Agricultural and veterinary affairs – an intensive exchange

Five cattle on the pasture
Five cattle on the pasture © Proviande

The European Union (EU) is Switzerland's main trading partner in the agricultural sector. Our bilateral relations are close because of our shared values, our geographical proximity, and the challenges we face in transforming our food systems. Switzerland takes a close interest in the developments of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the implementation of the Farm to Table and Biodiversity strategies.

Trade in agricultural products (agricultural raw materials and commodities) between Switzerland and the EU is regulated by the Agreement on Trade in Agricultural Products (Agricultural Agreement). This agreement facilitates reciprocal access to the markets of both parties by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers. In addition, it ensures the protection of Swiss geographical indications (PDO/PGI) in the EU and vice versa.

With the conclusion of the Agriculture Agreement in 1999 and its entry into force in 2002, trade flows between Switzerland and the EU have intensified. In 2022, 50% of Swiss agricultural exports went to EU member states, while 72% of Swiss imports came from the EU.

Representatives from Switzerland and the EU meet at least once a year in the Joint Committee on Agriculture, which is responsible for the management of the Agriculture Agreement and its functioning.

Trade in processed agricultural products (i.e. from the food industry) is governed by Protocol 2 of the 1972 Free Trade Agreement, which has since been revised under the Bilateral Agreements II. The reference prices for calculating import duties on these products are adjusted regularly.

The veterinary field – an integrated part of the agricultural agreement

Annex 11 of the Agricultural Agreement between Switzerland and the EU, also known as the Veterinary Agreement, sets out measures applicable to animal health, food safety, animal protection and animal husbandry, and trade in live animals and animal products.

The Veterinary Agreement forms the basis for ensuring that EU and Swiss regulations on the prevention of epizootic diseases are essentially consistent and lead to the same outcomes. The result is a common veterinary area between Switzerland and the EU with equivalent trading conditions for both partners.

The veterinary border controls on the movement of animals and products of animal origin between Switzerland and the EU have been suspended since the first of January 2009.

Consignments from third countries are controlled on entry into the Switzerland-EU veterinary area and can then be freely traded. In Switzerland, corresponding inspection posts have been set up for this purpose at the Geneva and Zurich airports. The proper implementation of the veterinary agreement is monitored by the Joint Veterinary Committee.