More Swiss weapons exported despite general trade malaise

The export of weapons continues to attract criticism from some quarters. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Exports of Swiss armaments and munitions increased in value by nearly a quarter last year, bucking the trend of a slowdown in international trade across all industry sectors.

This content was published on March 9, 2021 minutes

Swiss companies exported war material worth CHF901.2 million ($965 million) to 62 countries in 2020, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said on TuesdayExternal link. This is a 24% increase on 2019 (CHF728 million).

The increase in business was mainly driven by the delivery of armoured vehicles to Denmark, Romania and Botswana and an air defence system to Indonesia. These countries, along with Germany, were the five largest customers by value of purchased goods.

Some 37.5% of all the war material exports were armoured vehicles, 22.5% were munitions and ammunition components, 16.9% fire control equipment, 11.6% weapons of various calibres and 4.1% components for combat aircraft.

By contrast, the value of all Swiss goods exports (including precious metals, gemstones and art) dropped by around four percent last year, Seco said. The share of war material in overall Swiss exports stood at around 0.3%.

Last November, Swiss voters rejected a people’s initiative that wanted to prevent the central bank, pension funds and foundations from investing in companies that make weapons.

However, another proposal to anchor the rules for war material exports in the Swiss constitution could yet come to public vote at a later date. Earlier this week, the government said it would be better for parliament to take on this responsibility.

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