Switzerland-EU - international trade in goods statistics
Data extracted in March 2021
Planned article update: March 2022
Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and Switzerland, 2010-2020
This article provides a picture of the international trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and Switzerland. It analyses the type of goods exchanged between the two economies and the shares of each EU Member State in those exchanges.
This article is part of an online publication providing recent statistics on international trade in goods, covering information on the EU's main partners, main products traded, specific characteristics of trade as well as background information.
Recent developments, impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis caused both exports and imports between the EU and Switzerland to fall in 2020. Exports reached a minimum of EUR 9.7 billion in April 2020. By December 2020 they had recovered to EUR 12.2 billion, only slightly higher than the EUR 12.1 billion in December 2019. Imports reached a minimum of EUR 8.2 billion in April 2020. By December 2020 they had recovered to EUR 9.1 billion which was below the EUR 9.6 billion in December 2019.
Figure 2 compares trade with Switzerland to trade with other non-EU countries. Between January 2019 and December 2020, exports to Switzerland decreased by 0.4 % while exports to other non-EU countries decreased by 2.7 %. Imports from Switzerland increased by 0.1 % while imports from other non-EU countries decreased by 10.4 %. Both for imports and exports the largest drop compared to January 2019 was seen in April 2020. However, both exports to and imports from Switzerland dropped less than those of other non-EU countries. The exports dropped 21 % compared to 29 % for other non-EU countries while imports dropped 10 % compared to 22 % for other non-EU countries.
EU and Switzerland in world trade in goods
Figure 3a shows the position of Switzerland among the largest traders of goods in the world in 2019. The four largest exporters were China (EUR 2 233 billion, 16.1 %), the EU (EUR 2 132 billion, 15.4 %), the United States (EUR 1 468 billion, 10.6 %) and Japan (EUR 630 billion, 4.6 %). The four largest importers were the United States (EUR 2 293 billion, 16.1 %), the EU (EUR 1 940 billion, 13.7 %), China (EUR 1 857 billion, 13.1 %) and Japan (EUR 644 billion, 4.5 %).
Figure 3b has some more details. It shows that Switzerland (EUR 280 billion, 2.0 %) was the 15th largest exporter in the world between the United Arab Emirates (EUR 282 billion, 2.0 %) and Australia (EUR 242 billion, 1.7 %). It was the 13th largest importer in the world (EUR 248 billion, 1.7 %) between Taiwan (EUR 257 billion, 1.8 %) and the United Arab Emirates (EUR 239 billion, 1.7 %).
The imports and exports of goods of the EU and Switzerland indexed at 100 in 2009 for the period to 2019 are shown in Figure 4. It also shows the cover ratio (exports / imports) for this period. Exports from the EU were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2019 (180). Imports to the EU were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2019 (163). The cover ratio for the EU was lowest in 2011 (97 %) and highest in 2016 (116 %) and was 110 % in 2019. Exports from Switzerland were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2013 (207) and were 182 in 2019. Imports to Switzerland were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2013 (207) and were 179 in 2019. The cover ratio for Switzerland was lowest in 2012 (106 %) and highest in 2015 (115 %) and was 113 % in 2019.
Both exports to and imports from Switzerland increased between 2010 and 2020.
The position of Switzerland among the largest trade partners of the EU in 2020 can be seen in Figure 5. In 2020, Switzerland was the fourth largest partner for EU exports of goods (7.4 %). It was preceded by the United States (18.3 %), the United Kingdom (14.4 %) and China (10.5 %) and followed by Russia (4.1 %). It was also the fourth largest partner for EU imports of goods (6.3 %), preceded by China (22.4 %), the United States (11.8 %) and the United Kingdom (9.8 %) and followed by Russia (5.6 %).
Figure 6 shows the exports, imports and trade balance between the EU and Switzerland from 2010 to 2020. In 2010, the EU had a trade surplus with Switzerland of EUR 21 billion. The trade surplus remained throughout the whole period, reaching EUR 34 billion in 2020. Both exports to and imports from Switzerland increased between 2010 and 2020. EU exports to Switzerland were highest in 2019 (EUR 147 billion) and lowest in 2010 (EUR 99 billion). EU imports from Switzerland were highest in 2019 (EUR 110 billion) and lowest in 2010 (EUR 78 billion).
EU-Switzerland trade by type of goods
The breakdown of EU trade with Switzerland by SITC groups is shown in Figure 7. The red shades denote the primary products: food & drink, raw materials and energy, while the blue shades show the manufactured goods: chemicals, machinery & vehicles and other manufactured goods. Finally, other goods are shown in green. In 2020, EU exports of manufactured goods (83 %) had a higher share than primary goods (10 %). The most exported manufactured goods were other manufactured products (32 %), followed by chemicals (27 %) and machinery & vehicles (24 %). In 2020, EU imports of manufactured goods (84 %) also had a higher share than primary goods (6 %). The most imported manufactured goods were chemicals (47 %), followed by other manufactured products (22 %) and machinery & vehicles (15 %).
