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Why is Switzerland important in the commodity trading sector?

Tiny landlocked Switzerland is a big player in the commodity trading business. The country's involvement in this industry can be traced back to the 15th century, when its ideal central location had merchants from all over Europe meeting on its city square to exchange goods.

Today, commodities are shipped around the world in huge container ships, and the trading mostly happens in climatised offices, far away from the mines and ports. Giants such as Glencore, Vitol and Trafigura have their headquarters in Switzerland.

But what is commodity trading exactly, and who is doing what? What's the impact of this industry on Switzerland's economy? Why is commodity trading usually discussed in connection to controversial topics such as deforestation, human rights violations, and corruption?
--- is the international branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Its role is to report on Switzerland and to provide a Swiss perspective on international events.

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About Swissinfo
SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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