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Going International 2024

Trade barriers hinder German companies
Hamburger Hafen für Going International 2020

© Jan-Otto / E+ / Getty Images

German companies are increasingly confronted with trade barriers in their international business. This is evident from the current survey "Going International" conducted by the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) among nearly 2,400 companies.

Peter Adrian dynamisch

Peter Adrian

© DIHK / Werner Schuering

The results were presented by DIHK President Peter Adrian and DIHK foreign trade expert Melanie Vogelbach on March 15 in Berlin. According to the survey, 61 percent of companies – the highest number ever recorded – report an increase in trade barriers in their international business.

This trend of increasing trade barriers continues. "On many important foreign markets, companies encounter obstacles. This additionally hampers the urgently needed export upswing," said Adrian.

"Companies are hit from two sides: domestically, competitiveness is declining. High energy prices are an additional burden on businesses. And then there is the increasing protectionism, which complicates international business.

Certification and security requirements are rising

Porträtfoto Vogelbach

Melanie Vogelbach

© DIHK / Werner Schuering

However, not only international politics and trade conflicts are hindering the economy: "Companies are particularly struggling with local certification and heightened security requirements," added Melanie Vogelbach. "This leads to additional bureaucracy and friction in cross-border trade." Moreover, an increasing number of companies complain about losing track of complex legislation, bureaucratic and complicated customs regulations, and local content requirements.

Four out of five companies (81 percent) also see additional challenges from Germany and Europe in their cross-border business. 60 percent of these companies complain about bureaucratic hurdles and uncertainty in the implementation of regulations, such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) or the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act.

Dimmed Outlook

This contributes to German businesses currently benefiting only minimally from the at least moderately growing global economy. Their export expectations for the current year remain negative. This is also reflected in the global business outlook: 26 percent of companies anticipate a deterioration in foreign business this year, with only 13 percent expecting an improvement. "Under the current circumstances, we can consider ourselves fortunate if there is even a small export growth this year," said DIHK President Peter Adrian.

A glimmer of hope lies in the U.S. business. Here, companies predominantly anticipate an improvement in their business over the next twelve months. Negative outlooks dominate in all other world regions. This divergence between regions has rarely been so pronounced.

Urgent Need to Reduce Bureaucratic Hurdles

In light of this alarming trend, DIHK urgently calls for the reduction of trade barriers and more commitment to concluding trade agreements. "The bureaucratic hurdles in foreign trade must be addressed promptly, preferably today rather than tomorrow," urged Melanie Vogelbach. "The global environment is already challenging enough. We don't need to further hinder ourselves with excessive bureaucracy."

The complete survey results are available for download here:

Going International 2024 (PDF, 459 KB)


Porträtfoto Carolin Herweg
Carolin Herweg Director International Economy