Definitions and terms on export.



24-hour rule

For security reasons, the EU introduced a provision as of 1st July 2009 for the movement of goods with non-EU member states under which imports and exports will be subject to a prior notification requirement (24-hour rule). For Switzerland as a third country, this regulation would have a considerable impact on procedures concerning the flow of goods to and from EU member states. The agreement on the waiving of checks and formalities in goods transport and on customs security measures between Switzerland and the EU provides for a waiver of this prior notification requirement. The equivalence of the respective security standards will be mutually recognised. At the same time, goods traffic between Switzerland and non-EU member states will be subject to the new EU security regulations (concerning prior notification and risk analysis). The EU has introduced the status of Authorised Economic Operator, which eases customs security regulations for the accredited company when trading with non-member countries.


Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises dangereuses par route.

ADR is the common name for the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road. The ADR directives are valid throughout Europe and govern transnational road transport of hazardous materials. The ADR lays down which goods are considered hazardous on the road, which packaging and labelling regulations apply and what security equipment is required for the transport vehicles.


AEO (Authorised Economic Operator)

The authorised economic operator AEO (in German the abbreviation «ZWB/Zugelassener Wirtschaftsbeteiligter» is used) is a status which is granted to legal entities which are deemed to be reliable in terms of the security of the international supply chain. Authorised economic operators are fast-tracked when it comes to security-related checks. They are recognised by states with which Switzerland has concluded a corresponding treaty (currently EU, negotiations will shortly be completed with Norway, negotiations with USA, China and Japan are set to follow).

Swiss companies need to ascertain, first and foremost, what the economic consequences are, if they do not obtain AEO certification. Furthermore, the costs of AEO certification need to be clarified in advance (if construction measures are necessary; if the internal control system is sufficient; the cost of meeting security requirements, etc.).

Further information available under: Swiss Customs Authority – AEO.


Generalized System of Preferences

System for non-discriminatory customs preferences established at UNCTAD in order to facilitate the participation by developing countries in world trade.

For country-of-origin goods from developing countries, Switzerland grants customs preferences to imports from developing countries under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Customs preferences mean reduced or no customs duties.

List of developing countries and areas

Public Tenders

Each year, the public authorities award contracts that are put out to public tender and offer interesting export possibilities for Swiss SMEs in all industry sectors.
The tendering platform www.tenders.ch continuously collects national and international business possibilities and tenders.

Equivalence principle

Description only in German: Das Äquivalenzprinzip gilt bei der aktiven Veredelung von Waren. Es bedeutet, dass bei der Veredelung unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen (insbesondere gleiche Qualität und Beschaffenheit wie die Einfuhrwaren) andere Waren anstelle der Einfuhrwaren zur Herstellung von Veredelungserzeugnissen verwendet werden können. Die äquivalenten Waren werden auch Ersatzwaren genannt. Im Gegensatz zum Äquivalenzprinzip steht das Nämlichkeitsprinzip.


An association of ten independent South East Asian nations, ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) was founded in August 1967 in Bangkok by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei joined the association in 1984, followed by Vietnam in 1995. Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Laos were accepted as full members of the association in 1997, as was Cambodia in 1999.

ASEAN’s permanent secretariat is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. The main aims of the organisation as set out in the Bangkok Declaration of 1967 are the promotion of economic growth, social and cultural progress, and the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.

A joint forum with Japan was established in 1977 and a Cooperation Agreement was signed with the European Union in 1980. The ASEAN Member States decided to establish a free trade zone in 1992 and lower customs duty on non-agricultural goods from 1993 for a period of 15 years.

Relations between Switzerland and the European Union

The European Union (EU) is an extremely important partner for Switzerland. Geographically, because Switzerland is almost entirely surrounded by the EU; culturally, because Switzerland shares three important European languages - German, French and Italian - with the EU; politically, because both Switzerland and the EU are committed to human rights, pluralistic democracy and social market economy; economically, because EU states buy more than 60% of Swiss exports and account for almost 50% of Swiss foreign investments.

However, despite this close relationship, there are only relatively loose (economic) agreements between them. Approximately 65 years have passed since the process of European unification first began and Switzerland is still not a member of the EU and is not even a candidate for entry. In March 2001, the Swiss electorate rejected the “Yes to Europe” initiative (with 76.8% voting "no"), which wanted the Federal Council to begin entry negotiations with the EU at the earliest opportunity.

Switzerland’s principal agreement with the EU remains the Free Trade Agreement relating to industrial goods and certain processed agricultural products, which was created in 1972. In 1992, the Federal Council failed in its attempt to gain access to the single European market for Switzerland on the basis of the European Economic Area (EEA) Treaty when voters rejected the referendum. The benefits of the market are the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital.

In order to further improve access for the Swiss economy to important areas of the single European market, Switzerland asked the European Union to conclude a number of sectoral agreements in 1993. The EU agreed to negotiations in areas relating to the movement of persons, overland transport (road and rail), civil aviation, agriculture, research, technical barriers to trade and public contracts. Negotiations were successfully concluded at the end of 1998. The so-called Bilateral Agreements I were signed in 1999 and came into force on 1st June 2002 after 67.2% of Swiss voters agreed in a referendum conducted in May 2000.

A second round of negotiations saw Switzerland and the EU reach agreements in another nine areas on 19th May 2004 ("Bilateral Agreements II"). These related to processed agricultural products; education, vocational training and youth; media; statistics; the environment; the double taxation of pensions of EU officials living in Switzerland; cooperation within the areas of justice, policing, asylum and migration; taxation of savings income and the fight against fraud.

The implementation of the Bilateral Agreements II is staggered. The agreements on processed agricultural products (30th March 2005), pensions (31st May 2005), taxation of savings income (1st July 2005), and those on media programmes and the environment (both 1st April 2006) are already in force. The agreement on statistics came into force on 1st January 2007 and the Schengen Accord on 1st March 2008. The operative cooperation between Switzerland and the EU based on the Schengen Accord started in December 2008. In February 2009, the Swiss electorate approved the continuation of the Bilateral Agreements II and the extension of the free movement of persons, and in May, it also voted "yes" to the biometric passport. These election results confirm Switzerland's commitment to the bilateral approach.

Presently, Switzerland and the EU are reviewing options for further sectoral agreements. The focus is on basic agreements for agricultural policy and energy policy.

Bilateral Agreements between Switzerland and the European Union (I und II)

The Bilateral Agreements I are a package of seven sectoral agreements which Switzerland and the European Union (EU) negotiated between 1994 and 1998 in the areas of research, agriculture, civil aviation, public contracts, the movement of persons, overland transport (rail and road) and technical barriers to trade (mutual recognition of conformity assessment). The agreements were signed on 21st June 1999 with 67.2% of Swiss voters showing their approval in a poll conducted on 21st May 2000. The agreements took effect on 1st June 2002 following ratification by the EU Member States. Apart from the agreement on the free movement of persons, the agreements were extended to the ten new EU Member States from 1st May 2004, although this outstanding agreement was subsequently applied to the ten new states on 1st April 2006 following a “Yes” vote on 25th September 2005. On 8th February 2009, the free movement of persons was extended to Hungary and Romania.

A second round of negotiations saw Switzerland and the EU reach agreement in another nine areas on 19th May 2004 (“Bilateral Agreements II”). These related to processed agricultural products, education/vocational training/youth, media, statistics, the environment, the double taxation of pensions of EU officials living in Switzerland, cooperation within the areas of justice/policing/asylum/migration, taxation of savings income and the fight against fraud.

The implementation of the Bilateral Agreements II is staggered. The agreements on processed agricultural products (30th March 2005), pensions (31st May 2005), taxation of savings income (1st July 2005), and those on media programmes and the environment (both 1st April 2006) are already in force. The agreement on statistics came into force on 1st January 2007. The Schengen Association Accord came into force on 1st March 2008 and was fully implemented at the end of December 2008.

The Bilateral Agreements remove the major trade barriers faced by the Swiss economy in its dealings with the EU, barriers which had been left in place after the Swiss people rejected the treaty on the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992.

The Bilateral Agreements represent the most significant development of Swiss-EU economic relations since the parties concluded the Free Trade Agreement in 1972.

Internal Market

Strictly speaking, this term refers to the totality of all the markets within a national economy where goods and services are traded or provided for internal use. The rules applying to the Swiss internal market are laid down by the federal law on the internal market (BGBM, SR 943.02) of 6th October 1995.

In the broader sense of the term, however, an internal market does not have to be restricted to one country’s national economy. An example is the single European market, which covers the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU). This EU-wide internal market constitutes an area without internal borders where the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital is guaranteed. One of the aims is to make it impossible for individual Member States to increase the price of imported goods by adopting a protectionist foreign trade policy (e.g. custom duties or technical barriers to trade) with a view to protecting their own national economy and products. Decisive steps on the road towards the single European market were the publication of a European Commission legislative programme in a 1985 White Paper and the Single European Act of 1986 which complemented and expanded the treaties on which the EU was founded.

The treaty on the European Economic Area (EEA) extended the single market legislation of the 19 EU countries to the EFTA states of Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. Switzerland, also a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), rejected entry to the EEA in a 1992 referendum.

