Exporting to Switzerland: Opportunities and Challenges

Switzerland is one of the world’s most competitive economies, despite its relatively small size and population

A landlocked nation located in central Europe, it has the highest nominal wealth per adult on the planet and is often viewed as providing the best quality of life for its citizens.

Due to its size and the fact that around two-thirds of the country are covered by mountains, forests and lakes, Switzerland relies heavily on trade. Banking, farming and tourism are three of its main sectors, yet it is still a nation where foreign trade makes up one of the highest contributions to gross inland product. This offers many Switzerland trade opportunities.   

Fact File

  • Population: 8,341,000
  • Capital City: Bern
  • Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh
  • Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
  • Area: 41,285 sq. km

Exporting Opportunities

Unsurprisingly, the top three countries that export to Switzerland are its border nations: Germany, France and Italy. The UK is still an important trade partner, within the top ten countries that are exporting to Switzerland, with its exports to the country making up 7% of the UK’s overall exports. It offers many opportunities for businesses hoping to expand their market thanks to simple and affordable costs for shipping to Switzerland.

The UK’s top exports to Switzerland are:

  • Precious metals and gems
  • Art, antiques and collector items
  • Machinery
  • Organic chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals

As Switzerland has fairly limited resources due to its landlocked location and small size, and an economy built mainly around banking, finances, farming and a few other sectors, it requires particular imports from the rest of the world. These all offer a good business opportunity as the demand is there, and a great place for your business to expand into if it works in one of the following industries.   

Switzerland’s top imports:

  • Precious metals and gems
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Machinery
  • Vehicles
  • Electronic equipment

Alternatively, there are certain sectors which are experiencing a rise in demand in Switzerland and are growing at a rapid rate. For any start-ups looking to begin shipping their products to Switzerland, the following imports all grew at the fastest rates, besides those that already fall in the country’s top imports.

Switzerland’s fastest-growing imports:

  • Ships and boats
  • Fruits and nuts
  • Clocks and watches
  • Footwear
  • Aircraft and spacecraft

Any business thinking about shipping to Switzerland from UK shores should consider entering these markets for the greatest chance of success.

Business Challenges

There are many positives to trading with and exporting to Switzerland, but it can present a few challenges. The first being that Switzerland is not in the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA), which is how Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are all allowed to be part of the EU’s single market.

However, despite this, Switzerland is part of the single market regardless, which does make trading between the two countries a lot easier. Unique challenges that shipping to Switzerland provides are that EU standards are not always adopted, its individual domestic rules and regulations apply and it can be a highly regulated market with slow decision making.    

Tax and Customs Considerations

The majority of goods exported to Switzerland can usually be zero-rated for UK VAT purposes as long as all the required documents are maintained. This means your business should be able to send a parcel to Switzerland and reclaim the VAT. Currently the Swiss VAT rate (known as Mehrwertsteuer, MwSt) is 8%, levied on all imported goods, with some foodstuffs subject to a reduced rate of 2.5%.

The Swiss Customs Administration regulates all imports and the tax rates will depend on a number of factors. They are the place to go to find the appropriate export tariff numbers and further information to ensure when you post to Switzerland that your parcels will sail through customs without a problem.

There are certain goods which are banned or restricted from importing into Switzerland:

  • Arms and ammunition
  • Animals and animal products
  • Therapeutic products
  • Dangerous chemicals and pesticides
  • Plants
  • Hunting and fisheries

To ensure that when you send a parcel to Switzerland that it successfully reaches its destination safely and in a timely manner, it is best to double check with the Swiss Customs Administration when exporting any of these products.

Otherwise, make the most of these business opportunities and begin exporting to Switzerland with your company.