Exporting: Germany, the US, and other important countries

Exporting to mature markets. Five key countries at a glance.

Switzerland is an exporting country. A majority of exports go to Germany, closely followed by the US. France, Canada, and Japan also offer great potential. Discover how exports to these countries have developed and what you should be aware of when exporting.

Swiss exports are showing strong growth

Swiss exports have risen sharply over the last 20 years. Last year, Switzerland exported CHF 233 billion worth of goods; in 1998 that figure stood at only CHF 109 billion. Most exports go to Germany, followed by the US, then France. Canada and Japan accept a significantly smaller portion of Swiss exports. However, even these two countries are likely to be important in the future. Canada boasts a high growth momentum, and Japan is also important, especially for health-related and luxury goods.

Export growth 1998–2018

Swiss exports by destination

Source: Swiss Federal Customs Administration, Credit Suisse 

Exporting to Germany is crucial for Switzerland

Germany is Switzerland's most important trading partner by a wide margin. As such, it deserves considerable attention. One-fifth of all Swiss exports go to our northern neighbor. Germany is particularly important for the machinery, electronics, and metals industries (MEM industries), which deliver parts for the auto industry. Currently, the German automotive industry is experiencing a lull. Nevertheless, Swiss exports should continue to grow in the coming years.

It should be noted, however, that exporting to Germany comes with great competitive pressure. Swiss exporters must position themselves clearly and be able to demonstrate a unique selling proposition. There is a demand for innovative products that take both digitalization and the growing desire for sustainability into account.

Exports to the US are experiencing above-average growth

Not only does the US accept the second largest amount of Swiss exports of any country, export revenues to the US have risen significantly over the last 20 years – by more than 6% annually. As a result, the US was a key driver of growth for Swiss trade in previous years. Even though goods from the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries make up two-thirds of exports to the United States, the US is important for other Swiss industries as well.

However, as with Germany, exporting to the US comes with great competitive pressure. In addition, the United States represent a huge market. This means opportunities, but also risks. Swiss exporters need to conduct an in-depth market and client analysis.

Exports to France are in decline

France comes in third place (just ahead of Italy) in Swiss export statistics, but when compared to Germany, only one-third as much is exported there. Our western neighbor is still important, however, especially for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Still, exports have been in decline ever since the economic crisis ten years ago. Even in coming years, the French industrial sector is unlikely to experience a return to growth.

However, niches for new products can still be found. In addition to a tailored business strategy, a good pricing strategy is also important: "Swiss-made" products are valued, but price is a deciding factor too.

Exports to Canada demonstrate real potential

With an export volume of CHF 3.7 billion, Canada ranks fourteenth in the list of Switzerland's most important export partners. However, during the last 20 years, exports grew 7.5% on average annually. The country is likely to continue to grow in importance. Two-thirds of exports to Canada are from the pharmaceutical industry. These exports have grown significantly in recent years. Even exports of medical technology devices, watches, and automotive components are growing.

However, given its economic size, Switzerland has so far exported relatively little to Canada and so there is still considerable potential for growth for Swiss exporters.

Exports to Japan are characterized by an aging population

Japan is the world's third-largest economy as measured by gross domestic product. However, Japanese economic growth is stalling due to an aging population. The growth of Swiss exports to Japan is also slowing, yet, in recent years Swiss exports have been relatively strong.

The aging of the Japanese population offers opportunities, especially for the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries. These two industries account for half of Swiss exports, though luxury goods like watches and products from the MEM industry, are in demand.

Would you like to receive support in exporting to mature markets?

Schedule an appointment This link target opens in a new window
We would be more than happy to help. Call us at +41 (0)800 88 88 71.