Exporting guide to Switzerland

Overview

An innovative country at the heart of Europe, Switzerland has a stable and reliable business, legal and regulatory environment. It is one of the UK’s closest trading partners. British companies of all sizes are trading there, and UK investment is particularly substantial in the services and manufacturing sectors.

Trade statistics

£23.4 billion total UK exports to Switzerland for the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022)

7th largest UK export market

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022)

3.6% of total UK exports for the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022)

Leader in innovation

Switzerland is number one in the Global Innovation Index. If you have a high-tech product or service to offer, you should find Switzerland a receptive market.

High purchasing power

Swiss consumers have some of the highest spending power in the world, and the country is an excellent test market for products and services.

Close relationship with the UK

Switzerland is among the UK’s most important science and innovation partners. English is widely spoken and the 2 countries are well connected, with flight times under 2 hours.

Top five UK goods exported to Switzerland, in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

Goods Value (£billion)
Unspecified goods 4.4
Non-ferrous metals 1.3
Medicinal & pharmaceutical products 0.7
Works of art 0.6
Jewellery 0.4

Source: ONS Trade in goods: country-by-commodity exports
Last updated: July 2022
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for Switzerland.

Top five UK services exported to Switzerland, in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

Service Value (£billion)
Other Business Services 6.7
Financial 1.9
Transportation 1.1
Telecommunications, computer and information services 0.9
Intellectual property 0.8

Source: ONS UK trade in services: service type by partner country, non-seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for Switzerland.

Switzerland: at a glance

Economic growth

3.7%

Actual figure (IMF, 2021)
The UK is 7.4% (IMF, 2021, projected figure)

GDP per capita

$87,351

Actual figure (IMF, 2020)
The UK is $41,127 (IMF, 2020, projected figure)

Currency

Swiss franc

Business language

German, French, Italian, English

You may need a translator

Time zone

GMT +1

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Opportunities for exporters

Switzerland is the UK’s eighth largest export market (ONS, 2018). There are excellent opportunities for companies with high-quality products that are looking for long term relationships. Strong links exist between the two countries in financial and business services, pharmaceutical products, manufactured goods, IT and retail.

Check for trade barriers

Trade barriers, such as tariffs or taxes, can raise costs, cause delays, or even stop you from exporting. Check for any issues that may impact your business when exporting.

See current trade barriers

See resolved trade barriers

Check duties and customs

Find information on how to export goods from the UK. View the duties, rules, restrictions, and the documents you need for your products.

See current duties and customs procedures

Doing business in Switzerland

Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). To allow free trade with the EU, Swiss legislation has been adapted to EU law in several areas.

Preparing to export

VAT

In principle, VAT is levied on all imports of goods, even on consignments with ‘no value’. The normal tax rate is 7.7%. The rate for some basic necessities such as food is 2.5%.

The ‘destination country principle’ applies to VAT in Switzerland, where VAT is called Mehrwertsteuer (MwSt), taxe sur la valeur ajoutée (TVA) or imposta sul valore aggiunto (IVA). Goods to be exported are exempt from local tax in their country of origin, but are subject to VAT in Switzerland, making it in effect an import tax.

Product standards

Switzerland has different product safety requirements from the EU.

Products must:

  • meet relevant safety standards
  • have clear instructions for proper use
  • include warnings against possible misuse

You should adapt any documentation associated with your products to one or more of Switzerland’s 4 main languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh).

Product labelling

Product labelling needs to comply with Swiss law. However, the information required and the way it needs to be displayed depends on the product and the position of the supplier in the supply chain. Contact our team in Switzerland for advice.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and rights granted in the UK do not provide protection elsewhere. You should consider getting IP protection abroad if you want to trade overseas or sell to overseas customers via the internet.

The Intellectual Property Office provides practical information to help you protect, manage and enforce your IP abroad. Further support for British businesses can be found through a network of IP attachés, based in key UK export markets.

Services regulations

Information on rules for selling services and business travel to Switzerland is available on gov.uk.

Trade barriers

Check for any reported barriers to trading with Switzerland.

Report any trade barriers that are affecting your business so we can help fix them.

Operating in Switzerland

Payment terms

Switzerland, through the EFTA, is a party to the EU Late Payment Directive (2011/7/EU). The Directive requires businesses to pay their invoices within 60 days, unless a longer payment term is expressly agreed in the contract, and provided that the payment term is not grossly unfair to the creditor.

Business behaviour

In Switzerland, the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is certainly true. This is a demanding, complex market, with 4 national languages and subtly different business cultures. It’s useful to know how the local cantonal system works and how to access decision makers.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.