The European Union (EU) is Switzerland’s main economic partner in the agricultural sector. Switzerland and the EU maintain close, intensive and varied relations, not only owing to their geographic proximity but also because of their convergent agricultural policy. Furthermore, Switzerland and the EU share the same approaches and face very similar challenges with regard to agriculture. Switzerland therefore monitors the EU’s agricultural policy and its development very closely, as well as evolutions in policy concerning the quality of agricultural products.
The 1999 Agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the European Community on Trade in Agricultural Products is the main regulatory instrument governing agricultural relations between the Switzerland and the EU. The agreement has increased the flow of trade between the parties and drastically reduced technical obstacles to trade by providing tariff concessions and reducing or removing non-tariff trade barriers. In 2018, 58% of Swiss agricultural exports went to EU member states in while 75% of Swiss agricultural imports came from the EU. The same year, the trade balance with the EU in agricultural products closed with an import surplus of CHF 3.5 billion.
The Agreement also ensures the protection of Swiss geographical indications (AOP/IGP) within the EU and vice versa. The trade of processed agricultural products, in other words products of the food-processing industry, such as chocolate, coffee, drinks, biscuits and pasta, is regulated by Protocol No. 2 of the 1972 Free Trade Agreement.
The veterinary field – an integrated part of the agricultural agreement
Annex 11 of the Agricultural Agreement between Switzerland and the EU, also known as the Veterinary Agreement, sets out measures applicable to animal health, food safety, animal protection and animal husbandry, and trade in live animals and animal products.
The Veterinary Agreement forms the basis for ensuring that EU and Swiss regulations on the prevention of epizootic diseases are essentially consistent and lead to the same outcomes. The result is a common veterinary area between Switzerland and the EU with equivalent trading conditions for both partners.
Switzerland and the EU are in negotiations to extend the existing agricultural agreement to the entire food chain, in particular to processed plant products. The conclusion of the negotiations depends on the outcome of the discussions concerning the institutional agreement between Switzerland and the EU.