Preferential Free Trade Agreements


Aside from the EFTA Convention and the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, Switzerland currently has a network of 33 free trade agreements with 43 partners worldwide. The agreements are normally concluded within the framework of EFTA. Free trade agreements with the United Kingdom, Japan, China, and the Faroe Islands however remain strictly bilateral.

The older EFTA free trade agreements with partners in Europe/the Mediterranean as well as the agreements with Canada and the South African Customs Union (SACU) mainly contain regulations on trade in goods (particularly the elimination of tariffs and other trade restrictions) as well as the protection of intellectual property. As EFTA countries have no joint agricultural policy, mutual concessions for (basic) agricultural products are regulated in separate bilateral agreements between each EFTA country and the respective partner. The newer agreements are more comprehensive and, as a rule, contain regulations regarding trade in services, investments, public procurement, and - recently - also environment and labour standard issues.

Swiss concessions granted to free trade partners are always compatible with Swiss agricultural policy. Regarding unprocessed agricultural products, concessions are primarily made in the form of tariff reduction or elimination for non-sensitive products (e.g. tropical fruit) and preferential imports within existing WTO tariff quotas (e.g. meat or fruit/vegetables). These concessions within WTO quotas provide the trading partner with a relative advantage vis-a-vis other exporters for products that are sensitive from a Swiss point of view, without increasing the total amount imported into Switzerland.

For processed agricultural products, Switzerland generally charges an import tariff, consisting of a flexible partial amount (equivalent to the compensation of the Swiss raw material price handicaps) and an industry protection element. The industry protection element is generally revoked for free trade partners.

In negotiations on free trade agreements, Switzerland aims to obtain the best possible concessions from its partners to improve market access for Swiss agricultural products with high export potential.. Examples include basic agricultural products such as dairy products (including cheese), dried meat and wine as well as processed agricultural products such as beverages (including coffee), chocolate, biscuits and sugar confections.

The following table of free trade agreements lists important agricultural concessions granted to the specific partners. It also contains weblinks to the texts of the agreements as well as further information.

Last modification 05.01.2023

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Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG
International Trade Relations

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Kilian Widmer

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