Switzerland’s economy is very stable and well-known for its monetary security and banking system. Due to its rather small size and high labor specialization, industry and trade are economic key factors. Throughout the 20th century, Switzerland maintained its position as wealthiest country of Europe. The 1990s, however, changed Switzerland’s economic position due to various reasons. The following section will examine economic coefficients which are important for international trade, such as exports, imports, and foreign investment. Besides, the paper will take a closer look at Gross Domestic Product (GDP) development and other facts which allow us to analyze Switzerland’s economic well-being. The historic data is based on Rais’ and Stauffer’s overview of Switzerland’s trade cycle history from 1990 until 2002. Recent trends are compiled of sources coming from Wikipedia’s Online Encyclopedia, the World Bank, and the OECD.
At the beginning of 1990, Switzerland’s economy was influenced by numerous international problems such as the Iraqi invasion in Kuwait, exploding oil prices, and a totally new orientation of Eastern Europe away from socialism towards more democratic principles. This implicated financial insecurities of various enterprises and led to a slow stagnation of the global economy. Hence, Switzerland’s GDP fell by 0.8 percent between 1990 and 1991. Due to Germany’s Unification, Switzerland’s neighbor increased its interest rates in order to cover high inflation which made an impact on Swiss interest rates as well. Thus, investment decreased by 2.2 percent. Low foreign demand caused a major contraction of exports of approximately 1.3 percent. Imports went down as well. Overall, Switzerland had to deal with a massive demand crisis combined with a major trade surplus. In 1992, Switzerland was affected by stagflation and there was no improvement in sight. When Italian Lira and British Pounds had to leave the European Economic Union (EEU), the Swiss Franc became more important and generated big capital flows towards Switzerland. However, the Swiss economy did not recover. Exports were the only positive economic factor; increasing by 3.1 percent. In 1993, the global economy improved, helping Switzerland to further raise their exports. The Bank of Switzerland pursued restrictive monetary policy, slowing down growth even more since the higher value of the Franc strained exports. GDP increased by 1.1 percent, mainly because of a strong positive trend in the building sector. In 1995, GDP increased by weak 0.4 percent. The trade surplus widened as exports stagnated but imports increased. 1996 was similar with minimal growth. However, foreign interest in Swiss products rose, leading to overall improvement of the economic situation. After reaching a 5.2 percent peak in 1997, unemployment dropped in 1998 by 1.3 percent. Previous cautious consumption brightened which supported aggregate demand. GDP reached 2.8 percent, the highest number since 1990. Due to higher consumption and lower exports, particularly evoked by the Asian and Russian economic crisis, Switzerland’s trade deficit finally decreased. Construction investment showed a major drop which decreased GDP by 1.5 percent down to 1.3 percent. Consumption, however, remained strong. Overall, Switzerland was able to benefit from global economic rebound. Exports increased by 6.5 percent, primarily borne by chemical products and machinery. Expansionary monetary policy supported this economic development. The new millennium presented impressing numbers: all main indicators showed positive outcomes, mainly capital flows from foreign countries, demand, and investment. Exports and imports showed robust surges, increasing by 10.2 and 9.5 percent in 2000 alone. Growth was equal to 3.6 percent. In 2001, not only Switzerland had to struggle with economic changes. Investments and business activity slowed down. After the terrorist attacks in the United States, the Swiss Franc, once again, demonstrated its security potential. Exports and imports hardly increased at all. Unemployment rose by 1.7 percent. GDP of 2002 was not more than 0.3 percent, and the trade balance showed another surplus due to more imports than exports. Since aggregate demand was weak, employment slowed down. In 2003, GDP measured 321.8 billion U.S. Dollars compared to 357.5 billion U.S. Dollars in 2004. Inflation ranged between 0.5 and 0.9 percent. Exports made up 44.1 percent of GDP; imports 37.1 percent. Last but not least, foreign investment equaled 17.4 billion U.S. Dollars in 2003.