Directorate-General for Economic Affairs

Container ship

Container ship, © colourbox.com


Focuses on trade policy, economic diplomacy, the promotion of foreign trade and investment, economic sanctions and investment screening, the digital transformation, transport policy, aerospace, business and human rights, energy and climate policy, environmental protection as well as export control.

Germany is one of the world’s leading industrial countries and it also has one of the most open economies in the world. Almost one in every four jobs in Germany depends on foreign trade. Germany is also one of the world’s largest importers: its manufacturing sector depends both on raw materials and primary products from international supplier industries.

Creating a level playing field internationally

One important task of foreign trade and investment policy is to pave the way for German firms to international markets. Through multilateral negotiations and agreements the framework for an open, fair, ecological and socially sustainable global trading system is created that ensures German companies fair, non-discriminatory access to markets all over the world. In order to avoid market distortions through coercive economic measures as well as risks to the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal Foreign Office is committed to strengthening Europe’s economic sovereignty and, as one of the core ministries, is involved in the German Government’s investment screening.

Connectivity – lifelines for international trade and tourism

It is essential for a modern economy to exchange goods, provide services and to enable people to be fully mobile around the world. To successfully hold our own in international competition, more sustainable and efficient mobility systems are needed – not only locally but around the globe. This also applies to aviation, the maritime sector, as well as road and rail transport. The Federal Foreign Office is involved in the negotiation of international transport agreements and helps to conclude them. To this end, issues concerning international transport policy are embedded in German foreign policy. The worldwide network of embassies and consulates plays a key role in explaining our ideas and goals to our partners and in promoting them.

Economic diplomacy as the basis for successful international trade relations

Close relations based on mutual trust with our partners are key to cultivating and expanding trade relations with the entire world. For the work of the Federal Foreign Office, this means that successful foreign policy creates the conditions for successful international trade relations. Success in international trade depends not least on active and effective economic diplomacy. The German system to promote foreign trade and investment is characterised by a division of responsibilities between the state and business.

In order to give German companies the best possible support, German missions abroad work closely with the network of German Chambers of Commerce Abroad and the staff of Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI).
In this context, the German embassies and consulates ensure worldwide coordination, maintain contacts with authorities in the host countries, endeavour to improve market access for German firms and, where necessary, assist them directly. This applies in particular to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Respect for human rights in the supply chain

As Germany and German business benefit particularly from the network of global economic links, they have a particular responsibility to protect the rights of the people working in global supply and value chains. As the lead ministry in the implementation of the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP), the Federal Foreign Office is making a valuable contribution towards fostering the social market economy internationally. With regard to the implementation of international labour standards and their further development in the International Labour Organization (ILO), we are working closely with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which is the lead ministry in this sphere.

International energy policy

As a country with comparatively few raw materials, Germany is highly dependent on energy imports. The German Government therefore sets out national framework conditions and is committed at international level to ensuring greater supply security, competition as well as environmental and climate protection. A long-term and reliable external energy policy must also take into account the finiteness of fossil fuels. In keeping with the goal of sustainable development, the Federal Foreign Office supports the Federal Environment Ministry in international climate negotiations and is campaigning for the Paris Agreement to be implemented worldwide. The key to this is a global energy transition with a comprehensive decarbonisation of all economic sectors. The Federal Foreign Office is advocating this goal through international conferences such as the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, an international travelling exhibition and the participation of numerous speakers in international conferences and on social media. The Federal Foreign Office is thus providing partners with valuable support in achieving the transformation towards a climate-neutral economy.

The digital transformation as a game changer

The digital transformation is currently changing the world at breathtaking speed. Big data, artificial intelligence and quantum computing are driving the economic and political power shift in the world. This brings new challenges for the economy, society and, of course, for German foreign policy. Germany and the EU must develop economic and also foreign policy responses to this. The digital transformation, start-ups and Industrie 4.0 are also omnipresent issues in the promotion of foreign trade and investment. The Federal Foreign Office supports innovative German companies and their activities abroad. There is much going on in the sphere of international digitalisation policy and a new global framework for this is currently being created. The Federal Foreign Office is therefore actively involved in national and international discussions and processes, thus helping to shape the digital future.

The role of the Federal Foreign Office in export control

The German Government pursues a restrictive and responsible policy on the export of military equipment and wants to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. In this context, the Federal Foreign Office is involved in decisions on export licences and investment by foreign actors made by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which leads on these issues, and tackles the undesired transfer of sensitive technologies. This helps to avert foreign policy problems (such as the breach of international commitments or exports that threaten international peace) and to prevent the international reputation of German business being damaged as a result of problematic exports by individual companies. When reviewing individual cases, the Federal Foreign Office attaches special importance to the political situation in the recipient country, in particular respect for human rights.

Additional content

The global economy

Germany is integrated into the global economy to a greater extent than many other countries. Trade and a network of economic links create trust and stabilise international Relations.



Economic development is inconceivable without an efficient transport infrastructure.


Climate, energy and the environment

There is a direct link between climate, energy and environmental policy on the one hand and Germany’s foreign trade and investment on the other.

Mehr zu Klima

Mehr zu Energie

Mehr zu Umwelt

G7/G8 and G20

Shaping globalisation is one of the German economy’s tasks


Export control

Prevents the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and military technology and safeguards the good reputation of German Business.

Export control  

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