Bilateral Trade Report



Brazil and Switzerland have a harmonious and long-term business relationship. Brazil is the main economic partner in Latin America, responsible for 22% of Swiss business in the region. In 2017, Brazil ranked 27th in the list of Switzerland’s most important trade partners. In 2017, Brazil was the destination of 35% of exports from Switzerland to Latin America, followed by Mexico, 20%, and Argentina, 13%.

Brazil sells mainly gold, sugar cane, chicken and turkey meat, coffee, rice, paintings, heart valves, orthopedic prostheses, orange juice, coffee, oil, cigarettes, among others.

Meanwhile, Switzerland exports medicinal products for human and veterinary use, nitrogen and heterocyclic compounds, fuel oils, roasted coffee, radars, clocks, hearing aids and so on.

In addition, the two nations maintain an excellent diplomatic relationship in the cultural and political domain and hold frequently ministerial meetings and bilateral political consultations.

According to the Federal Statistical Office of Switzerland, currently 14,124 Swiss citizens live in Brazil, while the Brazilian community in Switzerland has 20,780 people.


Diplomatic relations between Brazil and Switzerland


Diplomatic relations between Brazil and Switzerland began when Brazil was part of the Portuguese Empire. In 1818, the King João VI authorized 100 Swiss families to settle as immigrants at the Fazenda do Morro Queimado, in Rio de Janeiro. The colony grew up to the point it became first a village, then a city, called Nova Friburgo, in the year of 1890. In September 2017, Nova Friburgo received the title of “Brazilian Switzerland” by the Government of Rio de Janeiro.

The first Brazilian diplomatic mission arrived in Switzerland, in 1855, when José Francisco Guimarães became the first diplomatic representative as a Consul in Bern. On the other side, the first Swiss representative, Albert Gertsch, was sent to Brazil in 1907, in charge of business relationship. The Swiss legation in Rio de Janeiro became an Embassy in 1958, while the Brazilian legation in Berne became an Embassy in the following year.

Over the last few years, Brazil and Switzerland have approached relations aiming to reach a better economic cooperation. In 2007, both countries agreed on creating a “Memorandum of Understanding”, which established a Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Relations. The former Brazilian Ambassador to Switzerland, Eduardo dos Santos, affirmed that this agreement was a “central point for coordination and convergence between the two Governments and, above all, between representatives of the private sector”.

In 2014, Switzerland was considered by the Brazilian Federal Revenue Service a “tax haven”. After several negotiations and efforts, the Swiss government achieved to reverse the situation and the Brazilian government suspended the “tax haven” status. Now, both countries agreed on following a standard for automatic exchange of information on capital income, called the AIA. This procedure is based on OECD-standard and will take effect in 2019.

Among other agreements signed by Brazil and Switzerland, we can mention the “Signature of Agreement between the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil and the Swiss Federal Council on the Exchange of Trainees ” (2011), the “Social Security Agreement between the Federative Republic of Brazil and the Swiss Confederation” (2011), “Treaty between Switzerland and the Federative Republic of Brazil on the transfer of sentenced persons “(2015) and the “Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters “, signed in 2015, and still waiting for approval by the Chambers in order to be ratified and incorporated into domestic legislation.

In 2018, another important agreement was signed, the “Convention for the elimination of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and the prevention of tax evasion and avoidance”. Switzerland’s current Ambassador to Brazil, Andrea Semadeni, emphasized that the “lack of a double taxation agreement between the two countries was one of the biggest complaints of Swiss companies.”

In August 2019, member countries of Efta (European Free Trade Association) and MERCOSUR signed a free trade agreement in Buenos Aires. The agreement still awaits the approval of the parliaments of the respective countries to enter into force. The Mercosur-Efta Agreement is expected to raise Brazil’s GDP by $ 5.2 billion over 15 years.

All the agreements signed between the two countries are available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Trade balance

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Affairs, Brazil exported US$ 218 billion in 2017 and imported US$ 151 billion, resulting in a surplus of US$ 66.9 billion in the trade balance. On the other hand, Switzerland exported US$ 337 billion and imported US$ 287 billion, with a surplus of US$ 67.33 billion.

As for the trade between the two countries, in 2017, the SECEX (Secretariat of Foreign Trade) registered that Brazil exported to Switzerland US$ 792 million and imported US$ 1.97 billion. These figures show a positive variation of 4.31% in imports, compared to 2016. However, the same figures show a significant fall of -52.17% in Brazilian exports to Switzerland. Brazil is the 24th country that receives the most exports from Switzerland.

