The Slovenia Times

Interview: Mario Ingo Soos, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany



What is the basic organisation of economic diplomacy in Germany, is it within the structure of the Foreign Ministry, Economics Ministry or do you have a special institution or organisation?
Germany's system of external economic promotion is supported by both the Government and the business sector. It is structured in three pillars: diplomatic and consular missions abroad; Chambers of Commerce Abroad - such as the German-Slovene Chamber of Commerce in Ljubljana; and the offices of German Trade and Invest mbH (GTaI), the agency for investment promotion and information sharing. All three are present in the world's key export markets. In other countries, companies can always rely on the help and support of the German diplomatic or consular mission. Within the Federal Government, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology is the lead ministry for external economic promotion Aside from the Foreign Office and the other Federal Ministries, there are also many other players involved in external economic promotion, including the Federal Länder, the regional initiatives of German business (contact via the Federation of German Industries), the country associations (associations of businesses and institutions: German-African Business Association, Ibero-America Association, German Near and Middle East Association, Eastern and Central Europe Association, German Asia-Pacific Business Association, Australia and New Zealand Association and the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce). Additionally, more than 60 external trade institutions join in operating the German foreign trade internet portal 'iXPOS'.
Altogether this is a comprehensive, but also rather complex system. Its functioning depends on good coordination and information sharing.

How do you coordinate work between the economic diplomats/counsellors in the field in a specific country and the economic interests within Germany (in a specific Ministry, company...)?
Abroad, the Federal Foreign Office with its 229 foreign missions plays a pivotal role in providing services to German companies. They offer consultation and information on political and economic developments, socio-cultural characteristics, business conduct, potential business partners and so on. In practical terms, this means that we offer advice to German companies who ask for it and if necessary, support them in dealing with government agencies to which we have good access given our function as diplomatic mission. In those countries, where we also have a German Chamber or a representative of the GTaI, the respective Embassy will closely cooperate and coordinate its activities with them. German Chambers of Commerce Abroad are voluntary groupings of companies from Germany and a partner country, based in the latter. They lobby in the interests of businesses from both countries and promote commercial activity in both directions. One of their most important tasks is to promote external trade for members and non-members alike. This is why they receive funding from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Under the service "DEinternational", the Chambers of Commerce Abroad offer (for a fee) a broad range of globally comparable basic services as well as country-specific specialist services. They thus assist German companies based both in Germany and abroad with seeking concrete business opportunities and carrying out business. The German Chambers of Commerce Abroad are present at 120 sites in 80 countries.
Germany Trade and Invest mbH (GTaI) provides all sorts of business information, thus making it easier for German companies to get involved in foreign markets. Its services range from information on requests for tender, assessments of business sectors, country reports and market analyses to information on import rules and practical tips for business. One of its core tasks is to attract foreign investors to Germany.
At home, the Foreign Office, together with the leading Ministry for Economics, is actively involved in the ongoing dialogue with all relevant associations, institutions, and committees in the field of economic promotion. It is represented in the Supervisory Board of the GTaI, it acts as president of the advisory committee for foreign trade, participates in the advisory committee for investor recruitment, the Strategy Circle for market development, it cooperates with the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), and is a member of the Interministerial Committee for export credit guarantees (Hermes) and investment guarantees.

How do you measure the effectiveness of economic diplomacy?
By looking at the feedback we receive from our client, the German companies and business representatives abroad. We notice a high level of satisfaction, so we do believe that we are on the right track. However, since 'better' is known to be the enemy of 'good', we constantly seek to improve our services and adapt to the needs of the German economy.

How are you coordinating activities with other German institutions promoting the German economy, for example in Slovenia with the German-Slovenian Chamber of Commerce AHK?
The Embassy has very close working relationships with the German-Slovene Chamber of Commerce and the GTaI-representative responsible for Slovenia. Apart from many ad-hoc contacts, we meet 4 -6 times per year in order to coordinate our activities and exchange information.

Do you think that the EU needs some common EU economic diplomacy in the region where the EU can or should have a common interest? Is this, at this time, with different national interests prevailing in foreign policy of the biggest EU countries even possible?
The EU Embassies in third countries already have the task to promote and protect European economic interests. However, this approach is applicable only under certain circumstances. In general, "common EU economic diplomacy" is only possible in those cases where there is a corresponding "common European economic interest". In other instances however, where there are competing interests of different companies or economic sectors from different EU member states, the hands of "common EU economic diplomacy" would be tied. In such cases a national system of economic promotion abroad would still be needed.


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