In each customs declaration, the products imported and exported are given an eight-digit code number, the so-called tariff number. This coding is based on the international classification (nomenclature) set out in the Harmonized System (HS). At the same time, the about 9,000 applicable tariff numbers form the building blocks for preparing the foreign trade statistics, e.g. by type of goods and product group.
All values shown in the foreign trade statistics refer to the invoiced price of the goods in Swiss francs carriage paid to the Swiss border (= statistical value). This includes transport and insurance costs as well as other expenditure up to the Swiss border in accordance with CIF (cost, insurance and freight), in the case of importation, or FOB (free on board) in the case of exportation. However, reductions, discounts, all customs duties, taxes (e.g. value added tax) and other charges are not included in the statistical value. If the invoice is in a foreign currency, the invoiced amounts are converted using the previous day's exchange selling rate.
The foreign trade statistics show the net mass of an item in kg (i.e. the actual weight of the item without packaging, padding or supports).
For certain goods, there is also information on additional amounts such as number of units, litres, metres, pairs.
For the foreign trade statistics, the country of origin has been used in the case of imports since January 1st, 2012 (previously: country of production). The country of origin is the country where the item was wholly obtained or predominantly manufactured.
The country of destination is relevant for exports; the country of destination is the country to which the item is exported or where the item was processed (refined).
Based on the postcode in the address of the recipient (importation) or sender (exportation), an evaluation is carried out by canton and the Principality of Liechtenstein. The informative value of the foreign trade statistics by canton is limited, however, as the place of receipt or dispatch does not necessarily have to correspond to the place of sale or production.
The Swiss customs area is divided into five border-crossing territories (German, French, Italian and Austrian borders and inland customs offices). Each border-crossing territory consists of several border-crossing zones. These in turn have one or more customs offices. In terms of foreign trade statistics, the customs office that duly accepted the customs declaration is relevant.
The foreign trade statistics also give information on the means of transport used to bring goods across the border. A distinction is made between rail, road, waterway, air, post (recorded up to the end of 2012), pipeline and self-propulsion. The mean of transport used at the time of crossing the border is decisive.
For transit, the mode of transport with which the longest distance has been covered within Switzerland is provided. The transit journey can be made by rail, road or pipeline. Transit by waterway or air is not included.
The foreign trade statistics also contain the customs revenue associated with the import duties levied. The Swiss system applies the weight duty principle, i.e. the rate of duty refers to the goods' gross weight (weight of the goods plus all packaging) or unit of measure (litre, etc.), and is determined in Swiss francs per 100 kg. This is in contrast with the ad valorem duty approach, whereby the rate is based on a set percentage of the value of the goods.
Business cycle total (total 1) and general total (total 2)
The foreign trade statistics results are published by business cycle total (total 1) and general total (total 2). The difference between the totals lies in the fact that total 2 includes precious metals, precious stones and gems, works of art and antiques, while total 1 does not.
Total 1 is used primarily for economic consideration, whereas the general total (total 2) is preferred for comparisons with other countries.