What is the difference between preferential and non-preferential origin?

Preferential origin serves to make goods customs-exempt or subject to reduced customs when exported to a country with which Switzerland has a free trade agreement.

Fulfilment of non-preferential origin regulations does not make goods customs-free when imported to a third-party country – this origin rule is applied only if the country of destination demands a country of origin certificate for the import.


You can register for the access to the customs database over this link to look up worldwide customs tariffs. This access is free for Swiss companies ; in case you receive an error message, please send an e-mail to s-ge@mendel-online.eu and your account will be activated.

The EU import duties can also be looked up in the TARIC database.

The Swiss import duties are published in the Swiss Working Tariff Tares.

The customs tariff number is necessary for all queries.

The control of goods on an international level is regulated in Switzerland by two legal instruments, the Goods Control Act (GKG) and the War Material Act (KMG). The control covers so-called dual-use goods (goods that can be used for military and civil purposes) and military materials and special military hardware.

The SECO is responsible for monitoring in Switzerland.

Please go to www.s-ge.com/map (choose category „Freihandelsabkommen in Kraft“) and you will see all the countries that Switzerland/EFTA has a Free Trade Agreement.

You can also find a list here: SECO - List of FTAs

If your product is specified in one of these directives, you need a CE-marking.

You can find all our gathered information, directives and links regarding CE marking in chapter Export Help - CE Marking.

Other contact : Schweizerische Normenvereinigung SNV

The S-GE leaflet «MwSt – Grenzüberschreitender Dienstleistungsverkehr mit der EU» (available in German, French and Italian) provides further information about the reverse charge procedure.

As a rule, the industrial goods listed in Chapter 25-97 are covered by free trade agreements. Chapters 1-24 mostly govern separate agricultural agreements. The list of rules applicable to the various agreements can be found here: FSCA – Service Document D.30.

The licensing request must be submitted to the responsible regional customs office (Schaffhausen, Basel, Geneva or Lugano). Further information and forms are available here: SFCA – Authorised Exporter .

In this case (in connection with the EU), the so-called reverse charge process is applied, i.e., the tax liability is shifted to the recipient.

As a Swiss service provider, you may issue your invoice free of value added tax stating on the invoice «VAT to be paid by the recipient».

The following checklist is helpful in checking the seriousness of Chinese partners:

  1. Is this a high-volume business transaction?
  2. Was your offer accepted very quickly and without considerable renegotiating or demands for price reductions?
  3. Do the Chinese partners use e-mail addresses from «Yahoo», «Hotmail»‚ «136.com» or other free providers?
  4. Is communication with the Chinese partners mainly via e-mail, fax and mobile phone?
  5. Have you ever managed to reach anyone via a landline number provided by the Chinese side?
  6. Does the business have its own website?
  7. Were technical details/specifications discussed?
  8. Have you received information on the exact purpose or the end customers for your products?

If the above questions 1-4 can be answered with Yes and the questions 5-8 with No, the indications are that the business intentions of the Chinese companies should not be taken seriously.


More and more countries are applying the phytosanitary standard ISPM 15 in order to prevent the importing of timber pests. Imports to these countries must take place in wooden packaging (crates, pallets, etc.) that have been subjected to a specifically prescribed course of treatment.