ATA Carnet

The ATA carnet (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) is a customs document which enables the temporary importation of goods into another country and their subsequent reimportation into Switzerland without custom duties being imposed. Amongst other things, the ATA carnet absolves the party usually liable for customs duty from having to pay import duties when crossing borders. It also means that customs administration departments do not have to issue national customs documentation. Those wishing to use an ATA carnet must first satisfy two conditions:

  1. The country of destination for the goods must be a party to the ATA carnet process, and
  2. The intended use of the goods must fall within one of the following three categories: professional equipment, trade fair and exhibition goods, commercial samples.

The ATA carnet cannot be used where goods are being transported so that they can either be repaired or finished. In Switzerland, ATA carnets are issued by chambers of industry and commerce and are only valid for a year; there is no option to extend this period.

Choose your chamber of commerce

TIR Carnet

The TIR (“Transports Internationaux Routiers”) customs convention is designed to facilitate the international transport of goods by road. It uses the TIR carnet, a standardised international customs document, to regulate the transport of goods.

Thanks to the TIR carnet, goods can be transported through any number of countries who have signed up to the convention. It serves no purpose, however, in cases where goods are only being transported within the area covered by the EC. In Switzerland, the TIR carnet is issued by ASTAG, the Swiss road transport association (‹www.astag.ch›). This body's website also features a ‹list› (pdf) of the 54 associations responsible for issuing the carnet in other countries.

The legal basis for the TIR system is the convention on the international transport of goods using TIR carnets (“TIR Convention 1975”) of 14th November 1975, which was signed by 65 parties including the Member States of the European Community. In practice, however, it is only possible to use the TIR carnet to transport goods in the 54 countries that have nationally approved associations with the ability to act as guarantors (as at 1st May 2004).

The Cassis de Dijon principle

Under this principle, goods lawfully produced in a Member State of the European Union (EU) can also be sold in any other EU state. The principle is based on a judgment by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from 20th February 1979 on case number 120/78.

The German food manufacturer REWE had been prevented from importing the French liqueur known as Cassis-de-Dijon (20% alcoholic content) by the Bundesmonopolverwaltung für Branntwein (federal monopoly administration for spirits) because German law required a minimum alcoholic content of 32%. This prompted the company to appeal to the ECJ. The Court of Justice concluded that the import embargo imposed by the federal monopoly administration infringed Article 30 of the EC Treaty and upheld the appeal. Article 30 stipulates that barriers to the movement of goods produced according to different rules on the manufacture and sale of alcohol are only admissible if they are necessary to satisfy mandatory requirements.

Such requirements are effective tax regulation, protection of public health, purity of traded goods, and consumer protection. The requirements regarding the purity of traded goods and consumer protection could be adequately met by the less extensive measure of compulsory marking. As such, a complete ban on the movement of the goods was not necessary. The ECJ judgment proved critical in terms of making the free movement of goods inside the single European market a reality.

At the beginning of October 2009, a referendum against the Cassis de Dijon principle was narrowly rejected in Switzerland. According to the referendum committee, which was supported by the Green Party as well as the Swiss People's Party SVP, only 45,000 signatures instead of the requested 50,000 were collected. Swiss consumer organisations are pleased that the Cassis de Dijon principle will be introduced.

CE marking

The 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


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The import and export of such species is prohibited.

CITES - Wild Fauna and Flora


The "Convention de Genève relative au contrat de transport international de Marchandises par Route" (CMR) is the convention on the contract for the international carriage of goods by road. The document regulates the responsibilities and liabilities of the parties involved. The CMR is the counterpart of the bill of lading in sea freight and the Air Waybill in freight traffic by airplane.

Letter of Credit

The Letter of Credit is a means of reducing the payment risks associated with international trade. Under this system, the buyer instructs their bank to pay the seller (or Swiss exporter) a specific sum of money within a specific period of time upon receipt of specific documentation relating to the goods being sold.

As a result, the exporter is protected against the risk of delivering goods without receiving in return what is due to them under the terms of the contract. At the same time, the buyer is protected by not having to make payment before the relevant accreditation papers have been received by their bank within the agreed period.

The buyer also avoids the need to make large deposit or advance payments, as the Letter of Credit confirms their creditworthiness. In the case of a Letter of Credit, it is the buyer who instructs the bank to act; in the case of documentary collection, the seller constitutes the instructing party.

Documentary collection

Documentary collection is a means of reducing the payment risks associated with international trade. Under the documentary collection system, an exporter instructs their bank to collect money from the buyer or their bank in exchange for forwarding them the despatch papers. The amount of money collected corresponds to the amount stated on the papers.

This enables the exporter to protect themselves against the risk of handing their consignment over to the buyer before the buyer has discharged their duties under the contract. In the case of documentary collection, it is the seller who instructs the bank to act; in the case of a Letter of Credit, the buyer constitutes the instructing party.

Unlike with a Letter of Credit, in the case of documentary collection the bank does not assume any independent liability for payment; its sole responsibility is to carry out collection in the proper manner.

Double taxation agreements

Double taxation agreements (DTAs) avoid earnings and assets being taxed in two countries. They can be particularly helpful in ensuring that the Swiss economy does not suffer any disadvantage compared to foreign competitors. Switzerland has concluded agreements with all the important industrialised countries to avoid double taxation. The agreements govern international tax situations such as exemption of profits from production plants in the partner state, reclamation of withholding tax and taxation of licence fees.

In its campaign against "tax havens", the G20 organisation included Switzerland on its "grey list" on 2nd April 2009. Several countries had already criticised and threatened Switzerland in connection with information exchange surrounding tax issues. As early as 13th March 2009, the Federal Council decided to adopt the OECD standard for international administrative assistance in tax matters in accordance with article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention. Thus, Switzerland committed itself to providing information to other countries in individual cases on the basis of specific and justified requests. The Federal Council then began negotiations for the revision of double taxation agreements, in particular with OECD members. On 25th September 2009, Switzerland signed a DTA with Qatar. Within six months – between March and September 2009 – Switzerland signed twelve DTAs including extended administrative assistance in accordance with the OECD criteria. As a consequence, Switzerland was removed from the "grey list".

According to the Federal Constitution, double taxation agreements are not subject to an optional referendum if they do not include important additional obligations compared to previous contracts. The Federal Council said that after a possible referendum on the DTAs signed between March and September 2009, this regulation will apply again to subsequent agreements.

The website of the ‹Swiss Federal Tax Administration› provides an overview of all the DTAs concluded by Switzerland along with other up-to-date information.

Dual-use goods

Dual-use goods (civilian and military). These types of goods usually require an export licence from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO.


The EAN – also called International Article Number – is a product identification standard for commercial articles. It has 13 digits (for normal articles) or 8 digits (for small-volume articles) and consists of a country identification (prefix), participant number (company) and article number. Usually , the number is printed on article packaging in the form of a barcode that can be read by laser scanners. The EAN is allocated by the international office, while the national agency assigns the company number. Thanks to the EAN, goods in a closed merchandise management system are more easily moved, controlled and tracked.


e-dec Export has replaced the VAR as per 01.04.2010.
To declare exports or imports with e-dec, a company needs to have their own software with e-dec functions for the transmission to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration, or it is also possible to instruct a service provider (forwarder, declarant) with it.

e-dec web

e-dec web is an internet application, which can be accessed through the website of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. With e-dec web, the paper forms 11.010 (Import) and 11.030 (Export) have been replaced by January 2013. The use of this application is free and accessible for all declarants.


The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is the largest network of contact points providing information and advice to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Europe. The network is active in the 28 EU member states and countries of the EFTA and beyond. It consists of about 600 organisations such as chambers of commerce and regional development agencies, as well as technology centres in universities. The EEN helps companies to find potential partners and experts in other countries. SMEs receive information on technical questions regarding, for example, norms and legal provisions in the EU, but also on EU measures, programmes and financing options. Over 4,000 EEN staff members organise events all over Europe in order to establish business connections for SMEs.

Import regulations

Import regulations determine the requirements and approval conditions for importing goods (products, foodstuffs, animals) or services in terms of duties, definitions of goods and documentation. They are particularly used to restrict the amount or value of goods that can be imported and are normally based on international trade agreements or on regulations imposed by the country of importation.

More information on Swiss import regulations is available on the website of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration FCA.

Electronic customs assessment (eVV)

Electronic customs assessment notices can be obtained by the person or company who's TIN (traders identification number) is mentioned on the export declaration at the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. For this, you need to have a certificate and there is a signature check.
The eVV needs to be stored electronically for at least 10 years. A trader has to collect the eVV after an Export or Import at the server of the Customs Administration.


EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification)

EORI is a central database of all customs parties in the European Union. An EORI number is required for every customs transaction in the EU. As a rule, a Swiss company does not require a number of this nature, except if it operates in the EU as a customs declarant (e.g. in the case of DDP deliveries, or it has a warehouse within the territory of the EU).

Swiss companies which require an EORI number need to get themselves registered in the EU country in which they operate. Registration in Switzerland is not possible. In Germany, for example, an authority named “Informations- und Wissensmanagement Zoll” (IWM) in Dresden is responsible for this. Detailed information about registration and the application form are available here: Application for EORI number in Germany.