Business Highlights

Swiss company Aryzta, which operates in the market of frozen bakery, announced in July 2018 an investment of R$ 150 million for the installation of another factory in Brazil. The location has not been decided yet, but the company’s fifth unit in the country is expected to start operations in 2020. Once completed, this will be the company’s largest plant, with 12,000 m².

In 2017, Zurich Airport was the winner of the auction which offered the Hercílio Luz Airport concession, in the city of Florianópolis (SC). The minimum bid was of R$ 52.7 million and the closing offer reached R$ 83.3 million. It was invested R$ 550 million on expansion works, which started in January 2018. The new terminal should increase the airport’s capacity to 8 million passengers per year. Zurich Airport, which also runs the Zurich International Airport in Switzerland, will run it for 30 years.

The company Zurich Airport is also interested in buying Viracopos Airport, in the city of Campinas. According to the company, the deal is still being negotiated, but a decision should be taken by the end of 2018. If talks reach an agreement, the purchase should be concluded in a partnership with IG4 Capital.

The Franco-Swiss construction materials franchise Disensa arrived in Brazil in February 2018. Founded by the LafargeHolcim group, the retail network has more than one thousand stores throughout Latin America. In Brazil, the goal is to reach 350 stores by 2022.

The Swiss company specialized in oral health, Curaprox, inaugurated in 2018 a distribution center in the city of São Caetano do Sul. The new building is located in an area of 3,000 m² and is used to store the logistic operation of the entire national territory. The company invested R$ 15 million and created 33 direct jobs and 300 indirect jobs. The expectation is to double the number of employees within the next five years.

In 2017, Aché and Ferring inaugurated the NILE – Nanotechnology Innovation Laboratory Enterprise, a research and development laboratory of new technological sources in Nanotechnology for applications in drug, cosmetic and food development. This is a pioneering initiative in Brazil and in the Southern Hemisphere. The new laboratory received R$ 7 million in investments for equipment and infrastructure.

In 2017, Clariant inaugurated its first Global Competence Center Haircare (gCCH), in Brazil. Located in the city of São Paulo, the center has 240 m² and reunites application and formulation laboratories for research and development of hair care components.

Atlas Schindler inaugurated two new offices in the cities of Curitiba and Salvador. In addition, the company invested in the modernization of the Londrina plant, which exports products to all Latin America. Atlas Schindler also celebrated 100 years in Brazil.

In 2017, ABB invested R$ 300,000 in a new office in Rio de Janeiro. The engineering company plans to expand its presence in the oil and gas sector, prospecting clients such as Petrobras, SBM, BW Offshore, Statoil, among other big oil companies. Also in 2017, ABB inaugurated, in Guarulhos (SP), one of the most automated plants in Latin America. It was invested R$ 10 million to produce specially high-voltage circuit breakers.

Novartis inaugurated in 2017 a new production line for solid drugs at the Cambé plant in Paraná. The company increased by 25% the capacity to produce generic drugs under the Sandoz brand. The new line closes a cycle of R$ 54 million in investments in the expansion and improvement of its industrial plant. The new line is going to produce 26 of the 240 products processed in the plant of Paraná. The Cambé unit supplies the national market and other countries from Latin America and Europe.

In the end of 2017, Roche brought to Brazil the service of genome analysis for the development of research and new therapies against cancer. The analysis of more than 300 genes allows to better understand the profile of the tumor and the molecular changes that are contributing to its progress. This type of study is fundamental, once cancer therapies represent 65% of Roche’s sales in Brazil and also a good part of its launches.

The Swiss fund Partners Group officialized at the end of 2018 the purchase of the “Hortifruti” network. The European group will invest R$ 80 million in 2019, aiming to open 12 stores and expand the business. Currently, “Hortifruti” has 34 stores in Rio and two in Espírito Santo. In addition to the Hortifruti brand, the business embraces the “Natural da Terra” network, which has nine stores in São Paulo and was purchased in 2015 by the hortifrutigranjeiros retailer.

Business Opportunities

Despite the economic and political crisis of recent years, Brazil continues to attract Swiss and other countries investors, especially because Brazil has been showing significant improvements. The annual report “Investment Perspectives”, from the Brazilian National Bank for Social Development (BNDES), projects that investments for the 2017-2020 quadrennial will reach R$ 901.1 billion, which corresponds to an annual average of R$ 225.3 billion. In addition, according to the report, the electronic, chemical, oil, gas, beverage and food sectors are expected to present better opportunities.

In the chemical sector, good results are awaited for 2020. As for the infrastructure sector, investments will be focused in the expansion of highways and urban solid waste business. These performances should compensate the prospect of declining from other sectors such as: electric power, urban mobility and sanitation.

