Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports

by Flagpictures.org

Exports from Switzerland totaled US$299.6 billion in 2017, down by -16.3% since 2013. Year over year Swiss exports decreased in value by -1.7% from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Switzerland’s exported goods plus services represent 67.5% of total Swiss economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 46.6% of Swiss exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 35.6% are sold to Asian importers. Switzerland ships another 14% to North America with 1.8% going to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Just 1.1% of products shipped from Switzerland are destined for Africa.

Given Switzerland’s population of 8.2 million people, its total $299.6 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $36,000 for every resident in that country.

Switzerland’s unemployment rate was 3.3% as of December 2017 down from 3.5% 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 2017. 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$84.6 billion (28.2% of total exports)
  2. Pharmaceuticals: $70.3 billion (23.5%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $23.7 billion (7.9%)
  4. Clocks, watches including parts: $20.2 billion (6.8%)
  5. Organic chemicals: $19.8 billion (6.6%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $16.1 billion (5.4%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.2 billion (4.1%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: $5.1 billion (1.7%)
  9. Perfumes, cosmetics: $3.3 billion (1.1%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: $3 billion (1%)

Switzerland’s top 10 exports accounted for 86.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Perfumes and cosmetics increased in value at the fastest pace, up by 11.9% 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).

Tied in second place for improving export sales up 5.5% were iron or steel articles and machinery including computers.

Pharmaceuticals posted the next fastest gain in value via a 4.2% improvement since 2016.


Overall, Switzerland posted a $31.1 billion trade surplus for 2017. That dollar amount represents a -12.5% drop from the $35.5 billion deficit for 2016.

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$41.5 billion (Down by -2.9% since 2016)
  2. Clocks , watches including parts: $16.7 billion (Up by 4.8%)
  3. Organic chemicals: $8.8 billion (Up by 27.5%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $8.4 billion (Up by 4.4%)
  5. Machinery including computers: $4.9 billion (Down by -3.8%)
  6. Perfumes, cosmetics: $1.9 billion (Up by 18.1%)
  7. Coffee, tea, spices: $1.4 billion (Up by 10.2%)
  8. Base metal tools, cutlery: $845.4 million (Up by 12.8%)
  9. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $820 million (Up by 20.5%)
  10. Miscellaneous food preparations: $362.6 million (Down by -1.7%)

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$12.6 billion (Up by 2.6% since 2016)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$6.1 billion (Up by 27.7%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: -$5.3 billion (Up by 368.4%)
  4. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$3.6 billion (Up by 0.8%)
  5. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.3 billion (Up by 4.9%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.0 billion (Up by 5.0%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.9 billion (Up by 33.2%)
  8. Wood: -$1.3 billion (Up by 5.3%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.3 billion (Up by 19.8%)
  10. Fruits, nuts: -$1.3 billion (Up by 2.3%)

Switzerland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for vehicles–notably 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 including Germany, France, 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.

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 February 5, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 5, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 5, 2018

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