Famous for its neutrality and consensus culture, Switzerland is a federal state with three political tiers: the Confederation, the cantons and the communes.
As a result of a gradual integration process throughout its history, it has retained three distinct geographic and cultural regions which respectively speak French, German and Italian.
In fact, there are four official languages: German, the main language for 63% of the population, French (22.7%), Italian (8.1%) and Romansch (0.5%).
Switzerland enjoys a stable economic climate. It has one of the highest levels of purchasing power in the world and top-ranking competitiveness, boosted by a huge capacity for innovation. For the last seven years, it has come first in the Global Innovation Index of the world’s most innovative countries. Investment in R&D is aligned with the export sectors, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals and information and communications technology (ICT).
Switzerland is also recognised for its efficient administrative procedures, a clear and stable regulatory environment, a high-performing education system and a flexible labour market.
Switzerland’s vital exports
With a 2.6% growth rate, Switzerland’s GDP reached €581 billion in 2018. The country also boasts low rates of inflation and unemployment (0.94% and 2.6% respectively in 2018).
With such a small domestic population, trade is focused primarily on export markets. Exports account for 33% of GDP, i.e. €268 billion, with a trade surplus of €27 billion.
SMEs with fewer than 250 employees account for 99% of businesses.
Services generate almost 74% of GDP, industry 25% and agriculture less than 1%.
The most buoyant sectors are:
• Mechanical, electrical and metals industry (MEM)
• Biotech and medtech
• Financial services
• Raw materials trade
• Information and communications technology (ICT).
French products in high demand
Switzerland is France’s 9th largest trade partner. More than 30,000 French companies export there each year.
French exports have increased significantly since 2010, reaching a record €16 billion in 2018. France’s trade surplus amounted to €1.3 billion.
Bilateral trade is particularly prevalent in the pharmaceutical, clocks & watches and jewellery sectors. Decorative arts & design, food production and construction are also vibrant sectors. French exports to Switzerland are high in the transport sector (automotive, aerospace, ship-building and floating structures).