Few visitors to Liechtenstein think of the Principality as an important industrial hub, so many are more than a little surprised to hear the names of the many famous companies based there. Liechtensteins manufacturing and industry sector stands for high-quality, high-tech products.
Around 40% of Liechtensteins workforce is employed in the industrial sector, more than in any other German-speaking country: 21.4% of Swiss employees work in industry, 25.9% in Austria and 28.2% in Germany. Indeed, when combined with manufacturing, the industrial sector accounts for no less than 37% of Liechtensteins annual gross value added. Many companies work in highly specialised niche sectors, with some having managed to establish themselves as global market leaders as a result of intensive research and development. The average business in Liechtenstein employs fewer than ten people; however, these members of staff are highly qualified and highly productive.
Through a range of agreements Liechtenstein has succeeded in creating the ideal conditions for its export-driven economy. The Principality has been part of the European Economic Area (EEA) since 1995, meaning that companies based there benefit from the advantages offered by the EU/EEA internal market, first and foremost the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. Liechtenstein is also a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and as such enjoys the benefits of a large network of free trade agreements. Since the conclusion of the customs treaty with Switzerland in 1923, the two countries have shared a common customs area. This customs union means that bilateral free trade agreements established by Switzerland with other countries also apply to Liechtenstein.
Liechtensteins industry is heavily focused on the export of high-quality goods. Its major branches are machine and tool construction, plant engineering, precision instruments, dental tools and foodstuffs.