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 AgreementAs a general rule, free trade agreements encompass the international movement of goods between contract parties. Goods covered by such agreements benefit from a reduction in or even an exemption from custom duties. However, the goods must originate from one of the states signed up for the agreement in order to qualify for this preferential treatment.

Switzerland has concluded free trade agreements with various countries and groups of countries.

More on the topic here: http://www.switzerland-ge.com/switzerland/export/en/content/static/Free-Trade-Agreements

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 markingThe CE marking serves as proof that a product meets the basic health and safety requirements under EU law, and that the necessary conformity assessment procedures have been performed. CE marking is mandatory for all goods covered by the 20 or so EU directives under what is known as the New Approach in cases where these goods are to be put into circulation within the single European market or the European Economic Area (EEA). In many cases, CE marking can be carried out by the manufacturers themselves. The mark denotes neither quality nor origin; it is an administrative tool intended to promote the free movement of goods. This makes it a “technical passport”, valid within the single European market and the EEA.

As a result of the federal law relating to technical barriers to trade, Switzerland has already largely harmonised its product regulations with the corresponding EU legislation. There is still, however, no requirement for CE marking to be applied to goods in Switzerland. A Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) ensures that testing procedures, test certificates and conformity signs associated with CE marking are recognised by both parties. This avoids the need for double testing, saving both time and money. The MRA is part of the Bilateral Agreements I between Switzerland and the European Union which came into effect on 1st June 2002.

The individual European Directives stipulate whether and to what extent a product must show the CE marking. Producers are responsible to ensure that their products conform fully with all relevant directives. Presently, there are about 20 directives (New Approach Standardisation) on CE marking. They include:

Cableway installations designed to carry persons
Construction products
Electromagnetic compatibility
Equipment and protective systems in potentially explosive atmospheres
Explosives for civilian use
Low voltage equipment
Machinery safety
Measuring instruments
Medical devices: Active implantable
Medical devices: General
Medical devices: In vitro diagnostic
New hot-water boilers fired with liquid or gaseous fluids (efficiency requirements)
Non-automatic weighing instruments
Packaging and packaging waste
Pressure equipment
Radio and telecommunications terminal equipment
Recreational craft
Simple pressure vessels
Toy safety
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 procedureThe reverse charge procedure is a procedure whereby the liability for value-added tax can be passed to the recipient. The procedure is applied, for example, when providing services abroad..

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.