IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The Significance of Switzerland's Enormous Current-Account Surplus

Listed author(s):
  • Peter Jarrett


  • Céline Letremy


Registered author(s):

    Switzerland has had a long-standing surplus on its current account. But over the past 15 years that surplus has surged to levels unmatched by nearly any other OECD country at any point. This paper looks at the surplus from a balance of payments vantage point as well as from the optic of the excess of national saving over domestic investment. It then seeks possible explanations for the uptrend and assesses whether it results to any extent from market, institutional or policy failures that could call for reforms. A number of important measurement issues are raised. But the key recommendation is that the authorities should prepare for a possible sharp increase in the value of the Swiss franc if and when investors engaged in the “carry trade” unwind their positions. To that end they should examine labour, capital and product markets with a view to ensuring they are as flexible as possible and that factors are as mobile as possible, both geographically and sectorally. This will allow any necessary adjustment to a higher exchange rate to be smoothly accommodated. This Working Paper is largely extracted from the 2007 OECD Economic Survey of Switzerland ( La signification du colossal excédent des paiements courants de la Suisse La Suisse affiche depuis fort longtemps un excédent des paiements courants. Toutefois, au cours des 15 dernières années, cet excédent a atteint des niveaux quasiment sans précédent pour la zone OCDE. Dans le présent document, nous examinons cet excédent tant sous l’angle de la balance des paiements que dans l’optique de l’excédent de l’épargne nationale sur l’investissement intérieur. Nous recherchons ensuite les explications possibles de cette hausse, et tentons de déterminer si elle résulte dans quelque mesure que ce soit de défaillances des marchés, des institutions ou de l’action publique pouvant exiger la mise en oeuvre de réformes. Nous soulevons divers problèmes de mesure importants, mais notre principale recommandation est que les autorités devraient se préparer à la forte appréciation du franc suisse qui pourrait se produire dès lors que les investisseurs engagés dans des opérations de portage (« carry trade ») dénoueraient leurs positions. Dans cette optique, elles devraient examiner la situation des marchés du travail, des capitaux et des produits afin de veiller à ce qu’ils soient aussi flexibles que possible et à ce que la mobilité des facteurs de production soit maximale, tant en termes géographiques que sectoriels. Cela permettra un ajustement en douceur de l’économie en cas de hausse du taux de change. Ce Document de travail est largement extrait de l’Étude économique de l’OCDE de la Suisse 2007 (

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 594.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 10 Mar 2008
    Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:594-en
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    2 rue Andre Pascal, 75775 Paris Cedex 16

    Phone: 33-(0)-1-45 24 82 00
    Fax: 33-(0)-1-45 24 85 00
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:594-en. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.