Due to the pandemic, 2020 was a difficult year for Swiss exports. However, the first positive trends were on the horizon at the end of the year. These trends were confirmed in 2021. Exports increased by 15.2% and imports by 10%. Switzerland reached a new record, even compared to pre-pandemic figures, with a total export volume of 259.5 billion francs.
The United States is now the number one market for Swiss exports
Germany had been the main outlet for Swiss exports since 1954. In 2021, it was dethroned by the United States, which became the leading buyer of goods, with an 18.8% increase in exports. Exports to China also reached new heights. The next few years we will say if these changes are temporary or will last. Overall, it is very pleasing to see that all economic regions that are important for Switzerland (Europe, North America and Asia) developed positively in 2021.
All sectors are on the rise
If, in 2020, only exports of the chemical and pharmaceutical sector experienced a positive development, all branches were able to achieve good results in 2021. The watch industry recorded a new annual record with an increase in its third-party exports. Similarly, after two bad years, exports by the MEM industry rose by one tenth respectively for machinery, appliances and electronics and by one fifth for metals. However, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, and in particular immunological products, remain the main drivers of foreign trade. Only jewelery and jewelery exports are still below their pre-pandemic level.
As far as imports are concerned, it is worth mentioning, first of all, the new record recorded by imports of foodstuffs, alcohol and tobacco. Imports of jewellery, jewelery and vehicles have also increased, but remain clearly below their pre-pandemic level. As the volume of imports is generally lower than that of exports, the trade balance surplus increased to CHF 58.7 billion in 2021.
Setting milestones for the future
The foreign trade figures for 2021 are extremely encouraging. However, economic, political and health uncertainties remain significant. Supply difficulties and geopolitical tensions continue to disrupt international trade. For the Swiss economy, which is export-oriented and highly integrated globally, it is important that national policy creates favorable and sustainable framework conditions for Switzerland as a business location.