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When considered as a single economy, Europe is the world's largest. It includes some of the world’s most dynamic and advanced economies, encompassing the European Union’s (EU) 27 member countries, as well as those yet to join such as Turkey and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
Europe was hard hit by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2009, but has begun a more accelerated recovery in 2013. Prospects for consumption are weak because of fallen confidence, employment and incomes, and high debt in various economies on the periphery.
Germany and a few other countries may break the pattern. The International Monetary Fund expects output in the European Union to be flat in 2012 (0%) and to commence growth of 1.3% in 2013, accelerating to 2.1% by 2017.
In addition, Russia is recovering strongly after being hit hard by the GFC. Whilst export and market development opportunities in Russia offer significant rewards, there are also significant risks to those unfamiliar with the market. Poland and Turkey are two large economies which are growing exceptionally strongly and offer a safer and more familiar commercial environment.
Germany has one of the most robust economies in Europe and is central to its economic strength. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the fourth-largest economy in the world. In 2012, its GDP was more than A$3.2 trillion. Manufacturing is at the core of the German economy, with the export sector dominated by automotive and machinery. Through the use of feed-in tariffs, Germany has also established a substantial new industry around renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency technologies.
Manufacturing is at the core of the German economy, with the export sector dominated by automotive and machinery. Through the use of feed-in tariffs, Germany has also established a substantial new industry around renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency technologies.
Primarily through investment, Germany has established itself as the major player in the emerging markets of central and Eastern Europe. In addition, German businesses are continuing to develop strong commercial and industrial relationships and alliances with businesses in Europe's second-biggest economy, France.
In 2011-2012, total Australian goods exports to Germany were valued at $2.12 billion and total service exports were valued at $987 million. In that period, the major goods exports were gold coin and legal tender coin, precious metal ores (excluding gold), coal and oil seeds and oleaginous fruits. Major services exports were personal travel and transport.
In 2012, Germany was Victoria’s sixteenth largest goods export destination, with the EU the second largest regional destination after ASEAN. Victoria exported $325 million in goods to Germany, with major exports including electrical circuits equipment, silver and platinum, pharmaceutical products, measuring and analysing instruments, and medicaments.
The Victorian Government Business Office (VGBO) in Frankfurt, Germany, is responsible for promoting exports to all of Europe except the U.K, Ireland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece which are managed from the London VGBO.
Current and emerging opportunities
While Victorian commodity exports to Germany have been slowly declining for close to a decade, German importers remain particularly open to products displaying innovation, style and high quality.
Germany offers Victorian companies many commercial opportunities as a gateway into Central and Eastern Europe. Many German companies have strong commercial links with, and expertise in, Central and Eastern Europe.
Opportunities exist for Victorian companies in:
- Advanced manufacturing, including small technologies
- Automotive aftermarket (Eastern Europe and Russia)
- International education (Eastern Europe)
- Niche opportunities in processed food and beverage, including wine, confectionary and organic foods
Germany is a decentralised market comprising 16 states which hold much of the executive power of government and responsibility for economic development. Victorian exporters should not assume that one model fits all when dealing with Germany and should take into account regional differences.
It is also important to understand that Germany is demographically decentralised. It has few big cities and its residents and industries are spread out over a vast number of smaller cities and towns. This has considerable strategic and logistical implications for those wishing to do business in Germany.
Companies wishing to use distribution, franchising and agency arrangements need to ensure that the agreements they put into place are in accordance with European Union (EU) and Member State national laws. Germany and the EU also have very detailed and complex technical specifications for many products and services for which certification is required.
Businesses establishing a corporate presence, or a commercial relationship with an existing German business, may be able to access the EU's very substantial pool of R&D funding.
Never underestimate the importance of punctuality in German business culture. Appointments are essential, with preferred times between 10.00 am and 1.00 pm or between 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm. Avoid scheduling appointments on Friday afternoons, as some offices close by 2.00 pm or 3.00 pm on Fridays.
In addition, most Germans take their summer holidays in July and August. It is often difficult to obtain appointments and meetings during these months.
Germany has a vast number of major trade fairs, covering almost any industry or area of commercial activity. Many of these are the largest in the world.
As these trade fairs are frequently global, rather than merely national or regional, attendance at these trade fairs can provide access to buyers, distributors, key decision-makers and influencers from around the world.
It is critical for prospective trade fair exhibitors or attendees to plan their presence well in advance.
It is also critical to choose the right trade fair to ensure access or exposure to the right cross-section of people and businesses.
Frankfurt VGBO is well-equipped to provide advice to Victorian businesses on which trade fair to attend, and how to best to plan and prepare their presence.
Tariffs, taxes and regulations
A comprehensive database on taxes, customs duties and quotas and other imposts can be found at EU Taxation and Customs.
With the exception of some agriculture products, which are governed by Germany’s participation in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, most Victorian goods are open to the German market.
While not directly discriminatory, complex government regulation and labelling laws can be confusing and daunting for new exporters. Care should be taken to ensure regulations and product standards are fully understood and tested prior to entering the market.
Victorian Government support
The Victorian Government supports local business to engage with Germany and other European states through its Trade Mission program.
The Victorian Government Business Office (VGBO) in Frankfurt, provides in-market intelligence and support to Victorian companies looking to do business throughout Germany and most of Europe.