Switzerland’s Top Trading Partners

Switzerland's Top 15 Trading Partners

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Strategically located in central west Europe, Switzerland shares its land borders with Austria, France, Germany and Liechtenstein.

Switzerland shipped US$299.6 billion worth of products around the globe in 2017. That figure represents roughly 1.9% of overall global exports for 2016 estimated at $15.952 trillion (as of February 2, 2018).

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. At 1.1%, a smaller portion of Swiss exports were bought by African importers.

Switzerland’s Top 15 Trading Partners

Top 15

Below is a list showcasing 15 of Switzerland’s top trading partners in terms of customers for Swiss exports during 2017. That is, countries that imported the most Swiss shipments by dollar value. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Swiss exports.

  1. Germany: US$45.4 billion (15.1% of total Swiss exports)
  2. United States: $36.8 billion (12.3%)
  3. China: $24.5 billion (8.2%)
  4. India: $19.8 billion (6.6%)
  5. France: $17.1 billion (5.7%)
  6. United Kingdom: $17 billion (5.7%)
  7. Hong Kong: $16 billion (5.3%)
  8. Italy: $15.8 billion (5.3%)
  9. Austria: $8.2 billion (2.7%)
  10. Japan: $7.6 billion (2.5%)
  11. Singapore: $7.4 billion (2.5%)
  12. Belgium: $6.9 billion (2.3%)
  13. Turkey: $6.1 billion (2%)
  14. Spain: $5.7 billion (1.9%)
  15. Netherlands: $5.4 billion (1.8%)

Four-fifths (80%) of Swiss exports in 2017 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.

Turkey increased its imports from Switzerland at the fastest rate, up 159.6% in value from 2016 to 2017. Swiss exports to India grew by 35.5% followed by Singapore’s 13.6% gain and Belgium’s 11.5% uptick.

Leading declines was a -48% drop for the United Kingdom and -13.9% downturn for Hong Kong.

Deficits

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 2017, Switzerland incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:

  1. Germany: -US$10.0 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2017)
  2. Ireland: -$6.8 billion
  3. United Arab Emirates: -$5.9 billion
  4. Italy: -$4.3 billion
  5. Uzbekistan: -$3.6 billion
  6. United Kingdom: -$2.3 billion
  7. Peru: -$2.3 billion
  8. Ghana: -$1.8 billion
  9. Burkina Faso: -$1.3 billion
  10. Suriname: -$1.1 billion

Switzerland’s biggest increases in country-specific trade deficits were expansions of 120.8% for Suriname, 29.9% for Uzbekistan and 20.7% for Germany.

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.

Surpluses

Overall Switzerland achieved a $31.1 billion trade surplus for 2017, down by -12.5% from the $35.5 billion positive balance during 2016.

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:

  1. India: US$18.2 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2017)
  2. United States: $15.3 billion
  3. China: $11.2 billion
  4. Hong Kong: $6.6 billion
  5. Singapore: $4.9 billion
  6. Turkey: $4.5 billion
  7. South Korea: $2.6 billion
  8. Japan: $1.8 billion
  9. Belgium: $1.8 billion
  10. Canada: $1.6 billion

Among Switzerland’s trading partners that cause the greatest positive trade balances, Swiss surpluses with Singapore (up 59.5%), India (up 38.6%), Belgium (up 32.9%) and South Korea (up 21.2%) grew at the fastest pace year over year.
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

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

Research Sources:
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 5, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 5, 2018

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