EU supplier’s declaration

The supplier’s declaration is intended to relay information on the preferential origin of products transported within the EC. This is necessary because no certificate of origin, in the sense of the Free Trade Agreement, is required when products are being delivered from France to Germany for example.

(The EU is a customs union; therefore there are no such things as imports or exports as far as products transported within the Community are concerned. Products can be moved within the EU countries without the need for customs checks or clearance.)

If German traders wish to export products to Switzerland with France as the preferential country of origin, they must be able to demonstrate the products’ origin in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and the EC. For this reason, they will ask the French supplier to provide their own supplier’s declaration, in which the latter will certify the preferential origin of the products. This supplier’s declaration can then be used as the necessary evidence for issuing a certificate of origin in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and the EC on the export of products to Switzerland.

The supplier’s declaration is only required when the national authority of an EC state (such as the German customs authority) wishes to check a delivery from within the Community.

(Source: Pius Tröndle, Eidg. Oberzolldirektion, Sektion Ursprung, Berne; revised June 2001; a detailed description of the supplier's declaration can be found in the German Federal Revenue Administration’s regulations pack Z 42 14, 53rd lot of 21/11/1994).

Extract from:
German Federal Revenue Administration’s regulations pack

Upstream deliveries – supplier’s declaration – EC
53rd lot, 21/11/94; Z 42 12

(1) Upstream deliveries
Supplier’s declaration
(2) Purpose
(3) – Wording
(4) (6) – Explanation
(7) Long-term declaration/long-term supplier’s declaration
(8) – Signature
(9), (10) Information certificate
(11) Special cases

The party applying for or completing a preference document is responsible for the accuracy of its declaration; this also applies to products it has obtained from a third party. Therefore, the applicant requires details of the manufacturing processes performed on the products they have obtained from a third party and introduced into the Federal Republic of Germany or another Member State of the European Economic Community.

The European Economic Community is classed as a single area for the purpose of all preference rules. Consequently, a product is deemed to have originated in the Community if it was completely manufactured, or was subject to a sufficient level of finishing or processing, in one or more Member States as defined by the relevant preference regulation.

For the sake of simplicity, customs administration bodies have decided against only accepting these details if they have already been confirmed by a customs office or another qualified authority. As a result, Regulation (EEC) No, 3351/81 of 14th November 1983 (see Z413.1; see below) applies to upstream deliveries, allowing declarations from the supplier (supplier’s declarations) to be accepted when issuing or completing preference documents. If the customs office that receives the application for a movement certificate (even in cases such as these and taking the finished product as the starting point) only receives proof of the final stage involved in accounting for the product's origin, then any finishing or processing work carried out prior to this stage may be disregarded.

Consequently, no supplier’s declaration is required, for example, if an applicant is able to prove by some other means that they themselves have completely manufactured or performed a sufficient level of finishing or processing on the products for which they wish to obtain a preference document, even when the goods have been obtained from a third party. In addition, the customs office shall not demand supplier’s declarations in cases where they are already aware of the processes to which the declarations would refer.

The models for the supplier’s declarations are included in Z 4275. The declaration must be made on the commercial invoice or a sheet attached to this, on another form of commercial document, or on a pre-printed form in one of the official languages of the Community to ensure there is no doubt about which product is being referred to by the declaration.

The Member State(s) in which the relevant products were manufactured should always be specified in the supplier’s declaration. The Federal Republic of Germany also accepts supplier’s declarations that merely specify the Community (EEC) as opposed to the specific countries concerned. In addition, supplier’s declarations may be submitted and accepted for goods which have been previously imported from a partner state with a preference document (see footnotes to the models in Z 4275, Columns 15 to 34) and for products whose originating status has already been established in line with Z 4005 ff.

The declarations must refer to the particular agreement containing the preference regulation that can be applied; details of more than one agreement can be entered if their origin criteria have been satisfied. Where alternative value rules are used (Z 42 71, Column 4), the EEC can only be entered in conjunction with one or more EFTA states. The various international vehicle codes or the ISO standard code can be used instead of the full agreement name (see preliminary note 8.6 on DgebrZT – the German Customs tariff).

It is only necessary to enter the value in declarations for products without preferential origin if the rules for using the term “originating products” stipulate specific values in terms of a proportion of the whole. Here, the value can either be expressed in terms of a percentage or as an amount.

Supplier’s declarations can also be issued for deliveries made over longer periods, provided that the period involved does not exceed one year (long-term supplier’s declaration). Such declarations shall only be accepted where the manufactured products are obtained from the same upstream supplier under the same conditions over a longer period (for example, as part of an annual supplier contract). These declarations must contain the precise designation for the products to which they refer. As far as Paragraph 4, Clause 3 is concerned, preference documents must be available for the products when they are supplied.

Anyone to whom a long-term declaration is returned after a movement certificate has been issued, or who has been given permission to use a movement certificate dealt with previously, must ensure that the declaration is neither obsolete nor out-of-date.

Supplier’s declarations must be signed by hand. The only permissible exceptions are electronic supplier’s declarations when the responsible person or body can be identified on the basis of the supplier’s declaration.

Where there are doubts as to the authenticity of the supplier’s declaration or the accuracy of the details it contains, the customs office shall demand an INF 4 information certificate from the exporter. The model for the information certificate and associated application form are included in Z 4275. The onus is on the exporter to ask the supplier to apply to the relevant customs office for an information certificate. If a preference document is checked (see Z 42 15) and the supplier’s declarations were accepted at the time of its issue, an information certificate shall only be requested if it is required as proof of originating status. Thorough checking shall not be required within this context if the results of checks made on specific individual processes in order to evaluate the quality of the evidence justify the assumption that no problems are to be expected in those areas that have not been checked. A suitable period of time should be allowed for obtaining information certificates, with scope for this period to be extended. Once this period has expired, any supplier's declarations that are due to be checked for accuracy can no longer be taken into account.

The customs office responsible for the office or place of domicile of the supplier is to issue the information certificate at the supplier’s request. The information certificate shall be delivered to the supplier. The supplier can decide whether to submit the information certificate to the exporter or whether, in the interests of protecting trade secrets, it should be sent directly to the customs office which the exporter has asked to issue a movement certificate. The application is kept by the issuing customs office for two years (see also Z 28 01).

When preference documents are issued in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the ACP countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) and overseas countries and regions, originating status can be awarded for products that originate within the Community and finishing or processing stages that are carried out in the Community (see Z 42 40, Paragraphs 20 and 22, and Z 42 47, Paragraphs 9 and 11). As a result, these countries will accept supplier’s declarations from suppliers within the Community or information certificates issued by customs offices in the Community (for wording and model, see Z 42 75, Columns 35 and 37 and 57 to 60).

EU Customs Clearance

The term EU Customs Clearance refers to the import customs clearance in the first EU country of entry with subsequent delivery to another Member State. No import duty is levied in the country of entry. Exporters from third countries (e.g. Switzerland) have "EU status". This means that, in the case of exports within the EU, they can benefit from the advantages of intra-European deliveries in the same way as any of their competitors.

Approved consignor/consignee

The status of approved consignor/consignee allows the exporter or freight forwarder to carry out export and transit customs clearance at his domicile; the goods do not have to be transported to the customs office of departure.


Name for the common currency of the European Union (EU), which is currently used by only 19 (as of May 2016) of the 28 Member States. The UK, Denmark, Sweden, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Croatia continue to use their traditional national currencies.

In addition, the euro is used in a number of other countries, e.g. in close neighboring countries and former colonies, either formally as a legal means of payment or for practical purposes. They include Andorra, Montenegro, Kosovo, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican.

The common currency was launched in January 1, 1999, as “book money”. The exchange rates between the participating countries were fixed as of that date and tied to the euro. Euro bills and coins went into circulation on January 1, 2002.

The euro came about in connection with the so-called European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). This monetary union is open only to EU Member States that meet certain convergence criteria (also called Maastricht criteria). These criteria specify requirements about the amount of permissible inflation and interest rates, about government debt, and about the smooth participation in the European Monetary System (EMS; system for stabilizing the exchange rates of the currencies of EU Member States). Compliance with these criteria is periodically reviewed in connection with a mechanism for coordinating and monitoring national economic policies. The aim is to ensure that the EU Member States taking part in the EMU enjoy the greatest possible price stability.

On January 1, 2015, Lithuania became the 19th EU Member State to adopt the euro.

European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

Today, (only) Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland still belong to the EFTA (European Free Trade Association). Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, Austria, Portugal and Sweden opted out of the Association and subsequently joined the European Union (EU). Founded in 1960, the EFTA has its headquarters in Geneva. The aims of the founding members (including Switzerland), for whom entry to the then European Economic Community (EEC, now the EU) could not be countenanced for political reasons, were the protection of their interests, an improved negotiating position with respect to the EEC, and the creation of a free trade zone.

