Although Switzerland is poor in raw materials it has a wealth of highly skilled workers and enjoys extensive trade relations with the rest of the world. The EU and, in particular, Germany, are Switzerland's main trading partners.

Shipping container at a port.
Exports and imports of goods, services and, increasingly, commodities drive the Swiss economy. © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

Switzerland's economy is highly dependent on foreign trade. In 2020, Switzerland exported goods and services totalling CHF 442 billion, while total imports amounted to CHF 377 billion. Switzerland also regularly runs a trade surplus.

The services sector, e.g. banking, insurance and licensing, represents a significant share of foreign trade, accounting for around a quarter of total exports and a third of total imports. In terms of the domestic market, the services sector is even more buoyant, generating over 70% of Switzerland's GDP.

Trade in goods

According to customs statistics, in 2020 Switzerland exported goods to the value of CHF 225 billion (excluding merchanting). Exports to EU countries account for almost half of this total. Germany is Switzerland's main trading partner, with an 18% share of exported goods. Switzerland's most important exports are products from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries (52%), machinery (13%), watches (8%) and precision instruments (7%).

In 2020 Switzerland imported goods to the value of CHF 182 billion, around two thirds of which came from EU countries and over 27% from Germany alone. The goods imported were primarily from the chemical and pharmaceuticals industries (machinery, electronic goods, vehicles).

Trade in commodities (coffee, cotton, oil, iron ore, aluminium, gold, copper, etc.) has also increased. Switzerland is now among the key players in global commodities trading, with precious metals and gemstones accounting for over 20% of exports and imports.