The theme of protectionism has received plenty of media coverage since Donald Trump's election as President of the United States and the subsequent trade war with China. It is a geographically widespread phenomenon, which also encompasses Europe and Switzerland. For this study, we surveyed just under 560 exporting Swiss small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to obtain their views on the issues of protectionism and export barriers. More than 40% believe these do not pose any challenge, or at most only a minor one. The resurgence of protectionism since 2016 appears to have had only a slight impact on Swiss SMEs so far. Just 23% of respondents expressed the view that the situation had deteriorated compared to five years ago, whereas half did not perceive any change. This could be attributable to the fact that just 20-30% of surveyed SMEs are experiencing trade obstacles in the most important European markets. Barriers are higher in other markets, however. Just under 50% of SMEs perceive barriers when exporting to the United States, and this figure rises to as much as 54% when it comes to the third most important region - China/Hong Kong. The principal instrument of the current trade war, namely, conventional tariffs, is problematic for just under half of respondent companies. However, customs procedures and the workload associated with the provision of conformity assessments and product origin documentation, which are all categorized as non-tariff trade obstacles, are perceived as greater challenges. When it comes to obstacles to the export business, the two most significant factors of all - ranking above both tariff-based and non-tariff barriers - are perceived by respondent companies to be the price of their offering and prevailing exchange rates.
international trade protectionism export barriers Swiss small and medium-sized enterprises survey data