The free trade agreement in force between the EFTA states and the EEC since 1973 created a free trade zone without custom duties or volume restrictions for the commercial and industrial sectors and for the mining industry. Since 1994, the three EFTA states of Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland have been cooperating with the EU within the framework of the European Economic Area (EEA). Like the single European market of the European Union, the EEA allows the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons. Switzerland decided against entering the EEA in a 1992 referendum.

Today, the EFTA states are relatively insignificant in terms of Switzerland's foreign trade, with just 0.2% of total exports destined for these countries. The EFTA does, however, retain a certain level of importance in for Switzerland as a platform for negotiating free trade agreements. In recent years, the EFTA has concluded an entire series of such agreements with Central European and Mediterranean countries. The EFTA has also been trying for some time to develop free trade agreements with overseas countries. This process has already seen some success; agreements of this kind have been signed with Singapore, Canada and Mexico, for example. The EFTA website features an overview of the countries with whom the EFTA (and, by implication, Switzerland) has concluded free trade agreements, as well as the consolidated texts of the agreements.


European Union (EU)

A community of European states established under the Treaty of Maastricht (this is officially known as the Treaty on European Union, or EU treaty for short). The treaty was signed in 1992 and came into force in 1993. The EU is based on the European Community (EC), which the Maastricht Treaty changed profoundly in terms of its role and responsibilities. The organisation’s remit was extended to cover the additional policy areas of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and cooperation within the realm of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), developing in the process from a primarily economic union to the political union of today’s EU. The idea behind the European Union, apart from the creation of a single European market, is an ever closer integration of the peoples of Europe with a view to ensuring peace and prosperity for the continent.

The EU’s origins date back to 1952. This was the date of the first common treaty, which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The founding members of the ECSC were Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. These states signed what are known as the Treaties of Rome in 1957 in Rome, thereby founding the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). With its inception in 1967, the treaty known as the Merger Treaty began the process of combining these communities to form the European Community (EC).

Today, 28 states belong to the EU. These are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria. The latest EU member is Croatia, which joined on 1st July 2013.

The Member States of the European Union continue to be independent, sovereign states, but have either committed themselves to a common policy or given an undertaking that their own policies will concur in certain areas. The states are also subject to the EU’s jurisdiction in many areas.

European Economic Area (EEA)

An economic zone based on a common rule of law encompassing the European Union (EU) and the EFTA states of Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. Switzerland, also a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), rejected entry to the EEA in a 1992 referendum. The EEA agreement has been in force since 1994. Unlike Switzerland, Liechtenstein – which has a customs and monetary union with Switzerland – has been a full member of the EEA since 1st May 1995.

The agreement involves the relevant EFTA states adopting the rules applying to the single European market in terms of the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons, as well as taking on significant elements of the EU's competition legislation.

A number of exceptions apply to rules within some policy areas such as agriculture. The EFTA states that are members of the EEA are able to contribute to the further development of relevant EU law, although the fact they are not members of the European Union precludes them from actually participating in the decision-making process. The EFTA has formed a Surveillance Authority and a court to offer some kind of institutional support for the EEA treaty.

Export financing

Swiss exporters can quickly get into liquidity problems if the foreign buyers of their goods request very long payment periods (lasting months or years). Banks offer export financing services (export credits) to avoid such situations. These arrangements work as a bridging mechanism between the time goods are actually exported or a service performed and the time the foreign customer makes a financial settlement in return.

Apart from assessing the creditworthiness and the borrowing capacity of the parties involved, the financing bank also considers the specially designed securities associated with this type of financing (such as the Federation's export risk insurance known as SERV) and the relevant national and currency risks.

Export controls

The Goods Control Ordinance (GKV) regulates the export of dual-use goods as well as military goods that are not subject to the War Material Act, such as simulators. The GKV implements decisions of international agreements and non-binding international control measures. For example, export applications are not granted if they relate to the production of weapons of mass destruction or the conventional armament of a state that endangers regional or global security with its behaviour.

The War Material Act regulates the export of weapons and munitions, as well as equipment that has been specifically conceived or modified for use in combat. When it comes to the export of war material, it is vital that the export goods do not infringe on international law, international obligations or the principles of Swiss foreign trade.

‹Lists of affected goods, along with information on the legal basis and the necessary data sheets and forms› can be found on the website of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Export Risk Insurance

Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV) offers insurance for export financing or exports of consumer and capital goods, construction and engineering work and other services by small and medium-sized businesses as well as large enterprises. There are no minimum requirements with regard to company size or order volume. SERV is active in areas of the credit insurance market that are not served by private insurers or are served only to a limited degree.

Through its products, SERV provides security and confidence for exports to economically or politically unstable countries. It thus makes Swiss exporters competitive in the international arena and contributes to the preservation and creation of jobs in Switzerland. For this reason, it is also an important instrument in the Confederation's economic policy.

Please feel free to contact Verena Utzinger (e-mail: verena.utzinger@serv-ch.com, tel: +41 58 551 55 15) if you have any questions regarding SERV and its offers. Further information is also available at www.serv-ch.com/en/.


Export factoring involves the ongoing sale of debts on export payments to a factoring company. It provides a means of raising finance and offers insurance against the risks associated with debts on export payments.

Three parties are involved in the export factoring process: the exporter, the exporter’s customers (importers/debtors) and the factoring company. The importers are only indirectly involved, as the only difference for them is a change of payee from the exporter to the factoring company. Any issues relating to the goods or services themselves are still addressed to the exporter directly.


FDI.net is the World Bank's information website for private investors. The web portal offers free location analysis and information on all things related to foreign direct investment in 175 emerging and developing nations. The website is operated by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in Washington, a member of the World Bank Group. FDI.net offers information on business and legal environments, as well as links to investment promotion agencies and location consultants. Among other things, case studies and financing sources are listed on the site.


The acronym FIATA stands for the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Transitaires et Assimiliés (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations). This international federation of freight forwarders represents the interests of the industry globally. As an umbrella organisation for the freight forwarding industry, the FIATA's main objectives are to represent, promote and protect the common interests of its members on an international level by maintaining contact with international and supranational governmental organisations, transport and trade associations. The professional association participates in laying down commercial practices and regulations in international business and deals with general questions regarding trade and traffic. The FIATA has no commercial interest and it has its head office in Glattbrugg, Switzerland.


Forfaiting refers to the purchase of payment debts on goods and services (mainly relating to export business) before the debts are due to be settled. Once the debt has been transferred, the party buying the debt has no right of recourse to the previous owner of the debt. The system is based on the exporter granting a supplier’s credit to the recipient of the capital goods, services, raw materials or consumer products.

Under forfaiting arrangements, the exporter is only liable where the goods supplied prove to be defective, or where it transpires there is no debt to be settled. All other risks are transferred to the forfaiter.

In practical terms, forfaiting gives exporters a means of converting their credit sales to cash sales.

Free trade agreement

As 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.

Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and the European Union

Since Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU), the vast majority of our trade is based on the Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and the EU from 1972.

The text of this Agreement of the 22nd July 1972 between the Swiss Confederation and the European Economic Community (SR 0.632.401.)is available online: www.admin.ch

Free trade zone

A free trade zone is an area for which participating countries have signed agreements to eliminate trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas. However, each state participating in the free trade zone adopts its own foreign trade policy towards countries that are external to the zone. As an integration form, it differs from a customs union, in which all members use a common external tariff law. There are a large number of free trade zones in the global economy, including the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member.


General Agreement on Trade in Services

The GATS is a contract of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulating trade in services. Together with the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT 94) and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the GATS is one of the three pillars of the WTO's multilateral trade system. Among the main principles of the GATS are the most-favoured nation (MFN) treatment and national treatment. The MFN treatment means that countries cannot grant an individual trading partner special favours but instead have to do the same for all WTO members. There are some general exceptions for regional integration agreements. For example, the European Union does not have to grant the trade advantages of its internal market to third countries. The principle of national treatment obligates member states to treat foreign and local providers equally. Government support must also be available to private providers.


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of the WTO

Confirmation of arrival

As of 1 October 2013, all intra-community deliveries in the EU (among others) must be substantiated with the confirmation of arrival. The confirmation of arrival must contain the following:

  • name and address of the recipient
  • quantity of the object of delivery and description
  • place and month of receipt or the end of the transport of the object
  • date of issue of the confirmation
  • signature of the recipient or a representative

The following is permissible:

  • collective confirmations
  • summary of turnover up to one quarter
  • no need for a form if the confirmation contains the required information
  • confirmation of arrival may consist of multiple documents
Common Customs Tariff CCT

A Common Customs Tariff (CTT) is necessary in a customs union such as the European Union. If member states applied different tariffs to third countries, goods from third countries could be imported via the country with the lowest tariff, thus profiting from the principle of free trade within the customs area.

The Common Customs Tariff for EU members came into force at the end of the 1960s, replacing the separate customs tariffs for individual states. The CCT is based on the International Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System.

Presentation to customs

A presentation to customs informs the EU customs authorities that imported goods or goods for export are at the customs office or another authorised location. The decisive element in the presentation is the act of informing, as opposed to the physical bringing of the goods to the location.

Frontier worker

A free trade zone is an area for which participating countries have signed agreements to eliminate trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas. However, each state participating in the free trade zone adopts its own foreign trade policy towards countries that are external to the zone. As an integration form, it differs from a customs union, in which all members use a common external tariff law. There are a large number of free trade zones in the global economy, including the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member.


