Three quarters into 2022, Switzerland has sold US$299.9 billion in export products via international markets from January to September.
That dollar metric suggests that the annualized export sales for Switzerland will be an estimated $399.8 billion for 2022, up about 5.3% year over year.
The remainder of this analysis will drill down on the latest published annual statistics for Switzerland during 2021.
Exports from Switzerland totaled $379.9 billion in 2021. That dollar amount reflects a 26.8% increase since 2017 and a 19.1% uptick from 2020 to 2021.
Based on average exchange rates for 2021, the Swiss franc appreciated by 4.7% against the US dollar since 2017 and increased by 5.5% from 2020 to 2021. Switzerland’s stronger local currency make the Swiss Confederation’s exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive.
Switzerland’s 5 biggest exports by value are gold, blood fractions including antisera, medication mixes in dosage, heterocyclics and nucleic acids, then wrist or pocket watches excluding those without a precious metal case. Collectively, that quintet of most valuable Swiss exports account for well over half (57.1%) of the overall value of Switzerland’s exported goods during 2021.
Key Geographic Insights about Swiss Exports
The latest available country-specific data shows that 75.7% of products exported from Switzerland were bought by importers in: United States of America (16.6% of the global total), Germany (14.5%), mainland China (8.7%), India (8.2%), Italy (5.3%), France (5%), United Kingdom (3.7%), Spain (3.6%), Austria (2.7%), Hong Kong (also 2.7%), Slovenia (2.3%) and Japan (2.2%).
From a continental perspective, 47.1% of Switzerland exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 31.7% were sold to importers in Asia. Switzerland shipped another 18.1% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America (1.4%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (1%) then Oceania (0.7%) led by Australia.
Given Switzerland’s population of 8.7 million people, its total $379.9 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $43,800 for every resident in the central European nation. That per-capita dollar amount is higher than the average $36,900 for one year earlier in 2020.
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Swiss global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Switzerland.
- Gems, precious metals: US$106.3 billion (28% of total exports)
- Pharmaceuticals: $101.5 billion (26.7%)
- Organic chemicals: $29.7 billion (7.8%)
- Clocks, watches including parts: $24.4 billion (6.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $24 billion (6.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $19.1 billion (5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $13.8 billion (3.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $6.2 billion (1.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $4.03 billion (1.1%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $3.98 billion (1%)
Switzerland’s top 10 exports accounted for 87.7% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 107.2% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was the clocks and watches including parts category which rose 34.7%.
Switzerland’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 23.3% year over year, propelled by higher international sales of gold and silver.
The most modest gainer among Switzerland’s top 10 export categories was for perfumes and cosmetics thanks to its 4.6% increase.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Switzerland’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.
Products Generating Switzerland’s Greatest Surpluses
Switzerland posted a $27.9 billion trade surplus for 2021. That positive balance represents a -24.4% decrease from $36.9 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Swiss product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$59.3 billion (Up by 19.9% since 2020)
- Organic chemicals: $21.8 billion (Up by 20.6%)
- Clocks, watches including parts: $20.8 billion (Up by 35.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $10.1 billion (Up by 18.6%)
- Machinery including computers: $2.9 billion (Up by 40.7%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.5 billion (Up by 31.4%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $2.3 billion (Down by -1.5%)
- Base metal tools, cutlery: $1 billion (Up by 17.9%)
- Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $897.1 million (Up by 19.9%)
- Railways, streetcars: $276.1 million (Up by 69.9%)
Switzerland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of drugs and medicines. In turn, these cashflows indicate Switzerland’s strong competitive advantages under the pharmaceuticals product category.
Products Causing Switzerland’s Biggest Deficits
Below are exports from Switzerland that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Switzerland’s goods trail Swiss importer spending on foreign products.
- Vehicles: -US$13 billion (Up by 4.3% since 2020)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$6.3 billion (Up by 62.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$4.6 billion (Up by 17.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$3.7 billion (Down by -79.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.3 billion (Up by 20%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.7 billion (Up by 5.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.6 billion (Up by 17%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$2 billion (Up by 36.7%)
- Wood: -$1.8 billion (Up by 22%)
- Iron, steel: -$1.7 billion (Up by 45.4%)
Switzerland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for automobile parts or accessories and cars.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Switzerland’s competitive disadvantages in the international markets under the vehicles category.
Biggest Swiss Export Companies
Based on Forbes Global 2000 rankings, here are examples of large international trade players from Switzerland. Shown within parentheses are the types of products each company provides.
- Nestlé (food processing)
- Novartis (pharmaceuticals)
- Roche Holding (pharmaceuticals)
- ABB Group (automation technology)
- Holcim (construction materials)
- Glencore International (diversified metals)
- Syngenta (pesticides, specialized chemicals)
- TE Connectivity (electronics)
- Transocean (offshore drilling equipment)
- Swatch Group (clothing, watches)
- Weatherford International (oil field equipment)
- Schindler Group (escalators, elevators)
Global trade intelligence firm Zepol also documents the following companies as examples of Swiss exporters.
