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flag Switzerland Switzerland: Selling and Buying

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2001
Main International Economic Cooperation
Switzerland has a customs union with Liechtenstein in 1924. Switzerland is a member of European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Other members are Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway. Switzerland has signed bilateral agreements with the EU that guarantee many of the same economic advantages and lowered barriers to trade that EU members enjoy. The USA and Switzerland have formed a “Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum” to promote mutual trade. Switzerland also signed last February, 2009 a Free-Trade Agreement with Japan allowing the exemption of customs duties for 99 % of trade transactions between these two countries, within 10 years. Finally, Switzerland has signed free trade agreements with the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Albania.
Non Tariff Barriers
Switzerland has a strict policy for import of agricultural biotechnology products. It involves a lengthy approval process. Quotas exist for import of certain products (mainly food items) which vary from year to year vary from year to year depending upon the size of harvests, volume of stocks and market requirements. These quotas are granted only to importers based in Switzerland and they need an import license. Import licenses are also required for certain products not subject to quotas, but which are covered by special regulations concerned with public health, plant health, quarantine (plants), veterinary regulations; regulations concerning the protection of endangered species, safety measures, price control (for certain textile products).
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Swiss duties are generally "specific" rather than "ad valorem". Duty varies according to the item imported. For details, visit: Swiss Customs Office 

Customs Classification
Harmonized System (HS) is used.
Import Procedures
The goods to be imported into the country need to be presented to the appropriate Customs office and declared for customs clearance. The following time limits are followed for declaration of imported goods from arrival into the country by various means of transportation: road, 24 hours; river, 48 hours; rail, 7 days; and air, 7 days. The importer may examine goods before submitting them for clearance. However in reality, almost all commercial shipments are handled by forwarding companies, which, in most cases, also are legally empowered to act as Customs agents. For more details, visit: Swiss Customs Office.
Importing Samples
Goods that are used as and which qualify as samples are eligible for duty-free entry.  In order to qualify, words "sample, not for resale" should be written on the commercial invoice. 

The goods for display at public exhibitions are also eligible for free passage (Freipass) through Swiss customs. Certification from the trade fair authorities that the goods are entering Switzerland for the exhibition is usually required. Exhibition goods must be re-exported within a month of the end of the exhibition. If the goods are sold to a Swiss resident off the exhibition floor, the buyer incurs a liability for the customs charges. Almost all fairgrounds have a Customs office on site.

For Further Information
Federal Customs Administration
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs

Learn more about Traders, Agents in Switzerland on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing Opportunities

Consumer Behavior
Swiss consumers appreciate product quality and are ready to pay extra price for it, if convinced. However after-sales support is absolutely crucial in Switzerland. Swiss consumers like new & innovative products, but they stay loyal to the brand names that they know.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
Traditionally, Swiss appreciate quality and brand-value and are ready to pay a premium for it. However with economic conditions becoming harder, the price is becoming an important factor while selecting goods.
Both pre-sales and after-sales services are very important in this market. Selection of goods by Swiss consumers largely depends on how good the company is in providing such services.
Consumers Associations
FCAB , Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau
FRC , Fédération romande des consommateurs
Main Advertising Agencies
Advico Young & Rubicam
McCann-Erickson Switzerland
Euro RSCG Switzerland
GGK Basel

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
The distribution market in Switzerland is dominated by vertically integrated retailers. This allows them to have a centralized buying system in order to remain competitive when compared to independent retailers.

The number of independent retailers is thus decreasing, giving way to a growing number of discount stores and supermarkets. Most of the leading retailers are legally structured as cooperatives.

Market Shares
Department stores, chain stores, consumer cooperatives, discount stores and supermarkets comprise the majority of such retailers that deal in a wide range of products and services ranging from textiles, leather goods, sports articles, pharmaceuticals, toys, to hardware.
Organizations in the Retail Sector
Swiss Retailers Association (SRA)

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Federal Office of Transport

Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication

Port of Switzerland
The airport of Zurich
The airport of Geneva
The airport of Bern
The airport of Basel
Sea Transport Organizations
Federal Office of Transport
Air Transport Organizations
Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA).
Road Transport Organizations
Federal Roads Office (FEDRO)
Rail Transport Organizations
Federal Office of Transport

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
There are approximately 76,000 companies with around one million employees operating in the Swiss manufacturing sector. The sector contributes 42 % to the country’s total exports in terms of volume. Three industries namely mechanical, electrical and metal known in German by the abbreviation MEM play a central role in the Swiss economy.

The MEM industries, together with related fields such as information and communication technologies also develop high performing production facilities for numerous other industrial sectors, such as the agricultural, automobile, chemical-pharmaceutical, electronic, food and textile industries.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
Infonautics Directory of Switzerland - Directory of business and tourism in Switzerland.
Swiss Fashion Members - Directory of Swiss fabrics and clothing manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, importers, etc.
Swiss importers directory - Importers & distributors directory in Switzerland.
Wine and Spirit Members - Wine traders.
BusinessLink - Business directory of the Swiss industry.
MacRAE'S Blue Book - Business directory with detailed information of companies in Europe., L'Annuaire - Phone directory in Switzerland. - Directory of companies in Switzerland.
Swiss Firms - Find a company in Switzerland.
Swisstrade B2B Directory - Directory of Swiss export companies - Kompass B2B.
Wer liefert was? - Leading supplier search engine in B2B: manufacturers, service providers and distributors in Switzerland.
Yellow Pages Switzerland - Find a business in Switzerland.
Zefix - The commercial registers in Switzerland.
Manufacturers Associations of the Main Industries
57 professional associations listed for Switzerland.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Economie suisse (Swiss Federation of Commerce and Industry)
International Chamber of Commerce of Switzerland
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs
Enterprises Federation
Economie suisse (Swiss Federation of Commerce and Industry)

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Last Updates: October 2014