The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is an association of eleven republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. The association was established in 1991 by Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. These were closely followed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Georgia joined in 1993 but withdrew again in summer 2009 due to the conflict with Russia regarding the region of South Ossetia.

Harmonised tariff system HS

Since 1st January 1988, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) has been applied for goods description in the EU. For the Common Customs Tariff (CCT), not only the internationally harmonised 6-digit code, the so-called nomenclature, but also an 8-digit code, the so-called combined nomenclature that includes Community subdivisions, is used. Further digits (up to 11 or 12) encode other tariff measures of the Community; the last digit shows national measures.

These 11 or 12 digits of the CCT thus describe all tariffs as well as additional measures related to tariff numbers: customs preferences, customs exemptions, tariff quotas, anti-dumping and compensation duties, import licences, national import turnover tax, etc. The European Commission collects and manages all of this information in the TARIC (Integrated Tariff of the European Communities) database.


Incoterms, or International Commercial Terms, are a series of international sales terms. They provide internationally binding supplier conditions, especially with regard to which of the contractual parties has to bear transportation, customs and insurance costs, which party carries the transport risk, and at what point the risk is passed to the buyer. Incoterms have no legal force; they are only binding if they are agreed upon by the buyer and the seller.

The Incoterms were developed by the International Chamber of Commerce and were first published in 1936. They are regularly updated and the year marks the edition. The latest version of the Incoterms was the 7th revision in 2010.

Full text of Incoterms 2010 (German, English, French; 266 pages; price: CHF 90 or CHF 60 for S-GE members) is available by contacting:
Tel. +41 (0)844 811 812

Declaration of Conformity (DoC)

A Declaration of Conformity (DoC) is mandatory for certain product groups to indicate conformity with the European Union’s health and security requirements. Only then can products use the CE marking and be marketed in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). In short, the DoC is a list of the standards a product meets or must meet.

In a Declaration of Conformity, the manufacturer attests conformity with all relevant CE directives. Normally, self-declaration applies except for special products such as machines that are considered particularly dangerous.


Countertrade refers to a form of international trade arrangement whereby the seller is obliged to accept goods or, less frequently, services from the buyer country in return. Countertrade is used if currency and trading activities are disrupted. There are different types of countertrades:

Barter: A barter deal is a simple exchange of goods with no exchange of money involved.

Full compensation: In a full compensation transaction, analogous to a barter deal, the entire settlement is made in kind. However, both deliveries are paid for, albeit usually without actual money transfers. The payment is compensated, i.e. the importer as third party pays the exporter in his/her own country, deducting a price support.

Partial compensation: The exporter receives a part of the payment in cash and the balance in goods for which he has to find a buyer. It may also happen that the exporter has to buy goods of a higher value than those he is allowed to supply.

Tie-in or counter-purchase transaction: In a tie-in or counter-purchase transaction, the import of goods is coupled with the export of another good. Contrary to the normal compensation transaction, the exporter receives his payment from the buyer by means of a money transfer and has time in which to honour his counter-purchase commitment. If he cannot fulfil it, he becomes liable to pay a penalty.

Triangular compensation: Compensation transactions are not necessarily bilateral. Depending on the market and currency situations in one or more countries or companies, arrangements can also involve three or more parties.

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is the document for a concluded sea freight contract, as well as a receipt and document of transfer. It is issued on request of the shipper by the carrier or its agent and regulates the legal relationship between the carrier and the recipient. By signing the bill of lading, the carrier confirms that the goods matching the contract were received and commits to deliver them at the destination to the rightful recipient against a signed copy of the bill of lading. Usually, three originals and several copies are issued. After the rightful owner at the destination hands in one of the originals, all other originals become invalid. A bill of lading has a number of purposes: it is a document of evidence, presentation and legitimisation, as well as transport.


Corruption acts as a brake on free competition in many countries. As such, any assessment of a foreign market should also cover the risks presented by corruption. The non-governmental organisation Transparency International regularly publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index with details of around 90 countries.

The index helps the reader evaluate the relative level of corruption risk in their target market. Drawing on information from 16 investigations by eight independent organisations, the index is able to paint a very accurate picture. In 1999, Transparency International published an additional index which classified export countries according to their tendency to offer bribes (Bribe Payers Index). On request, the official agencies of the Swiss government in the various target markets can also provide a verbal assessment of the political and other types of risk in the respective countries.


There is provision for diagonal cumulation within the scope of the EuroMed origin system. This is possible because all FTAs use the same origin rules. The diagonal cumulation of origin regulations of several FTAs allows the addition of the raw materials and value creation, which was provided in the individual member countries of the EuroMed zone, without losing the tariff preferences in the process.
Cross-cumulation, in contrast, would allow raw materials and value creation of different free trade partners to cumulate without losing the tariff preferences in the process, even if the origin rules are not identical.

MFN (most favoured nation)

The WTO principle « most-favoured-nation treatment » (MFN) means, that under this agreement, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Grant someone a special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products) and you have to do the same for all other WTO members.
Some exceptions are allowed; for example countries can set up a free trade agreement that applies only to goods traded within the group - discriminating against goods from outside. But the agreements only permit these exceptions under strict conditions.

Value added tax (VAT)

Value added tax (VAT) is a general consumer tax. It is applied to all stages of production and distribution as well as to the import of goods. It is also charged on the services provided by the domestic services sector and must be paid by those obtaining services from companies based abroad. The bodies responsible for collecting the tax on domestic sales in Switzerland and Liechtenstein and on services obtained from companies based abroad are the Swiss Federal Tax Administration and the Liechtenstein tax authority respectively. As far as imported goods are concerned, responsibility lies with the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.

Value added tax in Switzerland is based on the federal law on value added tax of 2nd September 1999 (SR 641.20). Within the European Union, the Sixth VAT Directive (77/388/EEC) applies in this area, subject to the amendments and simplifications listed below. Swiss VAT law reflects the main features of the corresponding EU regulations.

Self-employed suppliers are subject to the tax when their annual domestic (within Switzerland and Liechtenstein) turnover relating to taxable services exceeds CHF 100’000. For non-profit, volunteer-run sports clubs and charitable institutions, the threshold is based on an annual turnover of CHF 150,000.

VAT is paid based on gross income. However, the tax charged on any purchased objects or services can be deducted. This “input tax deduction” avoids any inappropriate accumulation of taxes (whereby both purchases and sales are taxed). In the case of imported objects, tax is charged on their value up to the time when they reach their Swiss destination. There are tax-free allowances for those engaged in cross-border travel. More details are available from the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (www.ezv.admin.ch). For services obtained from a provider based abroad, the domestic recipient must pay tax on the service received. Where this party would not otherwise be liable based on their domestic turnover, they will become liable for tax on this type of service if the annual value of the services exceeds CHF 10,000.
The new VAT Law (MWSTG) went into force on 1 January 2010 together with the related Implementation Ordinance. The most important aim of the total revision of the Federal Law concerning value added tax is to make the legal regulations easier and more user-friendly. More than 50 measures aim at relieving the administrative burden of companies and cutting the costs of levying the tax. A new tax form will also be introduced as of 1st January 2010.

The VAT rates in Switzerland have been as follows since 1 January 2011:
Normal rate: 8%
Reduced rate: 2.5%
Special accommodation rate: 3.8%.

The normal rates in the EU vary between 15 and 27 percent. The reduced rates can drop to 2.1 percent.

A whole range of benefits are exempt from VAT. These include health care, social welfare, education, culture, the transfer of currency and capital (asset administration and collection business are, however, taxable), insurance, residential letting and the sale of property. Anyone providing such benefits, however, has no right to an input tax deduction (a “non-genuine” tax exemption,) even if they are liable for tax on the basis of other taxable turnover. It is possible, subject to certain conditions, to choose to have exempted turnover taxed.
Goods supplied abroad are also essentially taxable. The same applies to services provided abroad. However, such services are later exempted from tax once the required evidence has been provided. In such cases (unlike the provider of services not subject to tax), the provider of the benefit who is liable for tax may claim an input tax deduction (“genuine” tax exemption).


Mercosur is the abbreviated name for the common market in South America.
The member countries are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The following countries are associated members: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador.

Trade fairs abroad

For many companies, participating at the major trade fairs within their industry offers them the best opportunity to present themselves to an international audience, win new customers and maintain existing customer relations. However, participation in a foreign trade fair can be something of a challenge, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, as it involves a variety of risks. With this in mind, thorough organisation and preparation are crucial.


Mutual Recognition Agreement

Within the framework of this agreement, import states agree to recognise testing procedures on product requirements carried out by export states under the condition that products have been tested in accordance with the regulations of the import state and the testing body complies with the requirements in the agreement. Thanks to the agreement on mutual recognition of conformity assessments, products that are destined for the Swiss and the EU market need to be subjected to a single testing procedure only. It is irrelevant whether the testing body is located in Switzerland or the EU. The product approval entitles the producer to use the CE marking necessary for commercialisation in the European market. In this way, an important non-tariff trade barrier that previously limited the free trade of industrial goods has been lifted.


