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 values 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 European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products is the main regulatory instrument governing agricultural relations between the EU and Switzerland. 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. Some 60% of Swiss agricultural exports went to EU member states in 2014, while in Switzerland about 74% of agricultural imports came from the EU. 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.
Since 2008, the EU and Switzerland have begun negotiating the opening of markets covering the whole food production chain and reinforced cooperation on food safety, product safety and public health.
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.