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.

As of June 2018, Switzerland’s exported goods were valued at $159.2 billion up 8% compared to the first 6 months of 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.

At 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.

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

As of June 2018, Switzerland’s trade surplus stood at $19.6 billion up 32.8% compared to the first 6 months of 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$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.

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 2017. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2016.

RankSwiss Export Product2017 Value (US$)Change
1Gold (unwrought)$67.9 billion-17.4%
2Medication mixes in dosage$41 billion+2.6%
3Blood fractions (including antisera)$28.1 billion+6.6%
4Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)$12.7 billion+2.9%
5Jewelry$11.2 billion+1.7%
6Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$8.3 billion-1.7%
7Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)$6.5 billion+1%
8Orthopedic appliances$6 billion-1.4%
9Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$3.6 billion+10.7%
10Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$3.2 billion+11.4%
11Coffee$2.2 billion+9.3%
12Miscellaneous machinery$2.1 billion+4.2%
13Turbo-jets$2 billion+10%
14Taps, valves, similar appliances$1.8 billion+21.7%
15Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$1.8 billion-3.1%
16Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$1.8 billion-11.4%
17Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$1.7 billion+28.6%
18Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$1.7 billion+3.5%
19Electrical energy$1.5 billion-8.6%
20Electric motors, generators$1.4 billion+9.2%
21Carboxyamid/amide-function compounds$1.4 billion-5.7%
22Lower-voltage switches, fuses$1.4 billion+2.6%
23Physical/chemical analysis tools$1.4 billion+2%
24Automobile parts/accessories$1.3 billion+4.5%
25Aircraft, spacecraft$1.3 billion+25.9%
26Temperature-change machines$1.3 billion+6.9%
27Miscellaneous heterocyclics$1.3 billion+32.1%
28Antibiotics$1.2 billion-8%
29Air or vacuum pumps$1.1 billion-7.6%
30Platinum (unwrought)$1.1 billion+16.9%
31Other machine parts, accessories$1.1 billion+3.8%
32Other measuring/testing machines$1.1 billion+13.3%
33Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$1.1 billion+15.2%
34Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$1 billion+29.1%
35Liquid/gas checking instruments$980.9 million+7%
36Material removal machine-tools$977 million+14.1%
37Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$954.7 million+8.2%
38Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)$894.3 million+15.3%
39Electrical converters/power units$882.2 million-7.9%
40Miscellaneous plastic items$853.4 million+1%
41Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$851.7 million+6.2%
42Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$793.3 million+13.7%
43 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $788.9 million-6.2%
44Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$780.4 million+7.6%
45High-voltage switches, fuses$756 million-24.4%
46Silver (unwrought)$747.1 million-9.9%
47Interchangeable hand/machine tools$739.5 million+10.6%
48Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$714.9 million+6.8%
49Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$708.2 million+2.6%
50Other food preparations$687.2 million+2.8%
51Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$684.6 million+2.5%
52Insulated wire/cable$645.4 million+3.3%
53Liquid pumps and elevators$641 million+7.4%
54Rubber/plastic article making machines$636.6 million+3.8%
55Phone system devices $629.2 million+3.9%
56Deburring, sharpening, grinding machine tools$621.4 million+16.1%
57Cheese, curd$610.2 million+3.3%
58Aircraft parts$608.7 million-32.2%
59Amino-compounds (oxygen)$593.1 million+7.1%
60Printing machinery$576.3 million-3.8%
61Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$561.1 million+12.4%
62Processed petroleum oils$545.2 million+26.5%
63Integrated circuits/microassemblies$537.9 million+7.4%
64Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$537 million-2.4%
65Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$536.3 million+8.7%
66Self-propelled railway/streetcar coaches$528.3 million+29.9%
67Cars$522.8 million+5.9%
68Footwear (leather)$518.4 million+22.2%
69Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment$515.7 million-9.6%
70Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$512.6 million+3.8%
71Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$500.7 million+2%
72Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$495.5 million-9.5%
73Cases, handbags, wallets$483.3 million+18.3%
74Auxiliary machines$468.8 million-5.4%
75Computers, optical readers$465.4 million-5.8%
76Electrical machinery$446.7 million+35.2%
77Sculptures, statues$445.2 million+20.4%
78Electric water heaters, hair dryers$441.9 million-8.6%
79Chemical industry products/residuals$440 million+1.2%
80Miscellaneous iron or steel items$435.7 million+5.2%
81Hydrazine/hydroxylamine derivatives$434.9 million+0.7%
82Miscellaneous furniture$432.9 million+0.6%
83Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$432.4 million+10%
84Survey/hydro/weather instruments$428.2 million-3%
85Machinery parts$426 million+4.6%
86Machinery to make paper, pulp, paperboard$422.1 million+4.8%
87Synthetic organic coloring$412.9 million+2.7%
88Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$406.5 million+24.4%
89Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$396 million+0.6%
90Other clock/watch parts$388.9 million+3.2%
91Lifting/loading machinery$388.9 million+7.0%
92Industrial preparation machinery$384.9 million-12.5%
93Heterocyclics, oxygen$384.9 million-8.4%
94Machinery for making semi-conductors$372.2 million+8.8%
