With its cost- and time-intensive research and development, the pharmaceutical sector can generate large trade imbalances. These imbalances may arise because investment and output occur in different years; they are sizable if pharmaceuticals account for a large and growing share of exports. Switzerland's recent trade surplus results from this effect, which also explains why the Swiss trade surplus is exceptionally resilient. The Swiss trade surplus is, therefore, a poor indicator for exchange rate assessments.
Data disclosure: The data underlying the figures in this analysis are available here [xlsx].