Swiss Trade in 2016 with a focus on clothing, textiles, footwear and textile machinery

Swiss Trade in 2016 with a focus on clothing, textiles, footwear and textile machinery

Following a decline the previous year, Swiss foreign trade grew again in 2016, with chemicals and pharmaceuticals shaping the trend. Exports climbed by a total of 3.8% (real: -0.8%) to a record high of CHF 210.7 billion. However, the two other large groups – machinery and electronics, and watches – were unable to participate in the growth. Imports increased by 4.1% (real: +1.2%) to CHF 173.2 billion. The trade surplus reached a new peak of CHF 37.5 billion

Trade 1

Exports rose by 3.8% (real: -0.8%) to CHF 210.7 billion in 2016 to reach a new all-time high. However, the result was largely influenced by pharmaceuticals and their price trend. Exports strengthened from quarter to quarter, but then dropped in the fourth quarter of 2016. Imports rose by 4.1% (real: +1.2%) to CHF 173.2 billion, but they nevertheless remained CHF 13.7 billion below the record high of 2008. Imports lost significant momentum from the second half of 2016 onwards.

Trade 2

Seven product groups posted an export increase in 2016. However, chemicals and pharmaceuticals significantly outstripped the other groups with growth of +11%, or CHF 9.7 billion, and thereby achieved a new record level of sales. Meanwhile, deliveries of machinery and electronics, the second-largest group, stagnated; that group’s sales have not grown since 2011. Exports of watches fell by a tenth, or CHF 2.1 billion.


In the case of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, shipments of medicinal products rose by 19 % (up CHF 6.1 billion) and those of pharmaceutical active principles were up by 15 %, or CHF 1.8 billion. Exports of immunological products likewise grew by CHF 1.9 billion, or 8 %. The increase in the textiles, clothing and shoes segment stemmed exclusively from returns. Exports of precision instruments, food, beverages and tobacco, and metals increased by between 2% and 4%. Although machinery and electronics declined overall, exports of non- electrical engines rose by 9% and those for the paper and graphic industry were up by 6%.

Table 3

Geographically, the additional sales were concentrated in North America (+13 %; USA at new high; up CHF 4 billion) and Europe (+3 %; EU: +4 %), with Germany (up CHF 3 billion) and Belgium (up CHF 602 million) in particular posting a striking performance. In contrast, deliveries to the United Kingdom were down, as were those to Italy, which reached its lowest level since 2003. Exports to Asia stagnated overall. Additional deliveries to Japan (up CHF 928 million) and China (up CHF 889 million) – both at all-time highs – stood against lower exports to Hong Kong (down CHF 892 million; watches) and Saudi Arabia (down CHF 496 million; aircraft). Exports to Latin America declined by a total of 5 %.

Table 4

The Textiles and Clothing, Footwear situation

Swiss textiles, clothing and footwear in exports showed in 2016 a plus of CHF 315 million to CHF 3466 million against 2015 or in nominal terms a plus of 10 % and in real terms a plus of 8 %. In the fourth quarter total exports of this group amounted to CHF 994 million, a plus of CHF 170 million or + 20.6 % in nominal and + 11.1 % in real terms. Working days corrected the plus was CHF 182 million against 2015 resulting in a nominal plus of 22.6 % and a real plus of 12.9 %.

Swiss total imports of these three categories amounted in 2016 to CHF 9513 million or a plus of CHF 687 million or nominally plus 7.8 % and in real terms + 2.2 % against 2015.

Clothing imports amounted to CHF 5853 million, a plus of CHF 464 million or nominally + 8.6 % and in real terms + 4.1 %.

Textile imports settled at CHF 1944 million or plus CHF 30 million, nominally + 1.6 % and in real terms -0.2 %.

Footwear imports were CHJF 1716 million or a plus of CHF 193 million resulting in nominally + 12.7 % and in real terms -1.2 %.

Textile Machinery

Total textile machinery exports amounted to CHF 908 million for 2016, this is CHF 156 million less than 2015 or nominally -14.7 % and in real terms – 11.4 %. In December 2016 textile machinery was exported in the amount of CHF 74 million, or CHF 3 million less than 2015, nominally this was -3.9% and in real terms 8.3 %, working days adjusted it was plus CHF 1 million, nmominally +0.8 % and in real terms +13.7 %. In the fourth quarter of 2016 the total amount was CHF 235 million or CHF 23 million less than 2015 in nominal terms -8.9 % and in real terms+7.0 %, working days adjusted  less CHF 18 million, nominally – 7.2 % and in real terms +9.0 %

All figures are based upon the latest data from Swiss Custom Authorities.

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