Trade Promotion in Germany: The BfAI

Article excerpt

In recent years foreign trade promotion has dearly gained in importance in Germany, a result of changes in both the world economic environment and Germany. International competition for markets and investment has become tighter and the globalization of the world economy has heightened the interdependence among the world's major traders. Germany's system of trade promotion helps the business community to meet some of these challenges.

Trade promotion system

In broad terms the German Government's support for foreign trade operates on the following basis:

* Provision of trade information, marketing advice and assistance in product presentation.

* Assumption of specific foreign trade risks through export guarantees (the Hermes export insurance scheme) and other guarantees (capital investment guarantees for direct foreign investment and loan guarantees).

* Establishment of facilities for medium- and long-term export financing in line with the export credit guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Government considers it important to keep German companies informed of developments in the world's markets. This includes assistance in establishing business contacts and support in obtaining trade information and conducting market research. All firms in the country can receive such support. As bigger companies often have their own information services and export departments, however, the focus is on helping small and medium-size businesses.

A large number of institutions in Germany provide information and advice to companies. The so-called "three pillars" of this foreign trade support are:

* The Federal Office of Foreign Trade Information (BfAI), with its network of correspondents abroad.

* German diplomatic and consular missions and trade promotion bodies.

* The private-sector German chambers of industry and commerce abroad.

In addition trade associations and banks play a major role in disseminating trade information. They also help re-disseminate information supplied by other organizations, such as the BfAI.

BfAI

The BfAI is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Economics. According to the decree establishing it, the Office is an instrument of the Government to promote foreign trade. It has the task of providing German companies and official bodies with comprehensive information on all major aspects of foreign trade, from exports and imports to potential cooperation and investment opportunities. This includes assistance to foreign firms in initiating contacts with German companies. The BfAI disseminates information to potential foreign investors, trading partners and companies seeking cooperation agreements with the intention of making the German market easier to enter.

In a temporary programme (currently running until the end of 1998) to promote the integration of companies in the eastern part of Germany into the world economy, the BfAI also supplies interested parties abroad with additional information about economic trends in that part of the country.

Its more than 40 years of providing practical, reliable information has made the Office a proven partner for a large number of companies in the process of either just entering foreign trade or expanding their trading operations in new directions.

It provides information on all phases of foreign trade, from initiating business abroad through the operational stage.

Sources of information

To carry out its task of providing information to companies in Germany, the BfAI needs appropriate sources.

As its services are aimed at a wide-ranging audience, frequently with varying foreign trade interests, it must gather specific information throughout the world.

The BfAI works with other organizations to get the information it needs. It maintains close contact with the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs and German diplomatic missions abroad. …