The EU and its 28 member states are by far Switzerland’s most important partners. This is due not just to the EU’s political and economic weight but also to Switzerland’s geographical and cultural proximity to the countries of the EU. The EU shares values, languages and part of its history with Switzerland.
The economic relationship is especially important: two thirds of Switzerland’s foreign trade is with the EU. In 2015, 54% of Switzerland's exports went to the EU and 72% of products imported by Switzerland came from the EU. The EU's more than 507 million consumers are a good customer base for Switzerland. However, Switzerland is also one of the EU's major partners. It is one of the EU’s three most important trading partners, alongside the US and China (2015).
Switzerland is in the centre of Europe. All of its neighbours except Liechtenstein are members of the EU. Overcoming problems in the areas of asylum, security, the environment and cross-border transport would be impossible without close cooperation. Bilateral agreements form the basis for Swiss-EU relations. The bilateral approach has its origins in the Free Trade Agreement of 1972 and has been steadily extended since the 1990s, notably through two packages of accords, Bilateral Agreements I and II of 1999 and 2004. The agreements provide both parties with extensive market access and are also a basis for close cooperation in many sectors.