Ein Schweizer Unternehmen kann schon mit einem einzelnen Umsatz mit geringem Wert in einem EU-Land MWST-pflichtig werden (variiert je nach Land).

Principle of identity

The principle of identity applies to actively processing and converting goods to make finished products. According to this principle, the products that are temporarily imported into an economic area (e.g. the European Union) in order to be finished, processed or repaired must be identical to the subsequently exported goods. The opposite of this principle is the principle of equivalence, which only requires the re-export of equivalent goods (in quality and composition).

Non-tariff barriers

"Non-tariff barriers" is the term used to refer to all the regulations which are not tariffs, but which can prevent or restrict the import of products. They impede access to the market for foreign suppliers

Examples: technical regulations and standards, packaging and labelling requirements, import quotas, discrimination during clearing, etc.


Standards usually refer to the rules of engineering. There are also, however, standards relating to other areas. One such area is accountancy, which is subject to the International Accounting Standards (IAS). Standards promote rationalisation, make quality assurance possible, encourage safety both inside and outside the workplace, harmonise testing methods in such areas as environmental protection, and generally help create a consensus regarding the economy, technology, science, administration and the general public.

Standards also promote the free movement of goods and services. Within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), the application of harmonised standards makes it easier to prove conformity with basic health and safety requirements (CE marking) for a large number of industrial products. Standards are not created at state level, but by the very people who need them within the fields of finance, consumer rights, administration and science. Representatives from these fields invest their time and expertise in creating standards to suit both their own interests and the broader interest.

There are Swiss standards (SN), European standards (EN), international standards (ISO and IEC), as well as what are known as works standards. Switzerland’s body of standards (well in excess of 10,000 documents from every industry and sector of the economy and society) is maintained by the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV).


An international organisation for economic cooperation and development to which 30 mainly heavily industrialised countries, including Switzerland, belong. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) is the successor to the OEEC (Organization for European Economic Cooperation) which was founded in 1948. Its predecessor was originally charged with helping to rebuild ravaged post-war Europe. This remit included the application and distribution of the resources available under the Marshall plan.

Today, the OECD’s goals are: (1) Support sustainable economic growth; (2) boost employment; (3) raise living standards; (4) maintain financial stability; (5) assist other countries' economic development; (6) contribute to the growth of world trade.

The OECD is headquartered in Paris.

Single Administrative Document (customs law)

A. The Single Administrative Document
Written customs declarations must be made on a form that is in line with the official “model”. The “model” form is the Single Administrative Document (Reg. (EEC) No. 2913/92 Art. 62 para. 1 “Community Customs Code” combined with Reg. (EEC) 2454/93 Art. 205 para. 1 “Community Customs Code”).

Since 1988, the Single Administrative Document has been used in the European Union as the official form for declaring goods which need to go through a customs procedure. The Single Administrative Document also applies within the context of the European Council’s decision to adopt a convention between the European Economic Community and the EFTA (EC Official Journal No. L 134 from 22nd May 1987). The countries known as the Visegràd states (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) became parties to this convention in 1996.

B. Fact sheet on the Single Administrative Document
Written customs declarations made on the Single Administrative Document must provide all the information required to implement the customs procedures for which the goods are being declared. The fact sheet on the Single Administrative Document should be used as a guide when completing the document. It is based on information from (EEC) Regulation No. 2454/93 - Community Customs Code – Appendix 37, which contains the European fact sheet, and also provides additional instructions which are of relevance to those completing the Single Administrative Document in Germany.

The official and currently valid version of the Single Administrative Document fact sheet is included as part of the German Federal Revenue Administration’s regulations pack Z 3455. It can be obtained free of charge from the main customs offices (as form 0781) while stocks last. A PDF version is also available for download from various sources, including the one listed below.
Source: http://www.zoll-d.de/; information correct as at: 1/6/2001

Pan-European cumulation

The Pan-European Cumulation System is not dissimilar to the Swiss-EU Free Trade Agreement. It was established to create an extended European free trade system. With the adoption of the Pan-European Cumulation System, the system that already operated between the EC and EFTA states for trade involving originating products was expanded to include the Eastern European states.

Concretely, this means that if a product is manufactured with precursor materials that are originating goods of a participating country, they retain their originating status and can be used without restrictions. The Pan-European Cumulation System is possible with precursor materials from the EFTA, the European Union and Turkey. The Central and Eastern European countries originally participating in the Pan-European Cumulation System (Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) have now become members of the European Union.

The introduction of the Pan-European Cumulation System at the start of 1997 marked the arrival of a simpler system for moving goods within Europe, a development which Switzerland had long been advocating. Once strictly divided into a plethora of contractually segregated free-trade zones, the continent of Europe has managed to develop a more unified system of trade law by allowing goods to accumulate properties for justifying preferential origin as they move across different free-trade zones. The amendments are of particular benefit to goods involved in finishing processes.


A right awarded by an official patent office which guarantees the inventors of commercially exploitable objects exclusive user rights. The patent enables the inventor to prevent others from manufacturing, selling or using their invention. However, the inventor is also able to transfer their rights to others by selling their patent or through licensing agreements. Patents apply to a specific country or group of countries and for a specific period of time (up to a maximum of 20 years). In return, the inventor has to make details of their innovation public. The following conditions must be satisfied before a patent can be registered:

  • The invention solves a technical problem by technical means.
  • The invention has commercial applications.
  • The invention is new. There must be no public knowledge of an invention at the time of registration. Any information made publicly available before the date of registration, be it via a written or verbal description, through a particular application, or in any other way, is regarded as existing technology (the prior art).

The following cannot be patented:
Ideas, concepts, discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods, aesthetic creations (design);
Computer programmes (although, programming-related inventions can be patented under certain circumstances);
Games rules, lottery systems, teaching methods and organisational work processes;
Diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods practised on humans or animals;
Varieties of plants, animal species and essentially biological processes for producing plants or breeding animals;
Inventions where commercial exploitation would be detrimental to public order or morality

The protection that patents afford inventions is becoming increasingly important in the face of competitive pressure and the risk of imitations. In Switzerland, patents can be registered with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (EIGE). Switzerland is a member of the European Patent Organisation which runs the European Patent Office. The members of the European Patent Organisation have put together a database called esp@cenet. The database provides the user with an overview of the prior art.

Free movement of persons

Free Movement of Persons Switzerland – EU/EFTA

On June 21 1999, the European Union and Switzerland signed seven bilateral agreements including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which came into force on 1 June 2002. The right of free movement is complemented by the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, by the right to buy property, and by the coordination of social security systems. The same rules also apply to citizens of EFTA member states.

As a result of EU eastern enlargement on 1 May 2004, the agreement was supplemented by an additional protocol containing provisions for the gradual introduction of the free movement of persons as well in the ten new EU member states. The protocol came into force on 1 April 2006. In a referendum on 8 February 2009, the Swiss electorate approved the continuation of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement after 2009 and Protocol II on extending the Agreement to Romania and Bulgaria. The election result confirms Switzerland’s commitment to the Bilateral II agreements. The protocol came into force on 1 June 2009.

The Free Movement of Persons Agreement and its additional protocol lift restrictions on EU citizens wishing to live or work in Switzerland. The same rules apply to citizens of EFTA states. The citizens of the founding EU states, including Cyprus and Malta (EU-17), and the citizens of EFTA states have enjoyed free movement rights for several years already. The citizens of the EU-8 state were granted the same unrestricted free movement rights on 1 May 2011. The citizens of Bulgaria and Romania will remain subject to restrictions till 31 May 2016 at the latest.

Federal Council invokes safeguard clause: The Federal Council decided to invoke the safeguard clause contained in the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. After 1 May 2013, the quota for B-permits (5-year residence permits) will be kept in place for nationals of the EU-8 states and as of 1 of June 2013, quotas will be applied to B-permits for workers from EU-17 states as well. Quotas will apply for one year.

Affected by the quotas are persons with an employment contract valid for one or more than one year or indefinitely wishing to take up employment in Switzerland and therefore applying for a type B residence permit for gainfully employed persons. The same applies to the self-employed persons.

On July 1, 2013, Croatia joined the European Union as the 28th Member State. On March 8, 2013, the Swiss Federal Council enacted a negotiation mandate to extend the agreement on the free movement of persons to cover Croatia. The negotiations were concluded on July 15, 2013. In the aftermath of the vote on February 9, 2014, on the mass immigration initiative, Switzerland was unable to sign Protocol III concerning Croatia, and as a result, the Swiss Federal Council decided on April 30, 2014, to grant Croatian nationals separate quotas for the Swiss labor market. The ongoing work to implement Art. 121a of the Federal Constitution, as well as the prospect of reaching agreement with the EU on a solution in the form of a safeguard clause, ultimately made it possible to sign Protocol III on March 4, 2016. Ratification is to take place once a compatible solution is in place with the EU regarding the agreement on the free movement of persons with respect to the implementation of the mass immigration initiative.

