Country in the spotlight

Switzerland: some dark clouds despite resilient economy 


Switzerland is an important destination for Transuniverse with as many as 15 to 20 departures per week. We owe this strong position in part to that high frequency as well as to our customs knowledge and experience. The country has a strong and stable economy with a high GDP per capita, an advanced and innovative industry and thriving trade. Still, some dark clouds are currently hanging over Switzerland: its exports are struggling and consumer confidence there is (too) weak.

“Exports from Belgium to Switzerland have traditionally been significantly higher than imports. However, this trade imbalance has grown, partly due to the exchange rate evolution of the Swiss Franc. Thanks to some measures taken by the Swiss government (see below), we are noticing a turnaround in recent months, with a slight increase in exports from that country. However, it remains difficult to balance transports,” says Dirk Ghys, responsible within Transuniverse for imports from Switzerland.

“In the other direction, transports remain at a high level, although we note slightly lower demand for groupage due to weak consumer confidence in Switzerland. This is offset, however, by growing demand for large partial loads and full loads. For instance, three to five times a week – including for the largest Swiss supermarket chain – we organise the transport of full loads of Tex-Mex foods, Belgian biscuits and the like,” Wim De Meuleneire adds. He is responsible for exports to Switzerland within Transuniverse.

Customs formalities: not to be underestimated
Full loads and large partial loads go directly to Swiss customers or their distribution centres. The groupage shipments are delivered to our agent, M+R Spedag, in Basel and Schaffhausen, for further distribution within Switzerland.

M+R Spedag Group incidentally last year integrated Wedeclare AG, a neutral customs clearance company specialising in offering digitised customs services. “This is an important asset for Transuniverse, because you should not underestimate the complexity of Swiss customs formalities. Whether it is a box or a full load, everything has to be cleared at the border. We take care of customs documentation in Belgium ourselves but can get support from our Swiss agent if needed,” Wim De Meuleneire adds.

A resilient economy
The Swiss economy is one of the strongest and most resilient in Europe. This is reflected, among other things, in the evolution of GDP and inflation in recent years.

In the Covid year 2020, GDP contracted by 2.5% but it had already recovered to above pre-Covid levels by mid-2021. Over the full year, it actually grew by 5.4%. In 2022, the Swiss economy showed its resilience, with GDP growth of 2.6% despite challenges such as the war in Ukraine and disruptions to global supply chains. Switzerland did face headwinds in 2023, with growth of only 0.8%, as an (indirect) consequence of the energy crisis. This led to lower business and consumer confidence, resulting in lower investment and a decline in private consumption.

However, Switzerland has a unique energy mix that makes it less vulnerable: hydropower plants supply as much as 57% of electricity and five nuclear plants about 30%. Despite the sharp rise in global energy prices, Swiss inflation therefore remained relatively contained last year, especially compared to the European Union. Inflation actually fell to 2.5% in 2023 (from 2.9% in 2022). It is expected to fall further to 1.5% this year.

Exports suffer
Thus, the fact that the Swiss economy is currently growing only moderately has mainly to do with weak consumption (despite very high living standards), the Swiss National Bank’s tight monetary policy and a reduction in industrial production suffering from weaker demand from foreign trading partners. The difficult situation in key export markets is partly due to the strong Swiss Franc.

Therefore, Switzerland abolished import duties on a large number of industrial products entering the country on 1 January 2024. This should support industrial companies with foreign suppliers (of components and raw materials), allowing them to produce more cheaply and in turn export more. This should also boost trade and lower prices for consumers.


Switzerland in brief

• Official name: Swiss Confederation
• Capital: Bern (143,165 inhabitants)
• Surface area: 41,285 km² (=1.4 x Belgium)
• Population: 8,586,550 inhabitants
• Head of state: President Viola Amherd
• Head of government: Prime minister Viktor Rossi
• Languages: Germany, French, Italian and Romansch
• Currency: Swiss Franc (1 CHF = 1.02 EUR)
• Major cities: Zurich (434,436 inhabitants), Geneva (205,372), Basel (177,860)
• GDP: USD 818 billion (USD 583 billion in Belgium)
• GDP/Capita: USD 93,260 (USD 49,927 in Belgium)

Source: FIT




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