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Foreign trade booms

Freight forwarders were busy shipping Swiss goods abroad

(Keystone)

Swiss imports and exports rose strongly over the first nine months of the year, recording double-digit growth and a trade surplus of SFr10 billion ($8.5 billion).

Exports soared by 12.4 per cent to SFr146 billion ($125 billion), while imports rose by 11.9 per cent to SFr133.5 billion on the back of a healthy economy and weak Swiss franc, the customs office reported on Thursday.

Switzerland's SFr10 billion trade balance was 20 per cent higher than for the same period a year earlier. And owing to a stronger rise in prices towards the end of 2007, terms of trade improved.

The customs office said a new record was also set in September when a trade surplus of SFr1.798 billion was registered.

All export sectors enjoyed an increase in turnover, with well over half showing double-digit growth. The food, drinks and tobacco industries led the way with a 22.9 per cent increase in sales abroad.

The metal industry (18.2 per cent) also "excelled", according to the customs office, while plastics (+13.6 per cent), machine and electronics (+12.2 per cent) and chemicals (+11.4 per cent) showed moderate increases.

The pharmaceutical industry, Switzerland's leading export sector, recorded double-digit growth to SFr4 billion. While agrochemical products sold well (+27.8 per cent), the telecommunications sector suffered badly (-28.4 per cent), by comparison.

The watch industry is also surfing on a wave of success. Total watch exports rose to SFr1.3 billion, a 16.3 per cent increase on the same period for 2006, with luxury watches much in demand. Hong Kong (SFr216 million) was the biggest sales market, followed by the US (SFr192.3 million) and Japan (SFr104.5 million).

The main export destinations were emerging countries (+23.4 per cent) and the European Union (+13.1%), compared with (+4.2%) for industrial countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan.

With regards to imports, all sectors saw double-digit growth except for the energy sector.

Arms exports

Also on Thursday, the Federal Customs Office announced that arms exports had increased by a quarter over the first nine months of 2007 to SFr335 million, compared with the same period in 2006.

Germany (SFr48.3 million), Ireland (SFr35 million) and the US (SFr34.8 million) were the biggest importers.

But the Swiss arms industry has come under fire again. Last month, the country's leading pacifist organisation, Switzerland without an Army, backed by a broad coalition of peace and leftwing groups handed in enough signatures to force a nationwide vote on a comprehensive ban.

The aim is to outlaw the export and transfer of all military material, including technology, that can be used for the development, production and use of weapons.

A similar proposal in 1997 was rejected at the ballot box by more than three-quarters of voters.

Afghanistan and Iraq

In a separate development, the Swiss cabinet has given the green light to the planned sale of 31 Swiss-made armoured vehicles to Romania, which had aroused criticism because they are earmarked for deployment in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

Under Swiss law the government cannot sell war material to countries involved in conflict.

"The Iraq and Afghanistan crises are not conflicts between states but operations to re-establish and maintain social and state order. The deployment of Romanian troops and war material does not take place in the context of a war but following resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council," the government stated.

swissinfo with agencies

Economic outlook - comparison

State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco): 2.3% (2007); 1.9% (2008).

Swiss National Bank: 2.5% (2007); 2% (2008).

KOF Swiss Economic Institute: 2.8% (2007); 1.9% (2008); 2.0% (2009).

BAK Basel Economics: 2.7% (2007); 2.3% (2008).

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