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.
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.
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 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 accounts for over 70 % of the gross national product. A trade balance surplus of 19 bn Swiss francs is accruing in the services sectors (year 2017). Furthermore, 80% of the jobs newly created 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: 18.104.22.168 postal services, 22.214.171.124 distribution services and 126.96.36.199 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 2013, 2008 and 2004.