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Free trade deals save Switzerland billions, study finds

The EU is Switzerland's main trading partner. Around 78% of Swiss imports are from the EU, while 43% of Swiss exports are destined for EU countries. Keystone / Steffen Schmidt

Swiss consumers and importers saved CHF2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) in 2018 thanks to lower customs duties as part of free trade agreements, a study has revealed.

This content was published on August 11, 2020 - 16:27

A report commissioned by the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) found that Swiss firms had made good use of free trade accords.

“Free trade deals have enabled Swiss firms to improve their competitiveness on Swiss and international markets,” the study by the University of St Gallen concluded.

Some 73% of Swiss importers made use of free trade agreements, SECO said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, CHF1.8 billion was saved in customs duties via exports to free trade partner countries.

The small Alpine nation in the centre of Europe has concluded some 30 free trade agreements with 40 partner countries, including a deal with the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA).

The EU is Switzerland's main trading partner. Around 78% of Swiss imports are from the EU, while 43% of Swiss exports are destined for EU countries. Switzerland’s main exports are chemical and pharmaceutical products, machinery, electronics and watches. Raw materials, food, vegetable oils and fuel account for about one-quarter of total imports.

“As a highly developed economy, with a relatively small interior market, Switzerland is closely linked to international value chains,” the study said. “It is reliant on access to foreign markets both for imports and for exports”.

The study follows a request from a parliamentary committee to evaluate the impact of free trade accords. SECO said the analysis would be used by the government to help create a better framework for Swiss exporters, to reduce international trading costs and to combat high prices in Switzerland.

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