Switzerland shipped US$303.1 billion worth of products around the globe in 2016. That figure represents roughly 1.9% of overall global exports in 2015 estimated at $16.236 trillion (as of January 26, 2017).
From a continental perspective, 49.7% of Switzerland’s total exports by value in 2016 were delivered to other European trade partners.
Asian importers purchased 32.9% of Swiss shipments while 13.8% worth of products arrived in North American countries.
At 1.1%, a smaller portion of Swiss exports were bought by African importers.
Switzerland’s Top 15 Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Switzerland’s top trading partners in terms of customers for Swiss exports during 2016. That is, countries that imported the most Swiss shipments by dollar value. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Swiss exports.
- Germany: US$43.5 billion (14.4% of total Swiss exports)
- United States: $37 billion (12.2%)
- United Kingdom: $32.7 billion (10.8%)
- China: $27 billion (8.9%)
- Hong Kong: $18.4 billion (6.1%)
- France: $17.6 billion (5.8%)
- Italy: $14.8 billion (4.9%)
- India: $14.5 billion (4.8%)
- Japan: $7.7 billion (2.5%)
- Austria: $7.5 billion (2.5%)
- Singapore: $6.4 billion (2.1%)
- Belgium: $6.2 billion (2%)
- Spain: $5.7 billion (1.9%)
- Netherlands: $5.1 billion (1.7%)
- United Arab Emirates: $4.3 billion (1.4%)
Over four-fifths (82%) of Swiss exports in 2016 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
India increased its imports from Switzerland at the fastest rate, up 631.2% in value from 2009 to 2016. Swiss exports to China grew by 432% followed by United Kingdom’s 276.2% gain and Hong Kong’s 268.8% uptick.
Spain was the only top trade partners that cut back on their import purchases from Switzerland, down -5.9% over the 7-year period.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
In 2016, Switzerland incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- United Arab Emirates: -US$12.2 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2016)
- Germany: -$8.3 billion
- Ireland: -$6.7 billion
- Italy: -$4.9 billion
- Thailand: -$3 billion
- Uzbekistan: -$2.7 billion
- Venezuela: -$2.7 billion
- Ghana: -$2.4 billion
- Peru: -$2.3 billion
- Indonesia: -$1.9 billion
Only three top 10 trading partners increased Swiss negative trade balances from 2009 to 2016: Ghana (up 4,754%), Italy (up 137.4%) and Ireland (up 102.7%).
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Switzerland’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Switzerland to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus. Overall, Switzerland achieved a $34.9 billion trade surplus for 2016.
Switzerland incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- China: US$14.5 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2016)
- United Kingdom: $14 billion
- India: $13 billion
- United States: $13 billion
- Hong Kong: $10.2 billion
- Japan: $4.1 billion
- Singapore: $3 billion
- Canada: $2.4 billion
- Saudi Arabia: $2.4 billion
- South Korea: $2.1 billion
Among Switzerland’s trading partners that cause the greatest positive trade balances, Swiss surpluses with India (up 959%), Hong Kong (up 224.8%) and Saudi Arabia (up 191.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2011 to 2015.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Switzerland’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Switzerland to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Swiss Trading Partners
Forty-eight corporations based in Switzerland rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015. Below is a sample of the major Swiss companies that Forbes included:
- 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)
See also Switzerland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Switzerland’s Top 10 Imports, Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports and Highest Value Swiss Import Products
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on January 26, 2017
Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on January 26, 2017
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on April 24, 2016
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 24, 2016
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on April 24, 2016