Figure 8 shows the evolution of EU imports and exports by SITC group since 2010. In 2020, the EU had trade surpluses in other manufactured products (EUR 21.3 billion), machinery & vehicles (EUR 17.7 billion), food & drink (EUR 4.0 billion), energy (EUR 2.8 billion), raw materials (EUR 0.7 billion) and other products (EUR 0.1 billion). The EU had a trade deficit in chemicals (EUR 12.8 billion).
EU-Switzerland most traded goods
More detail about the goods exchanged between the EU and Switzerland is given in Figure 9, showing the 20 most traded goods at SITC-3 level. These top 20 goods covered 56 % of total trade in goods in 2020. Ten belonged to other manufactured products, four to machinery and vehicles, three to chemicals, two to other products and one to energy. The most traded product group at this level was medicaments. Another interesting way to look at the data is to investigate the cover ratio (exports / imports) of traded goods, showing the direction of the trade flows between the two economies. These ratios can be found in the right-hand margin of Figure 9. Five products were below 50 %, indicating EU imports from Switzerland were more than twice as large as EU exports to Switzerland. Six products were above 200 %, indicating EU exports to Switzerland were more than twice as large as EU imports from Switzerland. Nine products were between 50 % and 200 %, showing more balanced trade.
Trade with Switzerland by Member State
Table 1a shows the imports of goods from Switzerland by Member State. The three largest importers from Switzerland in the EU were Germany (EUR 41 171 million), France (EUR 14 385 million) and Italy (EUR 9 519 million). Slovenia (25.7 %) had the highest share for Switzerland in its extra-EU imports.
Table 1b shows the exports of goods to Switzerland by Member State. The three largest exporters to Switzerland in the EU were Germany (EUR 56 267 million), Italy (EUR 25 231 million) and France (EUR 14 411 million). Slovenia (31.6 %) had the highest share for Switzerland in its extra-EU exports.
The trade in goods balance between the EU Member States and Switzerland is shown in Table 1c. It shows that 17 Member States had a trade surplus with Switzerland. The largest surplus was held by Italy (EUR 15 713 million), followed by Germany (EUR 15 096 million) and Poland (EUR 1 632 million). There were ten Member States that had a trade deficit with Switzerland. The largest deficit was held by Belgium (EUR 3 433 million), followed by Ireland (EUR 383 million) and Romania (EUR 378 million).
Source data for tables and graphs
EU data is taken from Eurostat's COMEXT database. COMEXT is the reference database for international trade in goods. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated via the Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process.
Data are collected by the competent national authorities of the Member States and compiled according to a harmonised methodology established by EU regulations before transmission to Eurostat. For extra-EU trade, the statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of customs declarations.
EU data are compiled according to Community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 27 EU Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it.
The United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU-27 for the whole period covered by this article. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period (31 December 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. Consequently, while imports from any other extra-EU-27 trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect the country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU-27 from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason, data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU-27 trade partners.
Data for the non-EU-27 countries used in figures 1-3 are taken from the UNCTAD database of the United Nations. For the calculation of shares, the world trade is defined as the sum of EU trade with non-EU countries (source: Eurostat) plus the international trade of non-EU countries (source: UNCTAD).
According to the EU concepts and definitions, extra-EU trade statistics (trade between EU Member States and non-EU countries) do not record exchanges involving goods in transit, placed in a customs warehouse or given temporary admission (for trade fairs, temporary exhibitions, tests, etc.). This is known as ‘special trade’. The partner is the country of final destination of the goods for exports and the country of origin for imports.
Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC). A full description is available from Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.
Unit of measure
Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (1 000 millions) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in the event of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting country. It is called a FOB value (free on board) for exports and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports.
Trade is an important indicator of Europe’s prosperity and place in the world. The bloc is deeply integrated into global markets both for the products it sources and the exports it sells. The EU trade policy is one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.
Because the 27 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively, both in the World Trade Organization, where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trading partners. This common policy enables them to speak with one voice in trade negotiations, maximising their impact in such negotiations. This is even more important in a globalised world in which economies tend to cluster together in regional groups.
The openness of the EU’s trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with. Thanks to the ease of modern transport and communications, it is now easier to produce, buy and sell goods around the world which gives European companies of every size the potential to trade outside Europe.
- International trade in goods (t_ext_go), see:
- International trade in goods - long-term indicators (t_ext_go_lti)
- International trade in goods - short-term indicators (t_ext_go_sti)
- International trade in goods (ext_go), see:
- International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
- International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)
- International trade in goods - short-term indicators (ext_go_sti)
- International trade in goods - detailed data (detail)
- EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS-018995)
- International trade in goods statistics - background
- International trade in goods (ESMS metadata file — ext_go_esms)
- User guide on European statistics on international trade in goods