Liechtenstein is an export country. The small domestic market means that most entrepreneurs look over the border. Despite the high purchasing power of the approximately 38,000 inhabitants, this market is very limited.
Local entrepreneurs have always known: The future lies with exports. By establishing a range of treaties, Liechtenstein has created optimum conditions for the export industry. Thanks to its accession to the EEA and the customs treaty with Switzerland, the Principality has unrestricted opportunities to operate in both markets with a total of more than 500 million individuals.
Liechtenstein has been a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) since 1995. Companies enjoy the benefits of the EU/EEA domestic market, with the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. Special rules governing the free movement of people and the freedom to settle take account of Liechtenstein’s particular geographic situation. The Principality is also a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), enabling it to profit from one of the world’s biggest networks of affiliated free trade agreements. Ever since the Customs Treaty with Switzerland of 1923, Liechtenstein has been part of the Swiss customs territory and uses the Swiss franc as its currency. Liechtenstein is part of the Swiss customs territory. On account of this treaty, all bilateral free trade agreements signed with Switzerland also apply to Liechtenstein.
The increasing globalisation of the goods trade means the origin of goods and origin rules play an important role. Companies that are domiciled in Liechtenstein profit from each new free trade agreement that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) signs with a country, because the Principality is an EFTA member.
Goods with a so-called preferential origin come from countries between which a free trade agreement exists. Such imports enjoy preferential customs treatment, ranging from reduced customs duty to customs exemptions. The body responsible for binding information relating to bilateral free trade agreements with Switzerland that also apply to Liechtenstein is the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (Eidgenössische Zollverwaltung – “EZV”). The Office of Economic Affairs (Amt für Volkswirtschaft) is responsible for country of origin matters pertaining to goods transactions from and to EEA states.
In the case of goods of non-preferential origin, no preferential treatment is granted for imports to the country of destination. The customs treaty with Switzerland means that the Swiss non-preferential origin rules (VUB/SR 946.31 and VUB-WBF/SR 946.311) are also applicable in Liechtenstein. The responsible body for binding information is the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (Eidgenössische Zollverwaltung – “EZV”).
With Liechtenstein’s accession to the EEA, the Technical Test, Measurement and Standards Body (Technische Prüf-, Mess- und Normenstelle – “TPMN”) was introduced at the Office of Economic Affairs. The standardisation of technical safety regulations as well as the technical harmonisation of legal regulations and the reciprocal recognition of certificates of conformity is designed to ensure that the free movement of goods within the European single market can be realised. The primary task of the TPMN is to check technical regulations, directives, decisions as well as ordinances of the European Union, and to put these into Liechtenstein law, insofar as they are applicable to Liechtenstein. One example is the well-known CE labelling.
To simplify access to international markets, in particular for start-ups and SMEs, these are supported inter alia by the Organisation Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE, formerly OSEC). The ExportHelp team, which consists of experts with long-standing export experience and in-depth knowledge of the relevant issues, including for Liechtenstein SMEs, helps with administrative export-related questions of all kinds. The support ranges from the procurement of information to the mediation of first-class business contacts. Enquiries that can be researched within one hour are free of charge, and initial rulings are guaranteed within 24 hours. Further support for Liechtenstein SMEs is available in the form of exports cheques.