U.S. – Swiss Trade and Investment

Switzerland and the United States are key trading partners with a long history of cross-border investment.


By Karina Rollins

The U.S. is the No. 1 destination for Swiss foreign direct investment, as well as one of the largest foreign investors in Switzerland. The significance of the trade and investment relationship between Switzerland and the United States can hardly be overstated. Sergio Ermotti, Chairman of the Board of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, even believes that Switzerland might be more important to the United States than China. Exports and imports of goods and services are valued at over $50 billion annually.

Swiss Direct Investment in the United States

The United States is—by far—the most important destination for Swiss foreign direct investment (FDI). Switzerland’s cumulative direct investment in the U.S. amounts to $258 billion, and Swiss companies directly support nearly half a million jobs in the U.S.

Switzerland is now the seventh-largest foreign director investor in the United States. At the end of 2014, Switzerland and seven other countries made up 80 percent of all FDI in the U.S.

Impact of Swiss Companies in the U.S.

About 500 Swiss companies with more than 3,500 branches do business in all 50 states and support 461,900 jobs across the United States. Between 2008 and 2013, Swiss firms added nearly 73,000 jobs in the U.S.—constituting a growth rate of 19 percent.

Swiss companies contribute to U.S. employment in three main ways: (1) jobs at Swiss companies (461,900); (2) jobs supported by U.S. exports of services to Switzerland (185,000); and (3) jobs tied to U.S. exports of goods to Switzerland (75,000). Combined, these avenues to employment through trade and investment supported nearly 725,000 jobs across the United States. Swiss companies have the highest number of affiliates in California, New York, Illinois, Texas, and Florida. The top five states for job growth with Swiss companies are New Mexico, North Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Swiss companies paid the highest average salary of all foreign-based firms. They are the top contributors to U.S. research and development (R&D) among foreign affiliates—more than $10 billion in 2013. In terms of employment, Swiss investments in pharmaceuticals and medicines generated the highest number of R&D jobs in the U.S., employing more than 10,000 people in 2013.

Swiss company affiliates also bolster U.S. exports and pay billions in U.S. income taxes.

U.S. Trade with Switzerland

Goods and services worth more than $50 billion are traded annually in each direction between the United States and Switzerland.

In 2015, the United States exported goods worth more than $22 billion to Switzerland—making tiny Switzerland the 17th-largest export market for U.S. goods. Primary metals accounted for nearly 30 percent of U.S. merchandise exports to Switzerland that year, totaling $6.6 billion. Other top export categories to Switzerland are chemicals, used merchandise, computer and electronic products, and transportation equipment.

U.S. services exports to Switzerland rank seventh-largest worldwide, with business services and payments for use of intellectual property making up the two largest segments, with nearly $11 billion in sales each. The total services exports account for around $30 billion.

Switzerland sent 12.2 percent of its total export goods to the United States in 2016, making the U.S.  Switzerland’s No. 2 export destination (after Germany, at 14.4 percent). (China was the No. 4 recipient of Swiss exports, at 9 percent.) Germany and the United States are also the top two countries from which Switzerland received imports, at 19 percent and 9 percent, respectively. (Total imports from China were in seventh place at 4.1 percent.)

Trade and Investment Agreements

  • In 2006, Switzerland and the United States established a Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum (TICF), a platform for discussing issues of mutual interest.
  • In 2000, Switzerland and the United States established the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC) to increase trade links between the two countries. Today, areas of cooperation under the JEC include money laundering, terrorism, government regulation, and intellectual property rights.

For more details on FDI and trade of goods and services between the U.S. and Switzerland, as well as the Swiss economic impact on each of the 50 states, see the Swiss embassy’s January 2017 report on “Switzerland’s Economic Footprint in the United States.”

Additional resources:

Swiss-U.S. Economic Relations, Federal Council of Switzerland

The Global Competitiveness Report 2016–2017, World Economic Forum

Switzerland Punches Way Above Its Weight, video, Embassy of Switzerland in the U.S.

Trade & Investment Framework Agreements, United States Trade Representative

Trade in Goods with Switzerland, U.S. Census Bureau

Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce