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Exports continue to drive economic recovery

Hong Kong and China are increasingly important trading partners for Switzerland Keystone

The Swiss Customs Office says exports grew significantly in August, rising by 19 per cent to more than SFr10 billion ($8 billion).

All sectors benefited from the growth, but exports to China and Russia and watch exports to the United States were particularly strong.

“In terms of exports, sector-wise the metal and watch industry, the chemical industry as well as the food and consumer goods industry shone with gains of over ten per cent,” the Customs Office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Exports to countries whose economies are in transition, led by China and Russia, rose by 30.5 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The Swiss watch industry exported SFr755 million in goods – a 25 per cent increase on July. Watch exports to the US were up more than 30 per cent at SFr130 million.

Sales of Swiss cheese and chocolate also showed a significant rise.

Trade surplus

Overall, Switzerland had a trade surplus in August of SFr189.4 million.

“These are good figures. It’s just strong across the board and as such should be good news,” said analyst Reto Huenerwadel of the bank UBS. “One can expect a healthy yearly growth rate.”

The Customs Office described growth in the first eight months of the year as “robust”.

Between January and August, the value of exports grew by more than ten per cent, and there was a 6.4 per cent increase in volume.

“The figures are surprisingly good since growth was not so strong in the previous months, however it is too early to say whether this represents a full recovery,” cautioned Frank Schmidbauer, economist at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

“The strong growth of exports to China certainly played an important role in the good result,” Schmidbauer told swissinfo.

“But exports to European Union countries also grew significantly, and this is a very positive development.”

The latest figures were welcome news for the Swiss machinery sector, which only last month said it was still in a recovery phase.

Swissmem, the umbrella organisation for the industry, is demanding more flexible labour practices, and has threatened to shift production abroad to increase productivity and become more competitive (see related story).


The value of imports rose over the first eight months of 2004 by 6.5 per cent.

Capital goods led imports in August by rising a real 25.7 per cent followed by more than 19 per cent for raw materials and semi-finished products destined for Switzerland’s engineering, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Not surprisingly, imports of parts for the Swiss watch industry also saw an above average rise.

Two-thirds of the increase in the value of imports was attributed to imports of medications and goods for the medical sector.

swissinfo with agencies

Compared with August 2003, exports grew last month by 19 per cent.
Imports increased by 19.5 per cent over the same period.
Switzerland had a trade surplus in August of SFr189.4 million ($150 million).

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR