# 13 / 2021

Supply of goods in times of crisis: analysis and lessons for Switzerland

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chains have been struggling. We have come to realise that our supply of goods cannot be taken for granted. To call for the decoupling of the Swiss economy, however, is short-sighted – after one and a half years of crisis, the necessity of international trade is all too obvious. Meanwhile, if Switzerland wants to successfully overcome future crises, it should sustainably strengthen its systemic resilience by means of different measures at the national and international level.

Executive summary

In spring 2020, people around the world were directly affected by the shortage of medical supplies such as protective masks and disinfectants. Since the beginning of 2021, the economy is recovering. However, difficulties within global supply chains have by no means disappeared. On the contrary: currently, congested container ports and a mismatch between supply and demand are causing delivery delays worldwide.

The economic consequences of the pandemic have reignited the discussion about security of supply in Switzerland. Calls for more self-sufficiency are being voiced. However, the crisis has shown that decoupling the Swiss economy would not be an effective means of strengthening the supply of goods. Thanks to a diversified procurement network, complemented by sensible measures at home (e.g. compulsory stocks), there have been no prolonged supply bottlenecks for important goods in Switzerland.

However, further crises cannot be ruled out. It is therefore important to tackle reforms at national and international level that will consolidate Switzerland’s resilience in the long term. This includes, for example, strengthening digital trade or intensifying international cooperation in research and development.

Positions of economiesuisse

  • Yes to security of supply, no to self-sufficiency: Switzerland is a country with limited production capacities. As such, it must continue to strengthen and expand its access to global procurement markets.
  • Opening up instead of closing off: global trade remains the basis for a stable supply of goods. Trade restrictions have proven counterproductive in the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Reshoring misdiagnosis: by focusing on final production, a supply bottleneck is not eliminated, but merely shifted along the value chain.
  • Improve systemic resilience in the long term: the next crisis will not necessarily be epidemiological in nature. The lessons learned from the pandemic must therefore not be limited to the supply of goods. Switzerland must learn to respond better to unforeseen shocks of all kinds.