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2019 outlook Swiss small businesses sound optimistic note for exports

A worker rebuilds a coffee grinder in a factory.

A worker assembles a coffee grinder at Schaetti, the holding company of Olympia Express, in Schwanden, Switzerland


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Switzerland are optimistic about export business at the start of 2019, a new survey has found, with over half expecting foreign sales to grow during the year. 

“The export climate will remain favourable for Swiss SMEs in 2019,” wrote the authors of a Switzerland Global Enterprise and Credit Suisse survey published on Thursdayexternal link

The report said 56% of companies which had been surveyed expected exports to grow in the first quarter of 2019 and 77% expected an increase in exports during the year. 

Their export barometer pointed to an optimistic mood among Swiss SMEs and a “return to normality”, but the record year of 2018 is “unlikely to be repeated”, it added. 

Asia growth 

The fastest-growing export markets are in Asia, with India representing the most attractive market, followed by the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. 

Credit Suisse economist Sascha Jucker noted: "The return to average long-term growth rates and so to normal service means that foreign demand for Swiss products remains solid.” 

Alberto Silini, head of consultancy at Switzerland Global Enterprise, added that there was potential for growth both in emerging markets and the industrialised countries. 

He said: “A free trade agreement between Switzerland and the Philippines entered into force last year, opening the door a little further to a country of 100 million inhabitants, thanks in particular to the elimination of customs duties on almost all industrial products. But mature markets such as the United States and Europe also represent growth potential.” 

US-China dispute 

Germany remains the largest customer for Swiss exports: 83% of SMEs plan to trade with Germany, compared with 70% for France, 61% for the United States and 58% for China. 

However, the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing is a “Damocles sword” for Swiss exporters. 

“A slowdown in trade between the two economic superpowers would probably slow world trade and indirectly affect Switzerland,” the authors warned.

Future relations As Chinese economy slows, Swiss seek greater access

Presence of China’s vice president at WEF comes at a time of slowing economic growth at home and growing scrutiny of Chinese investments abroad.

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