(Source : Federal Office for Migration)

Product safety/liability

Consumers place a great deal of importance on product safety. As part of his or her basic preparations, any exporter wishing to avoid nasty surprises must find out about the legal and technical product safety requirements (product regulations) that apply in the target export market.

Manufacturers and even importers can be held liable for defective products. Products which fail to meet safety regulations can be stopped at customs.

Public contracts

The tendering platform STEP (Selective Tenders & Projects) continuously collects national and international business opportunities and invitations to tenders and passes on invitations to tender and projects which are relevant to the registered Swiss SMEs without time delays.
Take the opportunity to test STEP free of charge at: http://www.tenders.ch.

TED: Tenders Electronic Daily: An EU database, which is updated daily and provides details of all invitations to tender for public contracts in the EU and other countries. It contains information on contracts awarded. Also available on CD-ROM.

Negotiated procedures: those national procedures whereby contracting authorities consult suppliers of their choice and negotiate the terms of the contract with one or several of them.

Open procedures: those national procedures that allow any interested supplier to submit a tender.

Restricted procedures: those national procedures whereby only those suppliers invited by the contracting authorities may submit tenders.

Reverse charge procedure

The 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.

Risk management

It can often be difficult, particularly for smaller companies, to assess and manage the risks associated with developing export businesses. As well as those risks associated with the competition that could threaten the export programme’s financial success, the prospective target market may also present product-related risks. Such product-related risks are the result of product requirements and safety regulations which must be satisfied before a product can be circulated within the target market.

There is also the possibility of defective products inviting claims for substantial liability damages, particularly where the product has caused personal injury. Such cases might lead to expensive product recall operations. Within this context, it is important to realise that in the European Union (and in Switzerland), other types of error, such as a misleading instruction manual, can provoke the same consequences as a defective product.

With this in mind, it pays dividends to consider risk aspects at an early stage, even during product development. In collaboration with the Swiss-based Zurich Financial Services insurance company, S-GE has developed a joint platform covering the most important aspects of risk management.


Schengen cooperation facilitates travel within the EU as a result of the elimination of systematic identity controls at the common borders of the Schengen member states (internal borders). At the same time, a number of measures have been introduced to improve international justice and police cooperation in the fight against crime. These include security measures such as tighter controls at the Schengen external borders and increased cross-border police cooperation and improvements to legal assistance.

Dublin cooperation ensures that asylum seekers make only one application for asylum within the Dublin area. The Dublin criteria establish which country is responsible for dealing with an asylum application and thus ensure a more even distribution and sharing of burdens. The electronic fingerprint database makes it possible to identify persons who make more than one application and to direct them to the country responsible.

On 5 June 2005, the Swiss voted in favour of acceding to the Schengen Association Agreement (SAA), which came into force on 1st March 2008. Following Switzerland’s link-up with the Schengen Information System (SIS) in August 2008, the Agreement became officially operational on 12th December 2008. In practice, this means that identity controls at the internal Schengen borders have been lifted.

Court of arbitration

Courts of arbitration are private (i.e. not state-run) courts which make final and binding judgments on disputes. For a dispute to be considered by a court of arbitration, both parties have to consent. The court’s decision is usually legally binding for both parties and can be declared enforceable before a judicial authority. Parties involved in business disputes often prefer courts of arbitration to the state’s legal process, as proceedings can be conducted more quickly and offer greater flexibility. Many companies also like the confidentiality offered by court of arbitration proceedings. As the public is excluded, confidential details remain secret.

Switzerland has a long tradition of arbitration. More information on Swiss courts of arbitration is available in the Swiss Rules of International Arbitration brochure published in January 2004.

Threshold value

The term “threshold value” plays an important role within the context of public procurement. It refers to the limit above which an invitation to tender has to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union, thereby opening the door to competitors from across the EU. The individual areas of construction, goods and services are subject to different threshold values.


SERV offers insurance for export financing or exports of consumer and capital goods, construction and engineering work and other services by small and medium-sized businesses as well as large enterprises. There are no minimum requirements with regard to company size or order volume. SERV is active in areas of the credit insurance market that are not served by private insurers or are served only to a limited degree.

Through its products, SERV provides security and confidence for exports to economically or politically unstable countries. It thus makes Swiss exporters competitive in the international arena and contributes to the preservation and creation of jobs in Switzerland. For this reason, it is also an important instrument in the Confederation's economic policy.

Further information is also available at www.serv-ch.com/en/.


The Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) is a worldwide unique number used to identify logistics units (containers, pallets, cases, or cartons). The eighteen-digit number is based on the EAN system. The code contains information on the sender of the goods, an exact product description and further specifications, as well as a check number. To avoid overlapping, it is recommended that used codes be blocked for two years.

Summary declaration

Anyone presenting goods for customs clearance on the single European market is basically required to make a summary declaration as soon as the goods are presented. The declaration contains a list or directory of the goods presented.

The summary declaration involves a number of forms. These are typically form number 0306, commercial papers or a despatch note. The declaration is to be submitted by the carrier/receiver (the party obliged to present the goods) on behalf of the ordering party or the representative of the designated persons (e.g. HGV drivers, transport companies, forwarding companies).


Switzerland’s working tariff has been available on the Internet at www.tares.ch since 3rd May 2004. Apart from providing details on the Swiss working tariff, tares also offers explanations of the customs tariff, as well as rulings concerning the tariff charged on goods. In addition, the service offers a number of search functions and links to circulars, tariff quotas and exchange rates. More information to be found here: http://www.exportblog.ch/de/blog/«tares»-–-der-schweizerische-zolltarif (German).


TARIC is an acronym for what is known as the Integrated Tariff of the European Communities (Tarif Intégré des Communautés Européennes). It is based on the Combined Nomenclature (CN), which covers some 10,000 headings (using an 8-digit code) and constitutes the basic nomenclature used for the Common Customs Tariff, the Community’s foreign trade statistics, and trade between Member States. TARIC also serves as the basis for the working and customs tariffs and the Member States’ tariff files.

TARIC provides details of:
1. Tariff suspensions
2. Tariff quotas
3. Tariff preferences (including tariff quotas and ceilings)
4. General preference system regarding developing countries
5. Anti-dumping and countervailing duties
6. Countervailing charges
7. Agricultural components
8. Average values
9. Standard import values
10. Reference and minimum prices
11. Import prohibitions
12. Import restrictions
13. Import surveillance
14. Export prohibitions
15. Export restrictions
16. Export surveillance
17. Export refunds


Tenders Electronic Daily, the online database of the Official Publications Office of the European Communities, contains details of all the public procurement invitations to tender published in the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union.

Any public procurement contracts exceeding a certain value (threshold value) must be published in the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union (“S series”, “Official Journal S” or “OJ/S”), so that the details can be publicised across the EU.



TIN means "Traders Identification Number"
This is the registration of an exporter or a forwarder at the Customs Administration. The TIN is necessary for customs declarations with e-dec. Only with an own TIN number the exporter can collect the eVV on the server of the Customs Administration.

Declaration of origin

In cases where one or more packages are being sent, the declaration of origin can be made on the invoice itself, instead of using a EUR 1 movement certificate. In such cases, however, the total value of the originating products must not exceed CHF 10,300 (or CHF 8800 under the Switzerland/Faroe Islands Agreement).

The declaration of origin is to be submitted in the form and language stipulated in the respective agreement. It must be printed, stamped or typed by typewriter and signed personally. The exporter must keep a copy of the invoice with the declaration of origin for at least three years.
The wording of the declaration of origin in English must be as follows: "The exporter of the products covered by this document declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of (country/zone) preferential origin."

Certificate of origin

The certificate of origin proves a product’s country of origin. The authorities of many countries require that goods that are imported be accompanied by a certificate of origin or certified commercial invoice. There are several reasons for this: certificates of origin play a role, for example, in applying preferential tariffs, monitoring import restrictions and, in the EU, in implementing anti-dumping measures or price controls.

The certificate of origin is a document issued by an independent body (e.g. Chamber of Commerce) that certifies the origin of goods from a trade policy point of view. It is the receiving country that usually decides whether a certificate of origin is required.

Choose your chamber of commerce 

Processing, inward

All goods imported into Switzerland must be assessed in accordance with the Customs Law and the Customs Tariff Act. For goods that are only temporarily imported into a customs territory in order to do processing work, the procedure of inward processing can by applied. The respective goods can thus be imported duty-free. In some cases, it is also possible to be exempt from value-added tax (VAT). For duty-free goods and goods for which the full input-tax deduction can be made, the inward processing procedure is unnecessary.

The following activities fall under the category of processing:

  • Treatment: Procedure in which the goods remain basically unchanged. This includes bottling, packing and mounting, as well as assembly and installation.
  • Processing: Procedure that changes the basic features of a good (e.g. processing milk powder into chocolate).
  • Repair

Applications for the approval of inward processing should be made with form 47.80, available in German, French and Italian on the website of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.

Processing, outward

All goods exported from Switzerland must be assessed in accordance with the Customs Law and the Customs Tariff Act. The Customs Law stipulates several customs procedures for this purpose (e.g. the procedure of outward processing). The procedure of outward processing is not always necessary when products are exported for processing. Goods that are exported for contract processing can also be imported again VAT-free if they have been registered for the export procedure. Therefore, it is not necessary to issue a customs declaration for the procedure of outward processing if the processed good is imported duty-free in accordance with the customs tariff or due to a certificate of origin. In this case, the goods destined for outward processing can be registered under the regulations for export (including an export declaration stating the purpose of export). For such cases, form 47.89 applies.

