How to choose your partner country

A man stands before a stylized image of the five continents

For an SME, foreign trade can represent an extraordinary growth opportunity. Before engaging in foreign trade, the company must choose its partner company with care, depending on what it wants to achieve.

SMEs wishing to establish themselves in a foreign country need to define their foreign trade objectives very specifically and select their third party country, having collected as much information as possible. S-GE provides many services to help entrepreneurs.

Defining foreign trade objectives

Before starting to look for a business partner overseas, it is important to clearly define your company's goals and ask certain questions:

  • Why am I considering global expansion?
  • Does my company have the necessary financial and human resources to cope with this?
  • How much am I prepared to invest?
  • What profits am I expecting in return?

Once this first step is taken, the company can then start looking for a country that matches the international strategy considered and the nature of your product.

Basic information about countries

Any search for a partner country must start with the gathering of as much information as possible. Firstly, information of an economic, political and legal nature. Is the country politically stable? Is its economy dynamic? What is its geographical location? Is its infrastructure high-quality? What are the rules in terms of international trade? Secondly, questions should be asked about sociocultural aspects: language, social customs, etc.

To do this, it is definitely best to visit in person. But a lot of information can also be gathered remotely. The Information on Countries service of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), for example, provides an overview of the economic situation of Switzerland’s main trading partners.

Many other agencies provide information according to country, such as S-GE, the agency for the promotion of foreign trade in Switzerland.

Development of a foreign trade strategy

Having gathered sufficient information about one or more countries in particular, you need to ensure that this choice corresponds to the goals set for your company. For this, you can use S-GE, which provides advice, customized interviews, market research and many other services for preparing your international expansion.

You also need to analyze the concrete form your commercial relationship with the country in question will take. The main forms include:

  • Import-export
  • Setting up a subsidiary overseas (office, store, factory, etc.)
  • Collaboration with local distribution partners

Two international initiatives useful for SMEs

Two recently created entities can help internationally oriented Swiss SMEs. The online platform GTH (Global Trade Helpdesk) was created back in December 2017 by the International Trade Center with SECO support and was updated in 2020. Along the same lines, the Trade4MSMEs resource, launched at the end of 2021, is the result of an informal World Trade Organization (WTO) group working on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). It is supported by various organizations and companies, including Google.

  • GTH 

With this free resource, internationally-minded Swiss companies can access information on market attractiveness, export prices, regulatory requirements, time and costs involved in the process. They can also search for business partners. The platform will not only suggest potential buyers, but also aid agencies and intellectual property firms.


  • Trade4MSMEs:

Swiss SMEs looking to go global will find guides on how to launch an international business, as well as explanations on important MSME policy issues. They can also access resource libraries that include links to relevant business information.



Last modification 09.05.2022

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