Swiss SMEs weather global trade turbulence

Containers are unloaded from a cargo ship at Basel © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Switzerland have generally experienced only minor problems due to the rise in protectionism, trade barriers and global economic uncertainties, a Credit Suisse survey has found. 

This content was published on August 27, 2019 - 11:40
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Almost one in three (29%) Swiss SMEs said trade barriers and customs obstacles represented a major or very major challenge. But 40% perceived no problems or only a minor challenge.

So far, Swiss SMEs have barely been affected by the rise in protectionism since 2016 and escalating global trade conflicts, the study of 560 SME exporters found. 

Compared with five years ago, the situation has deteriorated for only 23% of respondents, whereas around half have perceived no change.

To overcome trade obstacles, most Swiss SMEs (63%) support collaborating more closely with external partners or existing local networks, while 60% want to see a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Trade conflict weapons 

Meanwhile, 56% of those surveyed expressed support for the draft framework agreement which has been negotiated between Switzerland and the EU to oversee future ties but which has not yet been concluded.

In the escalating global trade conflicts, the principal weapon is conventional customs tariffs, Credit Suisse revealed, but this affects just under half of Swiss SMEs. However, various non-tariff trade obstacles pose more of a problem. These include customs procedures and the need to provide conformity assessments and proof of origin.

The biggest restrictions, SMEs said, were the price of the service/product offered by companies and prevailing exchange rates, both ranked ahead of tariff-based and non-tariff obstacles.

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