Free trade agreements (FTAs) are not about trade without any restrictions whatsoever. The main purpose of an FTA is to facilitate trade between two or more countries by reducing or eliminating barriers to trade, thereby promoting international trade. Lower tariffs form a key element of every FTA, and the aim is to eliminate these as far as possible. However, both a country’s own sensitive areas (e.g. agriculture) and those of its partner countries will be taken into account.
The content of Switzerland's free trade agreements has evolved over time. While initially only trade in goods was liberalised, other areas have been added over time which are now covered by most free trade agreements, namely services, investment and public procurement. Depending on the interests of the partner countries and the opportunities available to them, these areas may be regulated in a free trade agree-ment. Since 2010, Switzerland has also included a chapter on trade and sustainable development in every FTA. The various areas that Switzerland is trying to integrate as standard in its FTAs are described in detail below.