Exports from Switzerland totaled $314.1 billion in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 7.6% increase since 2015 and a 1.2% uptick from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Swiss franc depreciated by -3.3% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -1.6% from 2018 to 2019. Switzerland’s weaker local currency make the Swiss Confederation’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive.
From a continental perspective, over half (51.6%) of Swiss exports by value in 2019 were delivered to fellow European countries while 28.6% were sold to Asian importers. Switzerland shipped another 15.9% to North America. Smaller percentages went to Latin America (1.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (1.2%) and Oceania (0.9%) led by Australia.
Given Switzerland’s population of 8.5 million people, its total $314.1 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $36,800 for every resident in the central European nation.
Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Swiss global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Switzerland.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$83 billion (26.4% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $80.1 billion (25.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $22.9 billion (7.3%)
- Organic chemicals: $22 billion (7%)
- Clocks , watches including parts: $21.8 billion (6.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.3 billion (5.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.6 billion (4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $5.2 billion (1.7%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $3.7 billion (1.2%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $2.9 billion (0.9%)
Switzerland’s top 10 exports accounted for 86.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Pharmaceuticals represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 10.4% year over year since 2018. In second place for improving export sales were organic chemicals thanks to a 6.1% increase. Switzerland’s shipments of clocks and watches including parts posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 0.8%.
The leading decliner among Switzerland’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers via an -8.1% drop.
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 $36.9 billion trade surplus for 2019. That positive balance represents a 15.8% increase from $31.9 billion in black ink one year earlier.
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.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$51.5 billion (Up by 13.9% since 2018)
- Clocks, watches including parts: $18 billion (Up by 2.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $8.9 billion (Down by -1.4%)
- Organic chemicals: $8.6 billion (Up by 9.9%)
- Machinery including computers: $3.3 billion (Down by -32.6%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $2.3 billion (Up by 0.8%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $1.7 billion (Up by 10.7%)
- Base metal tools, cutlery: $819.4 million (Down by -8.4%)
- Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $816.7 million (Down by -3.3%)
- Railways, streetcars: $350.4 million (Reversing a -$179.8 million deficit)
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.
- Vehicles: -US$13.3 billion (Up by 4% since 2018)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$6.7 billion (Down by -0.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$6.4 billion (Up by 31.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$3.7 billion (Down by -3.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.5 billion (Up by 2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.2 billion (Up by 0.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2 billion (Down by -2.9%)
- Wood: -$1.4 billion (Down by -2.8%)
- Iron, steel: -$1.3 billion (Down by -10.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.3 billion (Down by -5.7%)
Switzerland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for road vehicles–notably imported cars and trucks.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Switzerland’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market. That conclusion is no great surprise given its proximity to automobile-making neighbors including Germany, France, the UK and Italy.
Swiss Export Companies
Based on Forbes Global 2000 rankings, here are examples of large international trade players from Switzerland. Shown within parentheses are the types of products each company provides.
