Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate

The Swiss economy has a global focus. The Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate opens up foreign markets for Swiss companies, provides legal certainty for our exporters and is committed to sustainable economic development.

The Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate’s key responsibilities at a glance

  • Foreign economic expertise
  • Bilateral economic relations
  • World trade
  • Economic cooperation and development

The Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate represents the interests of Switzerland as a business location abroad and ensures that the results of negotiations are implemented in Swiss law. It helps shape global economic framework conditions and represents Switzerland’s economic interests in important multilateral organisations, particularly the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the G20.

International cooperation

We need to develop and maintain good economic policy relations with countries around the world. This is why the Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate represents Switzerland’s economic and trade policy interests towards our partners abroad. In doing so, it adheres to the strategic orientation of Swiss foreign economic policy as defined by the Federal Council.

The Directorate works with developing countries, countries in Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and new EU member states to support economic cooperation. It promotes reliable economic framework conditions and innovative private-sector initiatives. This allows people and companies to access markets, which in turn creates decent employment and other opportunities. In the long term, the Directorate contributes to economic growth and sustainable prosperity in its partner countries. In order to increase its effectiveness, the Directorate works together with international institutions including the World Bank Group, the regional development banks and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It represents the interests of Switzerland in these institutions.

International network

At present, in addition to the EFTA convention and the free trade agreement with the EU, Switzerland has a network of 30 free trade agreements with 40 partners. Barrierfree market access is of key importance, not only for multinational companies, but for the economy as a whole. 70 per cent of Swiss SMEs operate across borders as exporters, suppliers or investors.

This gives exporting companies better market opportunities, while making it easier to import products. This benefits both manufacturing companies (less expensive input materials) and consumers (lower prices and a larger variety of products). With every new free trade agreement, Switzerland also promotes international standards such as trade related provisions on environmental protection and labour standards as well as general human rights standards.

Important export controls

As an export-oriented country, Switzerland has traditionally been an advocate of open markets and free trade worldwide. However, in the case of certain categories of goods, controls of exports, imports and the transit of goods are required for security policy reasons. In times of international tension, Switzerland can ban the export, import and transit of goods from Switzerland or to certain countries.

The Foreign Economic Affairs Directorate is responsible for controlling exports of war materials and dual-use goods. It also adopts coercive measures to implement sanctions imposed by the UN, the OSCE or Switzerland’s key trading partners.

Last modification 05.01.2021

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