8%
120Aluminum bars/rods$239.9 million+18.4%
121Metal planing/shaping/sawing machines$236.1 million+20.9%
122Unrecorded sound media$235.4 million-18.6%
123Paper containers, cellulose wadding$232.5 million+3.5%
124Regulate/control instruments$231.1 million+7%
125Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$230.7 million-1.2%
126Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$228 million+9.3%
127Connector/insulating parts$225.8 million+17%
128Antiques (over 100 years old)$218.3 million+29%
129Aluminum waste, scrap$217.6 million+5.6%
130Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$215.3 million+18.5%
131Aluminum foil (thin)$214.5 million+4.8%
132Aluminum (unwrought)$213.1 million+21.4%
133Lubricants, cutting-oil preparations$212.8 million+9%
134Watch components, assembled$211.9 million+9.4%
135Metal-removing lathes$209.4 million+20%
136Footwear (textile)$208.4 million+28.7%
137Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$207 million+10.3%
138Bombs, grenades, ammunition$206.9 million+31.7%
139Sulphonamides$206.9 million-33.2%
140Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$206.3 million+18.7%
141Other organic cleaning preparations$202 million+11.4%
142Ketones, quinones$202 million-1.2%
143Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$201 million+12.4%
144Pneumatic hand tool$194.7 million+3.1%
145Carboxylic acids$193.3 million+0.8%
146Vulcanized rubber items$191 million+12%
147Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates$190.2 million+5.7%
148Millstones, grindstones, grind wheels$186.7 million+5.3%
149Uncoated paper$186.1 million+23.2%
150Base metal mountings, fittings$185.2 million+3.1%
151Coins$184 million+15457.6%
152Ball, roller bearings$183 million+14.8%
153Miscellaneous printed matter$181.1 million-18.7%
154Coated paper$178.2 million+16.8%
155Miscellaneous engines, motors$178.2 million+19.5%
156Brooms, brushes$177 million+0.1%
157Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$175.6 million+16.8%
158Metal-casting machines$175.2 million+3.5%
159Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$173.3 million+1.7%
160Bridge parts, structures$172 million+23.2%
161Trucks$170.2 million+3%
162Other diagnostic/lab reagents$169.1 million+9.2%
163Miscellaneous aluminum items$167.7 million-3.4%
164Amine-function compounds$167.2 million+3.9%
165Newsprint (rolls or sheets)$158.5 million-24.8%
166Magnets including electro-magnets$157.7 million-1.6%
167Saturated acyclic mono acids$156.5 million+10.9%
168Iron or steel pipe fittings$155.8 million-20.3%
169Knives with cut blades$155.4 million+2.9%
170Clean/sort/grading machines for seeds$149.6 million-12.4%
171Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$149 million+4.9%
172Watch cases$147.9 million+16.6%
173Bookbinding machinery$143.8 million-10.8%
174Self-propelled railway/tram vehicles$141.7 million-73.2%
175Stainless steel bars, rods$141.6 million+27.8%
176Rubber accelerators, plasticizers$141.6 million+7.6%
177Refrigerators, freezers$140.3 million+17.2%
178Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$140.3 million+7.6%
179Pulp making/paper finishing machines$140.2 million+17.3%
180Radar, radio communication items$139.4 million-31.3%
181Organo-sulphur compounds$139.2 million-46.3%
182Woven cotton fabrics$136.4 million+4.9%
183Vegetable saps, extracts$135.5 million+24.9%
184Wood/other ligneous fiberboard$134.2 million+0.8%
185Wine $131.4 million+1.5%
186Artificial abrasive powder, grain$130.8 million-24.2%
187Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$130.7 million+0.3%
188Iron or steel springs, leaves$130.2 million+7.5%
189TV/radio/radar device parts$130.1 million-11%
190Other machinery, equipment$127.9 million-2.7%
191Electric storage batteries$127.6 million-1.5%
192Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$127.4 million-6.5%
193Machine knives, blades$126.3 million+11.9%
194Sort/screen/washing machinery$123.8 million-24.5%
195TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$123.2 million-0.1%
196Other glass articles$121.3 million+2.8%
197Vinyl acetate polymers$120.7 million+14.3%
198Computer parts, accessories$120 million-10.2%
199Drill/boring machines$119.7 million-13.7%
200Armored vehicles, tanks$119.1 million+238.4%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$287.9 billion or 92.7% by value for all products exported from Switzerland during 2018.

See also Switzerland’s Top Trading Partners, Switzerland’s Top 10 Imports and Switzerland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research Sources:
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on September 2, 2019

Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 2, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 2, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 2, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 2, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 2, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on September 2, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 2, 2019

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on September 2, 2019