The Federal Foreign Office's tasks: Foreign policy and external economic promotion
The growing importance of foreign trade policy
Germany is integrated into the world economy and dependent on its growth to a greater extent than many other countries. More than one in four euros is earned by exporting goods and services and, consequently, more than one in five jobs depends on foreign trade. The export of goods and services is therefore one of the main drivers of the German economy.
Germany's competitiveness on the global market is also of increasing importance. Its attractiveness for foreign investors is crucial, for their investments create or preserve jobs here and help further develop technology. The globalization of the economy further increases Germany's dependence on the world market.
At the same time, globalization has meant that people's lives all over the world are ever more closely interconnected. The common responsibility of all states to ensure stable economic development for the benefit of everyone is becoming increasingly apparent, and in view of political conflicts, it is truer than ever that trade and a dense network of economic links create trust and stabilize international relations.
It is therefore the task of Germany's foreign policy to both promote and protect German economic interests in the world and to help foster the further development of just and sustainable global economic cooperation.
The role of the state in external economic promotion
Germany's economic creativity, dynamism and efficiency have put it into the "first division" of leading industrialized nations. This development has been supported and fostered by a responsible foreign trade policy.
In our free market economy, business initiative takes centre stage. State external economic promotion cannot replace industry's own efforts. However, it can enhance basic conditions for business activity and help companies find new markets abroad.
The state and industry work together to assist companies. Information and advice are provided by both state bodies (e.g. embassies, German Office for Foreign Trade) and by business community organizations (e.g. chambers of commerce abroad, GTaT - Germany Trade and Invest mbH). In addition to this, the state does much to promote entrepreneurial activities abroad (e.g. through trade fair programmes and export credit insurance).
The Federal Government is particularly keen to support small and medium-sized companies because their personnel and financial resources are limited. Missions and chambers of commerce abroad do all they can to advise and look after the interests of this group. That applies in particular to companies from the new Länder.
Moreover, the state's task is to use bilateral and multilateral negotiations, e.g. in the EU, in the OECD and in the WTO, to work towards a framework through which competition and trade can develop as freely as possible. In addition to this, where high barriers make access to foreign markets difficult for German companies, foreign trade policy can help dismantle them.
The Federal Foreign Office: political mentor, networker and adviser
External economic promotion is one of the Foreign Service's main tasks. Along with its over 220 missions abroad, the Federal Foreign Office uses a broad range of measures worldwide to support German firms engaged in foreign markets.
The missions' economic sections are above all keen to help small and medium-sized companies doing business abroad: The staff of the German embassies and consulates-general, as well as that of headquarters in Berlin, see themselves as:
- political mentors and facilitators
They back specific business interests vis-à-vis foreign government bodies, create contacts with political and business decision-makers in the host country, initiate and guide business-relevant talks with official bodies, promote our economic interests vis-à-vis the host country, and work towards market access for German products and services.
They create contacts between institutions, individuals and companies in Germany and the host country, support roundtables, workshops and regional conferences, hold annual Ambassadors Conferences and organize events for German firms exhibiting at trade fairs abroad and for these firms' business partners.
They advise firms on business policy issues, inform business associations about interesting projects and tenders worldwide, report regularly on economic and political conditions abroad, and help assess the risks regarding export and investment guarantees.
In addition, the missions carry out PR work for Germany as a site for business.
The Federal Foreign Office is also committed to improving global conditions for German entrepreneurial activity – for example, it takes part in negotiations for investment promotion and protection agreements and double-taxation conventions and represents the Federal Government on international bodies such as the WTO, the OECD, the UN and the EU, working to create conditions favourable to trade and investment and to achieve equal opportunities for German companies.
Last updated 02.11.2009