Top export markets

We reveal the most attractive export markets for Swiss SMEs

And the winner is… China! The Asian giant records economic growth year after year and offers promising market potential for Swiss SMEs. China is therefore in first place in the ranking of top export markets. This is a ranking that Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) created in cooperation with the Swiss Economic Institute at the ETH Zurich, and it gives Swiss SMEs an overview of the export markets that are particularly attractive for them.


China leads the rankings ahead of the USA and South Korea. For Alberto Silini, Head of Consulting at S-GE, this is no surprise: “China offers an enormous market for exporting Swiss SMEs. The gross domestic product was already at 11.2 trillion dollars in 2016, and is still rising with growth of over 6%. The question is not whether there is potential, but rather whether businesses have the drive to move into China and if so, how they go about entering the market." Exporting to China is also particularly appealing to Swiss SMEs due to the free trade agreement. “It has been possible to lower or even remove custom duties for a range of industries as a result of the agreement. This gives Swiss businesses a price advantage over competitors from other European countries,” explains Alberto Silini.

A total of 15 different criteria were taken into consideration in order to determine the top export market: These include market size, market potential, export volumes and average market growth in recent years. A total of 107 countries were taken into consideration in the evaluation, and the following ranking emerged:

Positions 1 - 10: China, USA, South Korea, Singapore, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Poland, Japan, Germany

Positions 11 - 20: Ireland, Belgium, France, Australia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, India, Mexico, Turkey, Italy

Positions 21 – 30: Spain, Sweden, Israel, Malaysia, Austria, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Qatar

ASEAN leads the regions

If the different regions are assessed for their attractiveness to exporting Swiss SMEs, the ASEAN region, covering the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Brunei and Cambodia, leads the pack. This is followed by the Gulf states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates), the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway), and the CIS states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) with southern Africa bringing up the rear (Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia).


1. Top export market: China

According to the ranking of top export markets, China is the most attractive export country for Swiss SMEs. According to Daniel Bont, China consultant at Switzerland Global Enterprise, there is enormous potential: “China offers a large marketplace for Swiss products, and the free trade agreement makes Swiss products even more competitive.” But entering the market requires thorough preparation to register the product and identify the right distribution partners. You want to export to China? Contact our consultant Daniel Bont.

2. Top export market: USA

The USA – the land of opportunity – is one of the most important and attractive export markets for Swiss SMEs. “The openness of the Americans makes local networking easier and can open the door for Swiss SMEs,” explains Annina Bosshard, consultant for the USA at Switzerland Global Enterprise. “Nevertheless, companies should give themselves enough time to market and have the necessary financial resources to clarify all legal issues.” Are you interested in the USA? Contact our consultant Annina Bosshard.

3. Top export market: South Korea

South Korea's economy and consumers are looking for innovative solutions to drive economic growth, and this represents an exciting starting position for Swiss companies, which should not be underestimated. From 2016 to 2021, the International Monetary Fund expects average import growth of almost 3.4 percent in the Asian country. One factor playing a central role in exports to South Korea is digitization. According to Jaqueline Tschumi, South Korea consultant at S-GE, online commerce outstrips conventional sales. Would you like to explore your potential in South Korea? Contact our consultant Jacqueline Tschumi.

4. Top export market: Singapore

With a gross domestic product of 297 billion dollars (2016), Singapore is one of the most important economic centers in the Asian region; it is therefore a promising export market for Swiss exporters – and a starting point for targeting the entire region. “In particular, the ASEAN region’s growing middle class is creating ever more good business opportunities for Swiss companies,” says Angela Di Rosa, Southeast Asia consultant for Switzerland Global Enterprise. You want to export to Singapore? Contact our consultant Angela Di Rosa.

5. Top export market: United Kingdom

The UK ranks fifth among the top export markets, behind China, the US, South Korea and Singapore. Gross domestic product in 2016 was 2.6 trillion US dollars. Imports are expected to grow on average by around 1 percent between 2016 and 2021. “The UK is a good market, especially for high-quality and innovative products,” explains Nadja Kolb, consultant at Switzerland Global Enterprise. “Swiss companies should provide excellent service and be aware of how quickly the market is changing.” You want to evaluate your potential in the UK? Contact our consultant Nadja Kolb.

About the study

Switzerland Global Enterprise has compiled the ranking list of the top export markets in collaboration with the Swiss Economic Institute at the ETH Zurich. In total, 107 countries were evaluated according to 15 different criteria including, among other things, the development of gross domestic product, market potential or export volume. The ranking allows Swiss SMEs to classify the various export markets.

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