Strategically located in central west Europe, Switzerland shares its land borders with Austria, France, Germany and Liechtenstein.
Switzerland shipped US$314.1 billion worth of products around the globe in 2019. That figure represents roughly 1.6% of overall global exports for 2018 estimated at $19.285 trillion.
Adopting a continental lens, 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.
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 2019. 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$48 billion (15.3% of total Swiss exports)
- United States: $43.9 billion (14%)
- United Kingdom: $28.5 billion (9.1%)
- China: $21.6 billion (6.9%)
- France: $19.4 billion (6.2%)
- India: $18 billion (5.7%)
- Italy: $16.2 billion (5.2%)
- Hong Kong: $9.9 billion (3.2%)
- Japan: $8.1 billion (2.6%)
- Spain: $7.9 billion (2.5%)
- Austria: $6.4 billion (2%)
- Singapore: $6.2 billion (2%)
- Netherlands: $6.1 billion (1.9%)
- Belgium: $5.5 billion (1.7%)
- Canada: $4.5 billion (1.4%)
About four-fifths (79.7%) of Swiss exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
The United Kingdom increased its imports from Switzerland at the fastest rate, up 167.6% in value from 2018 to 2019. Swiss exports to Belgium grew by 22.1% trailed by Canada’s 15.2% gain and the 13.9% uptick for Spain.
Leading declines was a -38.1% year-over-year drop for Hong Kong and -28.7% downturn for China.
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 2019, Switzerland incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- United Arab Emirates: -US$11.3 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- Germany: -$9.5 billion
- Ireland: -$6.5 billion
- Italy: -$6.2 billion
- Thailand: -$3.5 billion
- Uzbekistan: -$2.5 billion
- Ghana: -$2.4 billion
- Vietnam: -$2.1 billion
- South Africa: -$2.1 billion
- Peru: -$2.1 billion
Among Switzerland’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Swiss deficits with Vietnam (up 159.3%), United Arab Emirates (up 109.1%) and Ghana (up 45.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
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.
Overall, Switzerland posted a $36.9 billion trade surplus for 2019. That dollar amount represents a 15.8% increase from $31.9 billion in black ink for 2018.
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.
Switzerland incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- United States: US$25 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- India: $15.8 billion
- United Kingdom: $12 billion
- China: $6.4 billion
- Hong Kong: $6.1 billion
- Japan: $3.6 billion
- Singapore: $3.6 billion
- Canada: $3.3 billion
- South Korea: $2.8 billion
- Slovenia: $2.7 billion
Among Switzerland’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Swiss surpluses with Slovenia (up 550.6%), Canada (up 66.1%) and United States (up 27.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
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. 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 Top EU Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on January 29, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on January 29, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on January 29, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on January 29, 2020
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on January 29, 2020