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AccueilServicesExporterThe basics of export

Your first steps in the world of export

Exporting is the action of having assets or goods (natural or manufactured products) leave a national territory to go to a foreign country where they will be sold.

You have never exported to date but someone overseas is interested in your products and wishes to place an order? What formalities do you need to fulfil so your shipment takes place by the book? What does this involve?

The stakeholders

The five main players involved in exports are the sender (the vendor), the recipient (the buyer), the forwarding agent, the carrier and the customs authorities.
The forwarding agent is the company that organises the shipping of the exported goods and as for the carrier, it is responsible for the physical transportation of the goods.

For what follows, we work on the assumption that:

  • The product you wish to export is well defined.
  • The recipient of the goods and therefore the country of destination are identified.
  • Your company has been set up, or is in the process of being set up.

The 6 elements of exporting

1. Commercial documents

  • The invoice
    An export invoice will be established without VAT, because this will be collected on being imported by the customs authorities of the country of destination.
  • The packing list
    This document consists in accurately describing and listing the item or items shipped.

2. Transport

Your goods can be shipped by road, rail, plane or boat.

The method of transport will be determined on the basis of the delivery deadline, costs and destination. Your forwarding agent will know how to advise you and offer the solution that best suits your situation.

To also determine the transfer of risks and the distribution of costs, regulations, known as Incoterms, will be applied and indicated on the invoice.

More information at

3. Handling

The packaging must be hardwearing to cope with different conditions. It will be determined by the nature of the goods and by the chosen method of transport.

You can contact your carrier or forwarding agent for more detailed information when the time comes.

4. Marking and labelling

They must comply with requirements in force in the importing country. The following instructions are generally demanded (non-exhaustive list):

  • The name of the buyer or any other form of identification
  • The name of the point or port of entry in the country
  • The gross weight and the net weight
  • Mention of the country of origin
  • The number of crates
  • Warnings and cautions (dangerous goods).

5. Transport insurance

You can either contact your insurance company or ask for quotes from several companies.

6. Customs formalities

  • Swiss export declaration forms
    They are established online, thanks to the e-dec export application. These declarations are notably used to prove the export of the goods justifying the non-invoicing of VAT, therefore are used as proof for your detailed accounts.
  • The import declaration form
    It is established by the importer at the destination of the goods.
  • Export licences
    Your goods may require, depending on their nature, an export licence (for example in case of dual-use). You will find information on this subject from the SECO ( under Export controls and sanctions).
  • Proof of origin
    As previously indicated, this is a document guaranteeing the origin of the goods. There are two customs regimes of origin:
    • The preferential regime
      When the country of the sender and the recipient have signed a free trade agreement, and the goods are from one or other of these countries. The importer will therefore benefit from preferential rates on taxes and customs duties. They can even, under certain conditions, be exempt from them. (More information at the customs website:
    • The non-preferential regime
      For any other export, a certificate of origin will be established as proof of origin.

Serge Sahli

Responsable du service Export