Switzerland and the Swiss government show great interest in technologies of clean and renewable energy, which is an advantage to Brazil who has a great potential in the field of bio fuels and ethanol. Indeed, businesses go in both ways, as much for direct sale of alternative fuels, as for the transfer of technology and productive partnerships between companies from both countries.

Switzerland, as usual, is attracting investments from all over the world, and Brazilian companies are well aware of the potential of the country. Currently, Switzerland has been standing out in the fintech area. A study of the Institute of Financial Finance (Zug IFZ), from the University of Lucerne for Applied Sciences and Arts, shows Zurich and Geneva in second and third among the cities with more opportunities for business development in fintech area. For example, in the canton of Zug, it was created the “Crypto Valley”, a cluster of companies and foundations specialized in crypto technology. The canton provides excellent conditions to fintech companies with proactive authorities, leading scientific research institutes and low taxes.

In 2018, the regulators of Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) and its Brazilian counterpart, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil (CVM) signed a cooperation agreement in the area of fintechs. “The agreement represents a progress in our cooperation to provide the right scenario for fintech’s company, which will be able to share discussions and understand regulatory requirements. In addition, the agreement helps reducing time and regulatory uncertainty,” said the State Secretary of Switzerland, Jörg Gasser, at an event held in São Paulo.


Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Affairs publishes every six months a report with information about investments in Brazil. According to the report of 2017, Switzerland has invested about US$ 240 million, as shown in the table below:



Origin of CapitalInvestment DetailsAmount (US$)      Valor (US$)


Switzerland, Brazil, France


Construction of a factory in Fazenda São Pedro, in Cananéia (SP); at the first stage, for the bottling of the palm heart; and to increase the production of palm heart seedlings to 800 thousand stems5.873.016










Construction of a new terminal and airstrips at the airport of Florianópolis (SC)


151.975.684     151.975.684




Investment to increase the productivity of the Londrina (PR) plant, expansion of the headquarters in São Paulo, people training and business process improvement32.051.282     32.051.282











Investment for the installation of a solar panel factory with smartwire technology



















Construction of 8 research laboratories in the Salto plant (SP)













Investment to expand operations in other states









Source: MDIC

The report also points that the infrastructure sector is still facing difficulties to react, while the industry sector has a positive perspective. As for the civil construction, the expectations are less enthusiastically, comparing to the sector of production of machines and equipments.

The slow recovery from the infrastructure industry is partly explained by economic reasons, related to the investment cycle, economic performance and fiscal restraint. The end of the works related to sports events hosted by Brazil and the economic recession are indeed determinant factors to the fall of public expenditure, particularly in urban mobility and electricity sectors.

As for the private sector, some infrastructure companies were dramatically affected due to their involvement in the corruption scandal know as “Operação Lava-Jato”.

According to the report, investments in the industry sector are focused on sustaining capex or the conclusion of projects in progress. Indeed, the small number of greenfield projects (new plants) stands out. Some of the major industry sectors still have high debt indicators and companies continue to reduce their leverage. As Brazil’s economy recovery is still very recent, the expectation is that investments in large projects will be postponed. However, as this recovery is expected to be sustained, new projects tend to emerge.

The government’s privatization, concession auctions and labor reform bill also create a positive scenery to further progress. However, many of these changes will only begin to show results in 2019.

Table 1: Investment outlook 2017-2020 (position in October 2017) – In billions of reais


Sector2016Annual Average Projection


Mineral Extraction3,83,7
Oil and Gas61,871,3
Paper and Cellulose9,05,1
Health Industrial Complex4,54,7
Electrical Engineering4,25,2
Urban Mobility6,54,8
Solid Waste1,21,4

Source: BNDES

Swiss companies in Brazil

About 350 Swiss companies maintain operations in Brazil. Major companies such as ABB, Adecco, Barry Callebaut, Bobst, Bühler, Clariant, Credit Suisse, Curaprox, Dufry, Givaudan, Lafarge-Holcim, Liebherr, Lonza, MSC, Nestlé, Novartis, Panalpina, Precious Woods, Richemont, Roche, Atlas Schindler, Swissport, Syngenta, Victorinox, Zurich, UBS and many others have a significant presence in the Brazilian market. Brazil is also a strategic place for companies that aim to export to other countries in Latin America. Some of them have been in Brazil for more than 100 years.

Brazilian companies in Switzerland

Some of the main Brazilian companies investing in Switzerland are: CBMM, Libero, Vale, Vicunha, Banco Safra, Itaú Private Bank, Biomecânica, Stefanini IT, Suzano, EFW Capital Advisors, Welle Laser. Brazil is also present through small and micro-enterprises founded by Brazilian citizens. They are law firms, travel agencies, restaurants, shops and beauty salons.