Trade surplus reaches new heights

On the rise again: Switzerland has managed to increase its exports yet again Keystone

Swiss foreign trade registered a new record surplus of SFr24.4 billion ($26.8 billion) for 2012 despite the gloomy global economy and strong franc, relying largely just on the watchmaking, chemical and food sectors for the positive result.

This content was published on February 5, 2013 minutes and agencies

The past year saw slight annual increases for both exports and imports according to figures released on Tuesday by the Federal Customs Administration.

Exports totaled SFr200.9 billion, up 1.5 per cent while imports reached 176.5 billion, up 1.2 per cent. Sales abroad from July onwards helped compensate for a slow start to the year and arrest a downward trend seen in the second quarter.

Volatility in the eurozone eased in the second half of 2012 after a turbulent start to the year, thus reducing pressure on the franc.

Watchmaking was once again the main winner in terms of gains, with an impressive 11 per cent increase in exports, although not matching the nearly 20 per cent recorded in 2011. Altogether, Switzerland’s watchmakers managed to sell SFr21.4 billion in merchandise abroad.

On Monday, the Swatch Group - Switzerland’s most successful watch brand -announced a SFr1 billion increase in sales in 2012 to SFr8.1 billion.

The chemical and pharmaceutical industry managed to turn around after a difficult 2011, increasing its exports by 5.8 per cent to nearly SFr79 billion last year. The food and beverage sector also picked up 3.4 per cent to reach almost SFr7.7 billion in sales abroad.

Precision instrument exports stagnated in 2012, but all the other main sectors, including textile, machines and electronics as well as paper saw their figures decline up to 13 per cent during the year.

Export numbers were boosted by demand from the United States - up 12 per cent - Canada and Latin America. But sales of Swiss merchandise fell one per cent in the European Union, while two other major markets, China and India, were down at least ten per cent.

The performance of emerging markets as a whole dipped in 2012 as economic growth fell from its previous stellar heights.

Increased imports

The biggest increase in imports to Switzerland was for energy products, which rose 13.1 per cent to nearly SFr17.5 billion. Consumer products, the biggest import sector, reached SFr78 billion, a 3.1-per-cent increase over 2011.

Car sales rose one per cent, reaching over SFr10 billion for the second straight year. Around 413,000 new cars, another record, hit the road last year.

So-called capital goods fell SFr600 million to SFr40.2 billion, with purchases of production machinery notably dropping by a tenth. Demand for raw and semi-finished products was also down, largely due to smaller imports of metals.

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