The following activities fall in the category of processing:

  • Treatment: Procedure in which the goods remain basically unchanged. This includes bottling, packing and mounting, as well as assembly and installation.
  • Processing: Procedure that changes the basic features of a good (e.g. processing milk powder into chocolate).
  • Repair

Applications for the approval of outward processing should be made with form 47.85, available in German, French and Italian on the website of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.

Simplified declaration procedure

This declaration procedure represents a simpler way of making customs declarations in the EU. It only requires absolutely essential details and documentation to be submitted when making a customs declaration. An additional declaration can/must be submitted at a later date, depending on the authorisation. This may provide more general information or summaries, or may need to be submitted at specified regular intervals (e.g. monthly). The simplified declaration procedure is subject to authorisation.


Agreements are becoming increasingly important within the context of international commerce. Given the different written laws and forms of legal practice that exist across the world and the different interpretations of the law that are culturally conditioned, it is impossible to devote too much attention to devising “good” agreements. Model agreements have proven to be useful, particularly for companies with little experience in this area.

Temporary importation

The customs temporary admission procedure applies to goods that are not imported definitely but are used only temporarily and are then re-exported without having been changed. In most cases, there are no definitive import duties for temporary imports because they are only due for foreign goods remaining in Swiss customs territory and being released for free circulation.

In principle, almost all types of goods can be declared using the temporary admission procedure. However, changes to the goods are prohibited. The most significant categories involved in temporary admission are: professional equipment, goods for use at exhibitions and fairs and special types of reusable transportation containers.

If a good is imported for temporary use, customs offices require a guarantee (deposit) equivalent to the import taxes, which normally would have been imposed on release for free circulation. In the case of a full and punctual re-exportation of the goods, the deposit will be returned. If the goods or part of them remain in Switzerland, definitive customs duty will become due.

EUR 1 movement certificate

Switzerland has concluded free trade agreements with a number of different states or groups of states.
These agreements afford products the right to preferential treatment (waiving or reduction of customs duties) assuming they satisfy the agreed conditions on origin and have valid proof of their origin.
A EUR 1 movement certificate can be used as proof. Alternatively, the declaration of origin on the invoice can also be used in certain cases.

http://www.ezv.admin.ch/index.html (German)

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international, Geneva-based institution for promoting international free trade. The World Trade Organization was founded in 1993 by a Final Act of the Uruguay Round, a multilateral series of negotiations within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The decisions of the Final Act transcend GATT.

The aim of the WTO is the reduction of trade barriers and thus the liberalisation of trade. The WTO is entrusted with administering and overseeing the free trade agreements under the Final Act, supervising international trading practices, and mediating between Member States in the event of trade disputes. Having assumed its duties on 1st January 1995, the WTO currently has 159 Member States including the US, China, all members of the European Union and Switzerland. The latest member is Tajikistan. The WTO is independent of the United Nations. The General Council of the World Trade Organization consists of ambassadors from the Member States who also cooperate within a variety of sub-committees and special committees. Their work is supervised by the Ministerial Conference, which sits every two years and appoints the WTO’s General Director. Trade disputes brought before the WTO are mediated by a special committee. There is a special WTO body so that countries can appeal against decisions it has made. The decision of this body is final.

Economic sanctions

Economic sanctions are an attempt to influence the behaviour of states by means of economic measures. There are different kinds of economic sanctions, or embargoes. A comprehensive embargo is the complete ban on trade relations with the sanctioned country. Import and export blocks, as well as bans on capital transfers, are among the most important measures of comprehensive sanctions. A partial economic sanction, on the other hand, is an embargo within only one area or economic sector, for example, the import or export of specific goods (e.g. oil or weapons). The United Nations Security Council can call for collective economic sanctions, for example in the case of a violation of human rights. According to Article 25 of the UN Charter, they are binding for all member states.


Customs duties are a form of tax payable to the State mainly when importing goods into a customs territory. From a protectionist perspective, protective duties play an important role as they are designed to afford domestic producers some protection against foreign competition. In most countries, customs duties are levied as an ad valorem duty, which means the level of duty payable is calculated as a percentage of the value of a given product. By contrast, Switzerland applies the “specific tariff” system for most goods. The specific tariff here is payable per 100 kg net weight. Given the numerous customs duty reductions under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT; now the World Trade Organization), customs are now much less important in terms of international trade. In Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA) is responsible for levying customs duties. Internationally, customs administration authorities are members of the broader World Customs Organization (WCOOMD).

Customs declaration (EU)

The EU customs declaration is used by the declaring party to specify which customs procedure a product should undergo. The declaration can be made by any person in a position to present the responsible customs office with a product (or have a product presented on their behalf) in accordance with the regulations laid out for this purpose. The same person should also be able to provide any documentation required for the customs procedure concerned. The official sponsor of the customs procedure is the person on whose account the customs declaration is being made, or the party to whom the rights and obligations of this person have been assigned in connection with the customs procedure.

In principle, the party making the declaration must be based in the EU (although Swiss companies can also make declarations). The written and signed customs declaration should always be submitted on the official form provided for this purpose (generally the Single Administrative Document), which contains all the details required for the relevant procedure.

Verbal declarations are permitted for, amongst other things, non-commercial imported products in the form of travel luggage, small items, or items sent by individuals. They are also permissible, subject to certain conditions, when importing products for commercial purposes if the total value is EUR 1000 or less, and for certain products which are not subject to duty.

Duty-free warehouse

Goods whose final destination is uncertain, high-customs goods, and goods subject to quotas may be temporarily stored untaxed and with duty unpaid (with or without time restrictions) in a duty-free warehouse. It is operated by private warehouse companies but has a public character and is open to all interested parties. Certain manipulations of the stored goods are possible with approval by the Customs Administration. In addition, measures regarding trade policy do not apply. In order to get goods out of the duty-free warehouse, they can either be cleared (whereby duty becomes due) or moved in bond (customs seal, customs documents) to another duty-free warehouse.

Customs account

A customs account for centralised settlement (ZAZ) can be recommended to all importers and shippers who have to pay import or export duty on trading goods to the Federal General Directorate of Customs. Importers who have an account at the Federal Customs Administration are charged all customs and VAT duties directly with the following terms: VAT: 60 days after receipt; customs: 2 days after receipt.

Customs warehousing procedure (EU)

The customs warehousing procedure of the European Union is an EU customs procedure whereby non-European Community products can be transferred to another location after their arrival in the customs territory without incurring import duties. Products are stored in a customs warehouse from where they are later either re-exported (transit storage) or transferred to another customs procedure which may involve the imposition of import duties (credit storage). There are two types of customs warehouse: public and private.

Public warehouses (types A, B, F) can be used by anybody for storing goods. Storage in private warehouses (types C, D, E) is restricted to the warehouse keeper. In the same way as with other customs procedures that have economic implications, the customs storage procedure also requires approval. The only exception relates to type F warehouses, which are operated by the customs authorities directly.

Customs union

An association formed by a number of countries who agree not to levy customs duties when goods are exchanged between members and to apply a common external tariff to goods from non-member countries. The European Union (EU) is an example of a customs union. Details of its customs rates are provided in TARIC (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté) and are available on the Internet. Switzerland and Liechtenstein also form a customs union, whereas the free trade zone EFTA is not a customs union.

Patent information

The protection of innovations, for example through patents, is becoming increasingly important in the face of competitive pressure and the risk of imitations.

Patent information
In Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (EIGE) in Berne gives free access to patent information. The full range of patent literature is available to companies. The European Patent Organisation (which includes Switzerland) also offers a free search facility for global patent information at http://ch.espacenet.com/. The user can request details of any patent registration published in past years by any national office of the European Patent Organisation.

Requests can be based on the following search criteria:

* Publication number
* Application number
* Priority number
* Publication date
* Applicant
* Inventor
* Technical area (as per the International Patent Classification)
* Keyword(s) for the invention (using official language of publication)

A hit list enables the user to access all the bibliographical details for the documents and a reproduction of each individual page. This means the complete patent documentation can be downloaded in pdf format.

Worldwide patent information
In addition, http://ch/espacenet.com/ also offers a facility that allows English-language summaries of patent documentation from across the world to be requested via the internal databases of the European Patent Office. However, for non-European countries, there are only partial summaries and/or bibliographical data available.

Regional exhaustion
As of July 2009, the amendment of the Patent Act with regards to the question of exhaustion came into force. Thus, patented products which have been put into circulation in the European Economic Area with the agreement of the patent owner may now be imported into Switzerland without the agreement of the patent owner. In addition, it is now possible to import goods that are marketed by the patent owner outside the European Economic Area as well if the patent protection plays only a minor role for the functional composition of the product. However, for goods for which the prices are fixed by the Swiss Confederation and foreign states, notably pharmaceuticals, imports will continue to be subject to the agreement of the patent owner. 

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