Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

by Flagpictures.org

Exports from Switzerland amounted to US$303.1 billion in 2016, up 75.5% since 2009 when the effects of the Great Recession first kicked in. Year over year Swiss exports increased in value by 3.8% from 2015 to 2016. Switzerland’s top 10 exports accounted for 87.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Switzerland’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $494.3 billion as of October 2016.

Therefore, exports accounted for about 61.3% of total Swiss economic output.

From a continental perspective, 49.7% of Swiss exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 32.9% are sold to Asian importers. Switzerland ships another 13.8% to North America with 1.7% going to Latin America (excluding Mexico) and the Caribbean.

Given Switzerland’s population of 8.2 million people, its total $303.1 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $35,714 for every resident in that country.

Switzerland’s unemployment rate was 3.5% as of December 2016 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 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Switzerland. On the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the number one Swiss exported product is gold.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$98.2 billion (32.4% of total exports)
  2. Pharmaceuticals: $67.1 billion (22.1%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $22.4 billion (7.4%)
  4. Clocks , watches including parts: $19.7 billion (6.5%)
  5. Organic chemicals: $19.3 billion (6.4%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $15.4 billion (5.1%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: $12 billion (4%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: $4.9 billion (1.6%)
  9. Perfumes, cosmetics: $2.9 billion (1%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: $2.8 billion (0.9%)

Gems and precious metals increased in value at the fastest past, up 859.1% in value over the 7-year period starting in 2009. This upward trend was led primarily by exported gold and jewelry. Swiss diamond sales also improved–albeit making a much smaller contribution to overall exports.

In second place for improving export sales were pharmaceuticals which were up 63.5%.

Swiss clocks and watches posted the third-fastest gain in value at 61.6%.


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 is 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$42.6 billion (Up by 73.3% since 2009)
  2. Clocks , watches including parts: $15.8 billion (Up by 55.6%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $8 billion (Up by 11.1%)
  4. Organic chemicals: $6.8 billion (Down by -10.1%)
  5. Machinery including computers: $5 billion (Up by 21.7%)
  6. Perfumes, cosmetics: $1.6 billion (Up by 24.6%)
  7. Coffee, tea, spices: $1.3 billion (Up by 171.6%)
  8. Base metal tools, cutlery: $745 million (Up by 46.2%)
  9. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $675.8 million (Down by -22.8%)
  10. Miscellaneous food preparations: $366.6 million (Up by 15.5%)

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$12.2 billion (Up by 37.1% since 2009)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$4.7 billion (Down by -25.6%)
  3. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$3.6 billion (Up by 30.5%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.2 billion (Up by 26.4%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$2 billion (Down by -1,072%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$1.9 billion (Up by 16.1%)
  7. Gems, precious metals: -$1.5 billion (Down by -44.5%)
  8. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.4 billion (Up by 14567.5%)
  9. Fruits, nuts: -$1.3 billion (Up by 37.8%)
  10. Wood: -$1.3 billion (Up by 40.1%)

Switzerland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for vehicles spearheaded by imported automobiles.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Switzerland’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market — no great surprise given its close proximity to neighboring automotive titans Germany, France, UK and Italy.


Swiss Export Companies

Based on Forbes 2015 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.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Switzerland’s Top Import Partners, Highest Value Swiss Export Products and Switzerland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on January 26, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on January 26, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on January 26, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 1, 2016

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on March 1, 2016

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 1, 2016

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 1, 2016