- Baselux Sa Lugano Branch (heterocyclic compounds, printed documents)
- Novametal Sa Switzerland (stainless steel wire, plastic bobbins, aluminum wire)
- Olivado Tanlay (vegetable oil, honey, coconut oil)
- Polarome Switzerland (ketones, acetic acid esthers, acyclic polyhyric acids)
- Starbucks Coffee Trading (coffee, tea, paper bags)
Searchable List of Switzerland’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Switzerland during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Swiss Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||YOY|
|2||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$39,537,733,000||+27.2%|
|3||Medication mixes in dosage||$47,353,347,000||+5%|
|4||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$12,589,760,000||+19.8%|
|5||Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)||$11,448,719,000||+31%|
|7||Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)||$5,771,779,000||+42.7%|
|9||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$3,519,493,000||+9.7%|
|12||Hormones, miscellaneous steroids||$3,181,414,000||+8.1%|
|15||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$1,882,391,000||+19.1%|
|16||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,830,069,000||+20.9%|
|19||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,846,806,000||+6.8%|
|21||Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing||$1,726,591,000||+7.5%|
|22||Electric motors, generators||$1,579,100,000||+17%|
|24||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$1,638,189,000||-3.8%|
|27||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,255,326,000||+11.9%|
|28||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$1,158,085,000||+16.5%|
|30||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,086,503,000||+14.8%|
|32||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,164,444,000||+0.9%|
|33||Electrical converters/power units||$1,036,085,000||+10.9%|
|35||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$760,866,000||+41.1%|
|36||Other machine parts, accessories||$841,035,000||+23%|
|38||Miscellaneous plastic items||$822,193,000||+20.5%|
|40||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$878,982,000||+7.2%|
|41||Iron/steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$800,805,000||+17.5%|
|42||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$754,368,000||+15.4%|
|43||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$781,870,000||+9.2%|
|44||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$752,061,000||+13.5%|
|47||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$733,693,000||+12.7%|
|48||Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods||$642,648,000||+27.9%|
|49||Hand-drawn paintings, drawings||$658,006,000||+23.5%|
|50||Precious metal waste, scrap||$732,781,000||+10.8%|
|53||Interchangeable hand/machine tools||$675,013,000||+17.1%|
|54||Liquid pumps and elevators||$644,753,000||+22.3%|
|55||Material removal machine-tools||$585,088,000||+28.7%|
|57||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$543,257,000||+34.2%|
|58||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$639,813,000||+13.2%|
|59||High-voltage switches, fuses||$698,649,000||+1.7%|
|61||Hand saws, blades||$602,416,000||+13.1%|
|62||Other food preparations||$672,131,000||+0.9%|
|63||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$673,993,000||-0.1%|
|64||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$526,577,000||+22.7%|
|66||Computers, optical readers||$584,044,000||+9.3%|
|67||Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment||$501,689,000||+22.7%|
|68||Cases, handbags, wallets||$540,586,000||+13.6%|
|69||Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)||$515,090,000||+15.4%|
|70||Precious metal compounds||$468,242,000||+26.7%|
|71||Chemical industry products/residuals||$421,439,000||+38.4%|
|72||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$573,066,000||-0.4%|
|73||Railway/subway coaches, vans, trucks||$395,523,000||+39.8%|
|74||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$465,006,000||+18.6%|
|76||Medication mixes not in dosage||$762,562,000||-27.7%|
|78||Phone devices including smartphones||$475,735,000||+9.8%|
|80||Machine tools for sharpening, grinding, polishing||$435,724,000||+18%|
|81||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$418,819,000||+22.5%|
|82||Copper waste, scrap||$314,665,000||+62.6%|
|83||Men’s suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$485,074,000||+4.9%|
|84||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$462,683,000||+10%|
|85||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$446,017,000||+13.9%|
|86||Women’s clothing (not knit or crochet)||$466,310,000||+4.3%|
|89||Flour/meal/starch/malt food preparations||$528,747,000||-13.9%|
|90||Synthetic organic coloring||$402,573,000||+11.5%|
|92||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$328,701,000||+33.3%|
|95||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$357,876,000||+18.8%|
|96||Other clock/watch parts||$316,801,000||+31.9%|
|98||Iron or steel scrap||$237,253,000||+74.2%|
|100||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$340,709,000||+17.3%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$336.1 billion or 88.5% by value for all products exported from Switzerland during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, Switzerland’s total exported goods represent 56.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($677.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 56.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 54% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Switzerland’s total economic performance.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Switzerland’s unemployment rate was 3.131% at October 2021, down from an average 3.143% for 2021 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Switzerland’s capital city is Bern.
See also Switzerland’s Top Trading Partners, Switzerland’s Top 10 Imports and Switzerland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on November 20, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on November 20, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on November 20, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on November 20, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on November 20, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on November 20, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on November 20, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on November 20, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on November 20, 2022
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on November 20, 2022