- Nestlé (food processing)
- Novartis (pharmaceuticals)
- Roche Holding (pharmaceuticals)
- ABB Group (automation technology)
- Holcim (construction materials)
- Glencore International (diversified metals)
- Syngenta (pesticides, specialized chemicals)
- TE Connectivity (electronics)
- Transocean (offshore drilling equipment)
- Swatch Group (clothing, watches)
- Weatherford International (oil field equipment)
- Schindler Group (escalators, elevators)
Global trade intelligence firm Zepol also documents the following companies as examples of Swiss exporters:
- Baselux Sa Lugano Branch (heterocyclic compounds, printed documents)
- Novametal Sa Switzerland (stainless steel wire, plastic bobbins, aluminum wire)
- Olivado Tanlay (vegetable oil, honey, coconut oil)
- Polarome Switzerland (ketones, acetic acid esthers, acyclic polyhyric acids)
- Starbucks Coffee Trading (coffee, tea, paper bags)
Searchable List of Switzerland’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Switzerland during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Swiss Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Medication mixes in dosage||$44,824,903,000||+5.1%|
|3||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$29,045,506,000||+18.7%|
|4||Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)||$13,658,782,000||-0.4%|
|6||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$9,453,571,000||+9%|
|7||Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)||$6,776,639,000||+3.9%|
|9||Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)||$4,047,867,000||-0.4%|
|12||Hormones, miscellaneous steroids||$2,513,418,000||-13.9%|
|15||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,815,350,000||+3%|
|17||Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing||$1,777,198,000||+0.2%|
|19||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,832,930,000||-10.9%|
|20||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$1,545,732,000||+4.9%|
|21||Electric motors, generators||$1,568,937,000||+2.3%|
|25||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,536,392,000||-7.6%|
|26||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$1,328,981,000||+5.7%|
|30||Hand-drawn paintings, drawings||$2,007,225,000||-40.5%|
|31||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,212,462,000||-3.2%|
|32||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,135,966,000||-1.6%|
|33||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$1,105,411,000||-4.3%|
|34||Other machine parts, accessories||$1,154,870,000||-8.8%|
|36||Electrical converters/power units||$971,412,000||-1.5%|
|37||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$1,068,728,000||-13.5%|
|38||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$958,331,000||-9.5%|
|39||Material removal machine-tools||$1,147,460,000||-26.8%|
|40||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$863,629,000||-3.2%|
|41||Miscellaneous plastic items||$901,224,000||-7.7%|
|42||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$817,787,000||-0.5%|
|43||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$848,042,000||-5.7%|
|44||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$761,578,000||+4.9%|
|46||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$755,498,000||+0.1%|
|47||High-voltage switches, fuses||$700,036,000||+7.8%|
|48||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$778,224,000||-4.6%|
|49||Interchangeable hand/machine tools||$785,835,000||-6.8%|
|50||Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods||$733,667,000||-1.4%|
|51||Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)||$906,451,000||-22.2%|
|52||Processed petroleum oils||$745,111,000||-6.2%|
|55||Medication mixes not in dosage||$507,490,000||+35.4%|
|56||Liquid pumps and elevators||$688,947,000||-1.4%|
|57||Other food preparations||$731,644,000||-7.5%|
|58||Specialized machine tools||$784,437,000||-15.5%|
|60||Cases, handbags, wallets||$634,142,000||+0.9%|
|61||Computers, optical readers||$551,771,000||+13%|
|65||Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment||$556,082,000||+4.9%|
|67||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$532,452,000||+7.9%|
|69||Phone system devices||$600,652,000||-6.9%|
|70||Precious metal waste, scrap||$415,317,000||+33.3%|
|71||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$691,090,000||-20.7%|
|73||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$536,099,000||-1.9%|
|74||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$474,804,000||+8.8%|
|75||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$523,115,000||-2%|
|76||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$609,970,000||-16.1%|
|78||Miscellaneous printed matter, photos||$181,223,000||+171.9%|
|79||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$479,899,000||+1.4%|
|81||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$476,946,000||-0.4%|
|82||Chemical industry products/residuals||$484,245,000||-4.8%|
|83||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$460,798,000||-0.3%|
|84||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$496,621,000||-9.5%|
|85||Railway/subway coaches, vans, trucks||$142,985,000||+213.5%|
|86||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$440,563,000||+0.9%|
|88||Synthetic organic coloring||$434,047,000||-2.7%|
|89||Other clock/watch parts||$433,785,000||-5.9%|
|93||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$466,444,000||-16.6%|
|96||Miscellaneous industrial machinery||$397,581,000||-5%|
|98||Miscellaneous railway/subway vehicle parts||$282,112,000||+29.9%|
|99||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$368,344,000||-1.1%|
|100||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$330,728,000||+8.3%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$273.5 billion or 87.1% by value for all products exported from Switzerland during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Switzerland’s total exported goods represent 55.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($565.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 55.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 56.6% for 2018, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Switzerland’s total economic performance.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Switzerland’s average unemployment rate was 2.821% in 2019, up from 2.547% for 2018 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Switzerland’s capital city is Bern.
See also Switzerland’s Top Trading Partners, Switzerland’s Top 10 Imports and Switzerland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
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Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on January 29, 2020
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International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on January 29, 2020