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Swiss exports hit new quarterly record

Swiss exports matched and surpassed their recent growth, with pharmaceuticals leading the charge.

Swiss exports hit new quarterly record
Swiss exports are flying high. Photo: bayberry/Depositphotos

Swiss exports for the second quarter of 2018 totalled 55.7 billion francs (€47.8 billion), a new quarterly record, states a communication from the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. 

Pharmaceuticals, machinery, precision instruments and watchmaking were some of the sectors that registered new heights, thanks in part to record exports to China, the USA and Germany.

Other sectors that registered positive growth were jewellery, cars, food, beverages and tobacco. Swatch, the world's largest watchmaker, announced record sales in the USA for 2018. 

“Consumer demand, particularly from millennials, for authentic innovative brand products is greatly increasing on a worldwide scale, regardless of region or price segment,” Swatch said in a statement.

But pharmaceuticals were the driving force behind the surge in exports, representing 42 per cent of the global growth. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis saw its net profit in the second quarter rise to $7.8 billion (€6.7 billion), as net sales jumped nine percent to $13.2 billion (€11.33 billion). 

Asia was the key market behind the growth in exports, but the USA and Europe also proved to be fertile ground for Swiss products. Swiss exports to Germany were on a record high (+4.5 per cent), but some sectors also registered substantial growth in other EU markets.

Swiss jewellery firms in France, for example, reported an increase of 598 million francs (€513 million) in the second quarter of 2018. 

While exports continued to hit new record highs for the fifth quarter in a row, imports declined, due primarily to a 51 per cent reduction in the import of aeronautical vehicles, communicated the customs administration. 

The value of Swiss exports has grown by 4.8 billion Swiss francs (€4.1 billion) since the first quarter of 2017. The 2018 second quarter trade balance surplus was 4.58 billion Swiss francs (€3.9 billion), an increase of 1.4% in seasonally adjusted terms. 

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

With the cost of living soaring due to inflation, many consumers in Switzerland are looking for ways to save money. Could buying goods abroad through foreign websites be a good solution?

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

With the Swiss franc still stronger than the euro, ordering your products online from European distributors could indeed be cheaper than paying Swiss prices.

A recent report by the RTS public broadcaster, found that even some Swiss products are cheaper when purchased abroad — for instance, capsules for Nespresso coffee machines cost less on the company’s German site than they do in Switzerland.

This applies to a variety of products, ranging from food and beverages to clothing.

In fact, shopping on foreign platforms became a lot easier for the Swiss in January 2022, when ‘geoblocking’ — the practice that restricts access to Internet content based on the user’s geographical location — was banned in Switzerland.

This means Swiss customers are no longer denied the possibility of buying on foreign shopping platforms.

However, there are things to consider before you go on a shopping spree “abroad”, such as additional charges.

While something may appear to be a really great deal in comparison to Swiss prices, keep in mind that the purchase may be subject to customs duties.

According to the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (BAZG) “the customs duties are generally calculated according to the gross weight (including packaging), and are often less than 1 franc per kilo. Particularly alcoholic beverages, tobacco goods, foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery items are subject to higher customs duties”.

In other words, before you order something that you think is a really good deal, find out if any additional charges will be due; depending on the amount, the final cost may not make it worthwhile for you to purchase abroad.

The good news is that, as BAZG points out, goods ordered from “countries with which Switzerland has concluded a free trade agreement or from developing countries can usually be imported duty-free or at reduced rates”.

You can find out more information about which countries are included, here.

But you could face other problems as well.

As the RTS reported, while ordering items abroad is easy, having them delivered to Switzerland may not be.

As a test, the RTS team tried to order common products, such an Ikea piece of furniture, a vacuum cleaner, and brand-name sneakers — all of which are more affordable abroad — but discovered that “it was impossible to get these objects delivered to Switzerland”.

That’s because on some shopping platforms a customer can’t change the destination country — it is embedded on the site and blocked.

At some of these  merchants, “the customer is even directly redirected to the Swiss site if an address in Switzerland is indicated”, RTS said. This means you will end up paying Swiss prices.

Sophie Michaud Gigon, general secretary of the consumer protection association FRC, told RTS that some foreign sites have not yet adapted to the law prohibitng geoblocking.

And there is something else too that you should pay attention to online.

Say you prefer to avoid foreign sites and shop in Switzerland instead. This could be a problem as well.

Under the Swiss law, it is possible to obtain a domain name ending in .ch, even though these companies are  located abroad. This has proven to be misleading to many Switzerland-based customers.

That’s why many clients who believe they are ordering from a supplier in Switzerland are actually buying from a foreign company — a fact that they only discover when they have to pay customs duty.

The only way to avoid this trap, according to FRC, is to call the number on the company’s website and ask where they are located.

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