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International Trade in services

Overview of the trade relations of Switzerland in the services sector

The foreign relations of Switzerland in respect of trade in services are based on three pillars, i.e. 1) at the multilateral level, 2) at the European level, as well as 3) at the plurilateral or bilateral level with third countries. This reflects the general structure of international economic relations.

1) At the multilateral level, international trade is ruled mainly by the agreements concluded under the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO). One such agreement is the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), whose basic obligations are market access and national treatment. Other international organisations, though, are also active in this field, for instance in relation to specific service sectors.

Chapter 1 of this site is devoted to the GATS and you can enter this Chapter by clicking here :

link to Chapter 1: The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

In that Chapter you will find information on the GATS Agreement, on the trade negotiations of the Doha Round (Doha Development Agenda - DDA), on the GATS schedule of specific commitments of Switzerland, on the offers and requests submitted by Switzerland in the GATS, and on the stance of Switzerland in the WTO negotiations.

Switzerland's European integration policy is based on a set of bilateral agreements with the European Community. That is the topic of Chapter 2 of this site, which you can reach by clicking here :

link to Chapter 2 : Bilateral relations Switzerland - European Union

You will find in that Chapter information on services trade between Switzerland and the European Union, in particular regarding the bilateral agreements.

The trade relations between Switzerland and third countries are diverse. First and foremost, Switzerland entertains close relations with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as those four countries are bound together by the Convention on the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Moreover, as a member of EFTA, Switzerland is a contracting party to several free trade agreements (FTA) with third countries. The aim of those free trade agreements is to obtain better access for exports towards the main world markets. The free trade agreements concluded by EFTA countries with Mexico, Singapore, Chile and South Korea cover trade in services in a comprehensive manner. Other EFTA Agreements do not cover services trade but contain an evolutionary clause to that effect, e.g. with Jordan, Morocco or Canada. Negotiations are ongoing between the EFTA countries and, respectively, India, Thailand, and Peru, with a view to conclude free trade agreements with those countries. Finaly, Switzerland is negotiating a bilateral agreement with Japan. Negotiations with the GCC (United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait) and Columbia have been concluded in the year 2008.

You will find information on Switzerland's bilateral relations in services in Chapter 3 of this site :

link to Chapter 3: Regional and bilateral agreements (FTA)

Chapter 4 is dedicated to the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). The 8th WTO Ministerial conference concluded with the realisation that a conclusion of all negotiated areas of the Doha-mandate would be unrealistic in the near future. New means had to be found to further the negotiations in some areas at least.

link to Chapter 4: Trade in Services Agreement

What is a service ?

The services sector covers a wide range of activities, in particular professional services (medical doctors, lawyers and other legal services, engineering services, architectural services), business services such as marketing, advertising or consulting services, postal services, telecommunications services, distribution and trading services, financial services (banking services, insurance services, stock exchanges, securities services), tourism (hotels, restaurants, tourist guides), transport, audiovisual and cultural services, health services, education services, construction, energy, and environmental services, and in fact any activity except the production or transformation of industrial or agricultural goods or mining.

It is thus difficult to encapsulate the notion of "service" in one definition. The services sector is very varied and extends from independent service suppliers to multinational companies, and is also the hard core of the small and medium sized enterprises (SME).

Importance of the services sector for the Swiss economy

The services sector is the main source of economic growth both in Europe and worldwide. In Switzerland, the services sector account for 73% of the gross national product. A trade balance surplus of 29.6 bn Swiss francs is accruing in the services sectors (year 2005). Furthermore, 80% of the jobs newly create are in the services sector.

Switzerland's trade policy in the services sector

Switzerland ranks amongst the world's more open markets for services. The density of foreign companies established in Switzerland is one of the highest. Every four years, Switzerland (and Liechtenstein) is subject to a review of its trade policies by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The last review was completed in April 2013 and you find an excerpt relating to the trade in services of the report of the WTO Secretariat below (part 4.4). It contains the following sections: 4.4.1 banking, financial and insurance servies, 4.4.2 telecommunications services, 4.4.3 transport services, 4.4.4 other services: 4.4.4.1 postal services, 4.4.4.2 distribution services and 4.4.4.3 tourism services. Further below you will find the excerpt relating to trade in services of the reports of the WTO Secretariat dating from the years 2008 and 2004.

Type: PDF
WTO Trade Policy Review of Switzerland 2013
Last modification: 26.03.2014 | Size: 639 kb | Type: PDF

Type: PDF
WTO Trade Policy Review of Switzerland 2008
Last modification: 13.01.2009 | Size: 396 kb | Type: PDF

Type: PDF
WTO Trade Policy Review of Switzerland 2004
Last modification: 13.01.2009 | Size: 557 kb | Type: PDF


What role plays the SECO ?

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is responsible for elaborating Switzerland's position and it represents Switzerland in international negotiations on trade in services.

The SECO identifies what measures could promote even further the attractivity of Switzerland as a location for foreign investors and operators. This allows to attract more capital, foreign investments and know-how useful to Switzerland, in line with the economic promotion policies at federal and cantonal level. For instance, an improvement of the conditions of establishment for foreign companies is some sectors (e.g. the number of authorisations or licences granted to banks, insurances or other service suppliers) has positive consequences for investment in Switzerland, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.

Similarly, improvements in the conditions for temporary entry of highly skilled personnel in certain services sectors makes it more easy for Switzerland to attract foreign companies, as they often need to be able to bring intra-corporate transferees and foreign specialists. This know-how will then benefit in the whole Swiss economy.

On the other hand, the SECO makes sure that Swiss service providers are granted better conditions for their exports to foreign markets, in particular in high value-added services and high technology. To this end SECO identifies the comparative advantages of the Swiss services industry and the sectors where Swiss services exporters are most competitive. SECO identifies the most dynamic export markets on the basis of international trade flows and of the economic structure of those countries. It then analyses the market access conditions in those countries.

Multilingual glossary on trade in services

The SECO has tried to post documents in this site in four languages (German, French, Italian and English). This was not always possible, though, and often a document will not be available in the web-visitor's language. To help visitors to benefit from documents available only in foreign languages, SECO has prepared a glossary that you find below. This glossary contains terms relevant to services. It contains many terms from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or the World Trade Organization (WTO), terms used in international trade law or trade policy, as well as specific terms related to service supply and sectoral expressions.

Type: PDF
Glossary on trade in services
Last modification: 13.01.2009 | Size: 113 kb | Type: PDF



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