The Covid-19 epidemic played a significant role in the slowdown of international trade. This phenomenon also weighed heavily on Swiss foreign trade. But 2021 finally saw an upturn in fortunes, with Swiss exports recording a 15.2% increase vs 2020 – for a total value of nearly CHF260 billion. This marked an increase of 7% vs 2019 and as such, is an all-time record.
Although Switzerland does not have an abundance of raw materials, it does have a significant number of skilled workers producing valuable goods. This has been a major success factor for Switzerland which enjoys extensive trade relations with the rest of the world.
The EU is Switzerland’s leading trade partner with Germany receiving around 20% of Switzerland’s exports and at the same time providing about 25% of its imports. Other leading export markets include France, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The main supply partners include France, Italy, and China.
In 2021 however, the United States replaced Germany as the most important buyer of Swiss products for the first time since 1954.
The increase in exports in 2021, meant that Switzerland’s trade surplus reached CHF587.7 billion in that year. This, despite an increase in chemical imports and rising energy prices.
- The most important exports for Switzerland remain:
- chemical and pharmaceutical industries
- precision instruments
- One significant driver behind the increase in Swiss exports in 2021 was the increase in the export of immunological products. These made up around 25% of the total increase.
- The Swiss watch industry also proved very successful with export shipments rising by over 30% in 2021 to reach CHF5.3 billion. This represents a new annual record.
- The Swiss export industry also sold more goods in all three major geographic economic areas:
- Double-digit growth rates to Europe at just over 18%.
- North America growth rates were 17%.
- Shipments to Asia were also up by 9.0%, with a sharp increase in exports to Hong Kong at +23.0%.
- Rises in exports to China, Japan and Singapore were also significant.
In regards to imports, purchases of immunological products saw an increase of +7.1% which contributed to the record exports of chemical and pharmaceutical products.
- Imports of metals increased by 25% to CHF3.3 billion.
- Imports of energy sources posted a price related increase of CHF3.9 billion or nearly +70%.
- Imports of food, beverages and tobacco grew by +7.9%
- Losers in the import were:
- Jewellery purchases which were down CHF 8.8 billion vs 2019
- Vehicle deliveries were CHF 1.7 billion lower.
In 2021, Switzerland imported more goods from all three major economic areas. The highest increase was from Europe at +10.9%, which represented CHF 13.9 billion vs the previous year. In addition – in 2021:
- Switzerland imported nearly 20% more in terms of value from both Spain and France.
- Germany remained the biggest contributor, with imports rising by CHF 5.5 billion to just over 11%.
- Imports from Asia grew by a total of 8.0%, or CHF 3.1 billion.
- Deliveries from China surged by CHF 1.8 billion to a new record level.
- Imports from South Korea increased by CHF 1.1 billion which is more than double the previous year.
- Shipments from North America climbed by 6.6%, or CHF 803 million.
After the massive global slump in International trade due to Covid-19, 2021 saw a frenetic return to pre-Covid-19 peak levels. In Switzerland both imports and exports grew significantly. The industry sectors that recorded the greatest success, were chemical and pharmaceutical. This was followed by the watch industry, as well as the machinery and precision instruments sectors. These are all areas requiring highly skilled workers, which is also a major reason for Switzerland’s success. Export partners included the traditional areas of Europe, Asia and America – whereby for the first time since 1954, the USA replaced Germany as the most important trade partner for Switzerland. Supporting the increase in exports from the 4 most important sectors, was also the record in imported goods. The main losers in imports were Jewellery and Vehicles.
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