95Precious metal compounds$367.2 million+8%
96Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$366.6 million-3.1%
97Precious metal waste, scrap$362 million-7.4%
98Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$350.8 million+9.2%
99Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$345.9 million-54%
100X-ray equipment$335.5 million+0.1%
101Metal-working machinery$332.4 million-15.2%
102Moulding boxes/base$332 million-0.7%
103Medication mixes not in dosage$329.1 million+0.8%
104Perfumes, toilet waters$324.3 million+17.9%
105Copper waste, scrap$324.2 million+21%
106Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$322.9 million+46.7%
107Sulphonamides$309.5 million+42.8%
108Glaze/graft putty, cement, filling$306 million+14.3%
109Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$303.7 million+0.7%
110Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$295.1 million+1.1%
111Miscellaneous prepared glues, adhesives$293.1 million+7%
112Machine-tool for metal$289.9 million+25%
113Unrecorded sound media$289.1 million-12.7%
114Electric motor parts$283.1 million+0.5%
115Railway/streetcar locomotives, rolling stock$264.3 million-19%
116Watch straps, bands, bracelets$264.1 million+1%
117Organo-sulphur compounds$259.5 million-3.2%
118Iron or steel scrap$251.7 million+45.6%
119Piston engine parts$251 million+7%
120Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$243.4 million+7.3%
121Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$233.6 million+6.2%
122Paper containers, cellulose wadding$224.5 million-4.7%
123Mechano-therapy appliances$223.3 million+3.8%
124#N/A$222.8 million-1%
125Printed circuits$221.2 million+11.1%
126Regulate/control instruments$215.9 million+8%
127Newsprint (rolls or sheets)$210.7 million+3.3%
128Engines (diesel)$210.3 million+46.6%
129Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$208.7 million+2%
130Aluminum waste, scrap$206.1 million+24.3%
131Aluminum foil (thin)$204.6 million+7.6%
132Ketones, quinones$204.5 million-11.9%
133Radar, radio communication items$202.9 million+37.9%
134Aluminum bars/rods$202.6 million+3.9%
135Iron or steel pipe fittings$195.5 million+4.9%
136Metal planing/shaping/sawing machines$195.3 million+12.7%
137Lubricant/cutting-oil preparations$195.3 million+6.3%
138Watch components, assembled$193.7 million-7.8%
139Connector/insulating parts$192.9 million+17.2%
140Carboxylic acids$191.8 million-0.1%
141Pneumatic hand tool$188.8 million+1.4%
142Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$187.6 million+10.8%
143Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$181.7 million+31.3%
144Other organic cleaning preparations$181.3 million-3%
145Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates$179.9 million+10.5%
146Base metal mountings, fittings$179.6 million+1.5%
147Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$178.9 million+23.8%
148Millstones, grindstones, grinding wheels$177.3 million+9.2%
149Brooms, brushes$176.8 million+4.5%
150Aluminum (unwrought)$175.5 million+24.7%
151Metal-removing lathes$174.5 million+26.3%
152Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$173.8 million+80%
153Miscellaneous aluminum items$173.6 million+1.8%
154Abrasive powder$172.6 million-3.3%
155Cleaning/sorting/grading machines$170.8 million-20.7%
156Vulcanized rubber items$170.6 million+7.4%
157Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$170.5 million+6.5%
158Antiques (over 100 years old)$169.2 million+16.4%
159Metal-casting machines$169.2 million+18.7%
160Trucks$165.2 million-2.5%
161Sort/screen/washing machinery$164 million+9.1%
162Footwear (textile)$162 million+58%
163Bookbinding machinery$161.2 million+3.4%
164Amine-function compounds$160.9 million+14.4%
165Magnets including electro-magnets$160.3 million+9.3%
166Ball, roller bearings$159.4 million+12.1%
167Bombs, grenades, ammunition$157.1 million-1.4%
168Other diagnostic/lab reagents$154.9 million-20%
169Coated paper$152.6 million+4.4%
170Knives with cut blades$151 million+5.9%
171Uncoated paper$151 million+10.6%
172Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$150.4 million+45.9%
173Miscellaneous engines, motors$149.1 million+11.8%
174TV/radio/radar device parts$146.2 million-25.3%
175Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$142 million-3.1%
176Saturated acyclic mono acids$141.2 million+2.3%
177Electrical capacitators$140.2 million+19.1%
178Bridge structures, parts$139.7 million+8.7%
179Drill/boring machines$138.7 million+11.1%
180Zoological/botanic/historic collectibles$136.9 million+7.8%
181Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$136.3 million+2.2%
182Computer parts, accessories$133.6 million-16.3%
183Wood fiberboard, other ligneous materials$133.1 million+11.4%
184Weighing machinery$132.1 million+6.9%
185Microphones/headphones/amps$131.7 million-1.1%
186Rubber accelerators, plasticizers$131.6 million+1.8%
187Miscellaneous machinery, equipment$131.4 million-9%
188Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$130.4 million-11.8%
189Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$130.3 million+19.8%
190Woven cotton fabrics$130.1 million-3.3%
191Electric storage batteries$129.5 million+12.6%
192Wine $129.4 million+25.1%
193Watch cases$126.8 million+2.5%
194Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$126.7 million+8.9%
195TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$123.3 million+23.3%
196Insulating fitting$121.7 million+25.1%
197Iron or steel springs, leaves$121.2 million+1.1%
198Refrigerators, freezers$119.7 million+4.1%
199Pulp-making machinery$119.5 million-5%
200Other glass articles$118 million-5.2%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$278.1 billion or 92.9% by value for all products exported from Switzerland during 2017.

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

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 31, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on August 31, 2018