Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.


Country brief

Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF.

Switzerland ranks at, or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness and human development. 

Zürich, Geneva and Basel have all been ranked among the top ten cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the first ranked second globally, according to Mercer in 2018.

Key market information

Economic indicators


GDP 2017*


GDP per capita 2017*


GDP annual growth rate 2013-2017


GDP annual growth forecast 2018-2023


Population 2017


Projected population growth 2017-2050 (% change)


Average tariff 2016


Scotland’s exports to Switzerland


Scotland’s exports to Switzerland 2017


    Average annual growth in Scotland’s exports to Switzerland 2013-2017


Country rank in Scotland’s exports 2017


Scotland's Top Export Sectors to Switzerland 2017

Scotland's Top Export Sectors to Switzerland Chart

Switzerland imports from the world


Switzerland goods and services imports 2017*


Switzerland average annual import growth 2013-2017*


Switzerland Top 15 Import Sectors

Switzerland Top 15 Import Sectors Chart

Sources: Economic indicators (World Bank, IMF World Economic Outlook), Scotland’s Exports (Export Statistics Scotland 2017), Country Imports (World Bank, UN Comtrade).

* denotes an indicator which has been converted into GB£ from US$ using the Bank of England’s average annual spot rate data. Note growth rates may vary depending on unit of currency used.

The Swiss Economy

Switzerland is a diverse and mature economy.

Key economic indicators are:

  • The Swiss economy is growing steadily at 2.5% of GDP in 2018. (OECD)
  • Exports as a percentage of Switzerland’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) were 65% in 2018. (OECD) 
  • Unemployment is low at 4.7% in 2018. (OECD)

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of the single market and relations are governed by a series of bilateral agreements.This means that, while Switzerland is not a member the European Economic Area (EEA), Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as EEA nationals. 

Switzerland consists of 26 cantons and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The Federal Government of Switzerland legislates in areas such as trade and commerce, banking, foreign affairs, defence and taxation. Other areas of legislation are dealt with by individual cantons.

Protectionist measures remain in some areas such as agriculture and recruitment services. The Swiss Federal Customs Administration has information on the importation of banned and restricted goods.

The Department for International Trade’s guide to doing business in Switzerland can be found here.

Strengths of the Swiss market

Switzerland ranks 38th out of 190 countries in the World Bank rankings for ease of doing business in 2018.

  • A highly skilled labour market
  • Excellent public infrastructure
  • Innovative, high spend on R&D
  • Reliable legal and regulatory system
  • Central location in Europe

Benefits for Scottish businesses exporting to Switzerland include:

  • English is widely spoken
  • Similar regulatory and legal environment
  • Europe’s highest per capita income
  • multi-cultural market

What Scotland exports to Switzerland

Switzerland is Scotland’s 11th largest export market. Exports were worth £735 m in 2017. 2.3% of Scotland’s total International exports. (Export Statistics Scotland).

The top 5 Scottish export sectors to Switzerland are:

  • Engineering and advanced manufacturing
  • Chemical Sciences
  • Food and Drink
  • Technology, digital and media
  • Life Sciences

Priority Sectors in Switzerland for economic development include:

  • Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals
  • Health care and medical technology
  • Cybersecurity
  • Large research centres
  • Food and Drink
  • Technology and Innovation
  • Chemical Sciences
  • Financial Services
  • Retail and luxury

Sectoral Opportunities

When compared to the export performance of comparator countries (Norway, Finland, Ireland and Denmark), the Swiss market presents potential export opportunities in the following subsectors:

  • Computer Programming and IT
  • Financial Services
  • Food
  • Chemical Sciences
  • Manufacture of Computer, electronic and optical equipment

Infographic of top opportunities in Switzerland

What support is there for Scottish businesses in-market?

Scottish Development International

Scottish Development Internationalhas an office in Bern with 1 member of staff focused on the science and technology sector.


There are currently 17 GlobalScots in Switzerland covering the financial services, life sciences and technology sectors. Switzerland is a priority country for expansion of the GlobalScot network.

Department for International Trade

Contact the Department for International Trade team in Switzerlandfor more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Switzerland.

British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce

More than 90 years after it was founded, the British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce(BSCC) today counts more than 650 members among its independent not-for-profit ranks.

It champions business relations between Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Britain and provides a platform for businesses to connect and network. The BSCC is active in Basel, Bern, Central Switzerland, Geneva, Liechtenstein, London, Ticino and Zurich and has teams specializing in public affairs, as well as legal and tax issues. The group also creates various publications given free to members and provides a business support service.

University Links

The University of Edinburghand the University of Glasgowhave partnerships with the University of Zurichthrough the Universitas 21network which recognises International Excellence in Higher Education.

Switzerland is the top associated country that Scotland collaborates with in the Horizon 2020 programme.

The Greater Glasgow Health Board are currently working with the University of Basel on the Autism Innovative Medicine Studiestrials project. The study will be looking at biological markers to help identify who may benefit from particular treatments and is funded by Horizon 2020and due to run until 2023.

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